Miles From Shore, This Kayaker Couldn’t Believe What He Spotted Bobbing In The Water

If you’ve ever visited the Florida Keys then you know how packed they are with diverse wildlife. From manatees swimming in crystal clear water to alligators sunbathing along the shore, it’s hard to be too surprised by anything that might appear. That’s exactly what happened to kayak fisherman Steve, though, as he was returning from a day on the water. He spotted a mysterious shape floating near him. With more than four miles to go before making it back to shore, Steve decided to investigate. You won’t believe what he discovered.

An Experienced Fisherman

kayak fisherman steve on the water
keywestkayakfishing/Instagram
keywestkayakfishing/Instagram

Steve was an experienced kayak fisherman with his own YouTube channel, living in the Florida Keys, who thought he had seen everything. He dedicated his time on YouTube to sailing, fishing, and any other outdoor water activities he could.

Throughout his adventures, Steve had seen so much, he didn’t think anything could surprise him. Then the unimaginable happened. He spotted something in the water, something that he never thought he’d see that far from shore.

An Adventure Like No Other

getting ready to fish
Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images
Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

While running his own YouTube channel, Steve was used to filming his adventures on the water. When he set out fishing on that fateful day in 2017, there was nothing special he was trying to capture.

When he uploaded his story, it took over the internet and received the attention of millions of viewers across the globe. Steve had captured something incredible, but what had people so interested in this particular adventure?

Something In The Water

mysterious shape spotted in key west
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube

The sun was setting and Steve was heading home from a fishing trip on his kayak when he spotted it. There was a mysterious shape bobbing up and down gently in the water.

Steve turned on his helmet camera to record. When he uploaded the video to YouTube, Key West Kayak Fishing, he wrote he spotted “a weird shaped object floating in the distance.” Steve knew he had to find out what exactly he had found.

Just A Branch?

kayak fisherman sees something floating in the water in florida
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube

As Steve approached the mystery shape in his kayak he began to make guesses about what it was, “All I could see were the multiple fins running down its back, so I thought it was some sort of palm frond.”

While a palm frond would have been an interesting find more than four miles offshore, what Steve had actually found was not even close to his guess. It was much more breathtaking.

Not Even Close

steve giving instructions on his youtube channel
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube

The closer Steve got to the mysterious shape, he realized it wasn’t a palm frond at all. He had to stop and do a double-take to make sure his eyes weren’t playing tricks on him.

Was what he was seeing even possible this far off shore? It wasn’t a palm, it wasn’t even close. For the moment, all Steve knew was that after all these years on the water, the Florida Keys had finally shown him something new.

Movement!

a mysterious creature moving alongside a boat
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube

Suddenly, and without warning, the shape began moving. It was swimming! Was Steve going crazy after spending more than 20 years on the water? Looking back at the shore and thinking about what this creature could be, the answer finally came to him!

But how did this animal end up so far away from the shore? Some questions don’t have answers, but Steve didn’t need one. What he needed was to conduct a rescue mission!

Far From Home

iguana on ocean lost far from shore
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube

To his amazement, Steve had stumbled upon an iguana! The reptile could swim, but didn’t belong this far from home. Not sure what to do yet, Steve asked, “Dude, what you doing out here? Are you lost or what?”

Of course Steve knew the iguana couldn’t answer him, but he was too bewildered to care. Next, he needed to decide how to help the poor lost creature. What could he possibly do?

Ocean Uber

the iguana approaches steves kayak
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube

With nothing to lose, Steve offered the iguana a lift: “I’ll give you a ride back to shore.” There was no way he could know if the reptile would take him up on his offer but he had to try.

To the iguana’s credit, it seemed to understand that Steve wasn’t a threat and began to approach the kayak. The next step was to see if the creature was just curious about the vessel, or if it did indeed want a ride.

A Serious Situation

the iguana needed to be rescued to survive
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube

The situation may have appeared funny on the outside looking in. Here was this small animal swimming in the open ocean approaching a motorized fishing kayak. Could it even figure out a way to get on board?

For Steve, this was no laughing matter. He knew the wildlife that lived in the Keys, so he knew there was no way this iguana should have been this far from shore. This was a very serious situation.

How Did It Happen?

steve had a theory about what happened to the iguana
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Seeing an iguana swimming so far out in the ocean would have been head-scratching to most people. Steve had his ideas about what happened, though, “I have seen plenty [of iguanas] swimming around the islands, but never one that far out.”

“Most likely because of the king tides that are occurring, it got caught in one of the swift outgoing tides and got pushed out to sea.” And with that knowledge, Steve knew he needed to act fast!

King Tides Are The Results Of Storms

flooding in florida creates king tides
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If you don’t know what a king tide is, it’s what happens major storms flood streets. The water washes away back to the ocean, creating a much higher tide than usual. At the time this iguana was washed out to sea, Florida had just been hit by a storm.

