Maybe Buddy the Beagle should be renamed "Lucky" or "Hope." All names aside, one New Jersey family counts the 4-year-old beagle as their miracle dog.
After spending 98 days stranded on the unihabited Gull Island in the Manasquan Inlet, the family pooch -- who had run off and withered away to little more than skin and bones -- was saved by a local man who goes by the nickname Muskrat Jack.
This story of loss, survival and hope began back on August 31 when the Kelley family, of Eatontown, was playing with Buddy on Dog Beach in Manasquan. As the family attempted to switch the beagle's leash, the dog bolted, perhaps after being spooked.
Lost dog posters went up right away but it took two months for someone to spot Buddy on Gull Island. The beagle apparently had walked along railroad tracks connected to the deserted island to the popular fishing inlet.
In the weeks that followed, "the Coast Guard reported seeing him digging in the sand for clams and sand crabs," said Edie Kelley, whose son Patrick cares for the dog.
What Buddy drank while stranded on the sandy island no one knows, but the dog went from being 35 pounds to just 19 when "Muskrat" Jack Neary lured the family pet into a trap he set Monday.
When asked what bait he used in the trap, Neary, who said he's been trapping animals for 50 years, would only say "a secret formula." Whatever it was, it worked, though there wasn't much of Buddy left. "A bag of bones," said Neary, describing the dog as "a little lonely, cold, forlorn little dog curled up sleeping." Neary said the Coast Guard also told him that Buddy "would occassionally pick up a dead seagull" to eat.
"This is obviously a miracle," said Kelley, whose son was thrilled to have the beagle home again.
A veterinarian checked Buddy out and declared the pooch to be fine. The vet told the Kelleys to feed the beagle multiple times a day for at least two weeks.
"He's the same old Buddy," said Charlie Kelley, quickly adding that this story was a good lesson for his two granddaughters: "Don't give up hope."