Rescued sailor gives away his faithful dog Bella but he doesn’t have to

This is a well-reported story in the news media about an IT specialist, Tim Shaddock, who decided to try and sail from Mexico to French Polynesia in a catamaran with his dog; a journey that went horribly wrong 1,200 miles off the coast where he was finally rescued. The overriding part of the story for me is his strong bond with his dog Bella who he adopted in Mexico but he’s going to give her up. Yes, give her away after his rescue. I can hardly believe it. Bella was a very faithful dog to him. She saw him through those difficult three months drifting in the Pacific. Surely there is a better outcome than giving her away? I discuss this in the article.

The world and their dog has heard about Tim Shaddock, 54, and Bella, his faithful canine companion who he took with him on a hazardous 3800-mile journey from Mexico to French Polynesia in his catamaran. Yes, he took his dog with him on this trip. He said that he found Bella in the middle of Mexico. The better description is that Bella found him in the middle of Mexico! He said: “She’s the spirit of the middle of the country and she wouldn’t let me go. I tried to find a home for her three times and she just kept following me.”

Tim Shaddock and Bella on the tuna fishing vessel after their rescue
Tim Shaddock and Bella on the tuna fishing vessel after their rescue. Image:

That, is why, I believe, he took Bella with him on his boat from Mexico to French Polynesia. And the trip went terribly wrong. He took to the sea after recovering from cancer more than a decade ago.

Early in the voyage a storm destroyed the boat’s steering, navigation and radio systems. His cooking equipment was destroyed too and so he lived off raw fish because fortunately he had fishing equipment on board.

He drifted for nearly 3 months in the Pacific until he was saved by a tuna fishing vessel. The vessel’s helicopter was flying low over the ocean looking for tuna and they saw Tim Shaddock’s boat, Aloha Toa. At that time despair had crept up on him and he was perhaps resigned to dying. The helicopter pilot tossed him a drink and then flew off.

A speedboat from the fishing vessel returned and rescued him and Bella. They took them back to Mexico. At the time they were in a precarious position according to the operator of the fishing vessel. He received medical attention after his rescue. He admits that his health was in a bad way and I presume Bella must have been in a pretty bad way as well. He is doing much better with some food in his belly.

He credits his dog for keeping him going during those very difficult three months drifting in the Pacific. And we know that Bella wants to be with Mr Shaddock. They appear to be a bonded pair and therefore why is he giving his faithful dog away?

The Times speculates – because we are not told why he is doing it – that it’s about practicalities. He’s going back to Australia where he lives (he is an IT specialist) and there are strict requirements for importing dogs into that country.

There’s the cost of transport to get Bella to Australia plus the other requirements which might add up to about £3000 which includes veterinary fees for micro-chipping, vaccinations and other treatments as well as the import permit and quarantine fees.


Well, I think there should be a whip around. I think there should be a crowdfunding page on the Internet because I firmly believe that he will get £3000 very quickly to get Bella back to Australia with him. Surely that can be arranged? Surely this is not the right thing to give away his faithful dog?

The intention currently is that Bella is being given away to one of the crew members of the ship that rescued him. They’ve made friends with her which is nice. But I don’t think it’s quite the right outcome.

Bella was so connected to Tim Shaddock that she refused to leave the rescue vessel until Shaddock had been driven away.

Shaddock says that he did enjoy being out at sea and occasionally popped into the water for a swim. He said that there were “many, many, many bad days and many good days”. And he is copious in his gratitude towards the fishing vessel that saved him.

He said:

To the captain and fishing company that saved my life. I’m just so grateful. I am alive and I didn’t really think I’d make it.”

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