When the floodwater rushed through the reptile’s habitat, the current would have been too strong for him to swim against.

Life Or Death

could steve get the iguana back to shore in time?
Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images
Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

Steve had offered the iguana a ride back to shore. Now it was up to the reptile to accept the offer or not. The fisherman hoped that the animal would, because otherwise it would stand very little chance of survival.

He wrote, “Most likely [the iguana] would have died out there. As the current that far out would most likely push it east with very little chance of coming back inshore.”

All Aboard!

iguana having trouble getting aboard kayak
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube

The iguana swam from the front of the kayak to the back, searching for a place to grab on and climb aboard. When it found a spot, it reached up, but was too exhausted to successfully grip.

Unable to pull itself up to safety, Steve needed to give the iguana a helping hand without scaring it off. There was no way of knowing if the animal trusted Steve or not, so any move he made had to be done with caution.

A Helping Hand

the iguana finding safety on a paddle
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube

Luckily for Steve, right next to him was his paddle. He reached for it and carefully positioned it in the water under the iguana. Now the reptile had a place to stand while it navigated its way onto the kayak.

It was clear the animal was exhausted. Who knows how long it would have lasted floating alone in the open ocean before Steve came along. Standing on the paddle, the iguana took a moment to catch its breath.

A Safe Landing

the iguana was perched on the end of a kayak
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube

Stabilized on the paddle, the iguana pulled itself onto the support beam of Steve’s kayak. As you can see, it took in its surroundings and tried to find where the land it came from was supposed to be.

Perched on the bar, the iguana looked majestic. This wasn’t the end of the rescue though. Steve had successfully gotten the iguana to safety, and now he needed to get it back home.

Racing The Sunset

iguana on the cooler in the kayak
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube

After a bit, the iguana moved to the cooler on the back of the kayak. Ready for the journey home, Steve warned, “Alright get seat-belted in cause we’re gonna go flying.”

Remember, Steve’s kayak was motorized and he was more than four miles from shore. With the sun setting, he wanted to make sure he got the iguana home while it was still light out so it could find where it came from.

The Long Journey Home

the iguana steve rescued seemed to be enjoying its ride home
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube

Steve turned on his engine, unsure if it would frighten the iguana away. Thankfully it didn’t, and the two were heading back to Florida together! Every now and then Steve would look back to make sure his new friend was okay.

Not only was the iguana okay, it looked like it was genuinely enjoying the ride and watching the sunset! It must have known how lucky it was and was now taking in every moment of life it had.

Steve Couldn’t Believe It

iguana looking at shore from the cooler on the kayak
key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube
key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube

Somehow, against all odds, the iguana stayed with Steve all four miles back to shore. He was stunned and blown away. How was this even possible?

Looking back, Steve recollected, “It was pretty cool to see [the iguana] trust me enough.” Sure enough, the reptile had trusted Steve more than anyone it had probably ever encountered. As they got closed to shore, the iguana began looking at the mangroves, its long journey finally coming to an end.

The Leap

iguana jumping from kayak to safety
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube

Zooming through the water, the four-mile journey back to shore was nearly done. The kayak skirted the mangroves, and the iguana watched intently, looking for a familiar spot to swim back to.

Slowly, the iguana moved to the back and the cooler and got ready to take a leap of faith. As soon as it spotted the place, it jumped to freedom. Steve had successfully rescued the animal, but he still felt compelled to make sure it was safe.

Checking In To Make Sure The Iguana Was OK

iguana hanging onto the branches of a tree safely on land
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube
Key West Kayak Fishing/YouTube

Before making his own landing back on shore, Steve decided to turn around and make sure the iguana had made it back to land safely. He searched through the mangroves near where it had jumped off the boat.

Before long, Steve saw a familiar face staring back at him. The reptile was hanging onto some branches with an iron grip. After the long day it had just been through, it’s hard to blame it for clinging on for a little extra safety! We’re glad this story had a happy ending.

It Started With A Boat

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Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images
Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

Mallory Harrigan, Cliff Russell, and Allan Russell always loved going fishing together. The trio loved it so much that they even bought a boat together to start their own commercial fishing business.

Living in Canada, they knew what kind of fish they could catch and what the local markets and restaurants would be interested in buying. What they didn’t know was what to expect when they began hitting the waters everyday in hopes of a good haul.

More Than Just A Business

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Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images
Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

Cliff, Mallory, and Allan were more than just business partners. They were friends, and they would help each other during the longest days and hardest times. Their new business could have tested that friendship, but it never did.

Everyday, after hours on the sea, they would come home with new bumps and bruises on their bodies. No one would complain, and no one would quit. They loved each other and were always excited to show up for the job the next day.

That Fateful Morning

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Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images
Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

On the morning that would change these friends’ lives forever, Mallory was especially excited. She didn’t know what fate had planned, but she had a good feeling about something and showed up early to prep the boat.

Once everyone was there, the trio went through their pre-launch check off list. It was imperative they have everything they needed with them on the boat. Having to travel back to shore after launching would cost them hours on the water.

Setting Off

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Prepping the boat was the easy part. They liked to pass the time telling jokes and and stories. They may have been old friends, but every morning felt like a 10-year reunion.

The next part can be described as “the calm before the storm.” The water was calm as usual as the boat headed a few miles off the Canadian coast. They knew the perfect spot to catch crab off of the Canadian coast.

Letting Out Their Lines

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Paul Grogan/PhotoPlus Magazine via Getty Images
Paul Grogan/PhotoPlus Magazine via Getty Images

Once they reached their destination, the friends turned off the boat engine and let it idle. This spot was perfect and was always full of crabs. They dropped their lines and let the cages drag on the sea floor.

It was the end of crab season, and while the previous weeks had been fruitful, they were hoping to go out with a bang. Since starting their business, this had been their most successful year. Would this be their most successful catch?

The First Catch Was A Sign Of Things To Come

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Hong Wu/Getty Images
Hong Wu/Getty Images

With the cages in the water, one of them steered the boat while the other two manned the lines, making sure they didn’t tangle. They knew this routine like the back of their hands.

As the first cages came up they couldn’t believe it. Their spot had paid off again and it looked like today was going to be their best day ever. They high-fived in celebration, emptied the cages, the prepared to do it all over again.

Moving To A New Spot

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DeAgostini/Getty Images
DeAgostini/Getty Images

The day was going great. Allan, Cliff, and Mallory knew they had a chance to break their crabbing record. Finished at the first location, they turned the boat back on and set off for colder waters.

The further they got, they more dangerous things got. Colonies of seals could be seen resting on icebergs. Birds were nowhere in sight. But as beautiful and serene as the scene was, it was also filled with hidden dangers and surprises.

Iceberg, Straight Ahead!

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Huge icebergs floated freely in the Labrador Sea. This was not the place to go on autopilot when fishing. One wrong turn could turn this fishing trip into the groups last.

Allan was on lookout duty when he spotted something in the distance on top of an iceberg. He pointed in out to Cliff and Mallory. No one could make out what the shape was. Mallory thought it was probably a seal sun bathing away from the colony.

Allan Couldn’t Let Sleeping Seals Lay

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Cliff fell in line with Mallory’s theory. During their adventures together they had seen plenty of animals pop up in the ice waters from time to time. It wasn’t anything strange, so why was Allan acting so weird about it?

He probably couldn’t tell you why, but he did know something about what was on that iceberg kept eating away at him. He told his friends that it didn’t move around like a seal and he was skeptical. They looked through their binoculars and couldn’t help but agree.

Getting Closer

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DEA/G. Gnemmi/Getty Images
DEA/G. Gnemmi/Getty Images

Even though they knew they needed to keep fishing, curiosity got the best of the group. They couldn’t take their attention away from whatever was stranded alone on an iceberg. They decided to move in closer.

As the boat got closer, the wind picked up along with the chill in the air. Then they noticed there was fur on the animal. Even scarier, the fur was wet. The poor animal must have been freezing! They decided until they knew what they were dealing with, their fishing expedition was on hold.

The Investigation

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Insights/UIG via Getty Images
Insights/UIG via Getty Images

The friends approached cautiously in the boat. Not only did they not know what kind of animal they might have found, but they were going off-course and venturing into unexplored waters. Allan was convinced they were doing the right thing.

Cliff and Mallory weren’t as sure as Allan was, but the friends agreed that they needed to investigate the situation. If it was an animal in danger, then they needed to rescue it. They couldn’t live with leaving it to die on their consciences!

A Slow Approach

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Insights/UIG via Getty Images
Insights/UIG via Getty Images

The boat moved through the water slowly. The friends watched over the sides of the boat for any unexpected dangers. Any large chunk of floating ice could damage the boat and the last thing they needed was to strand themselves.

The waves had picked up, too, making the boat move more than usual. Mallory urged the group to be extra careful. They may have been excited about what they were doing, but they still needed to keep their wits about them.

Choppy Waters And Wind Picked Up

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John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images
John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Without warning, a strong gust of wind rattled through the area. This made navigation even harder. Even scarier for the group, this unexpected windy whipping made the iceberg move. How would the animal react?

Now that group had more than just ice to worry about. They were terrified the scared animal would jump off the iceberg from fear. Mallory kept her eyes glued to the animal. If the boat could just get a little closer she’d be able to identify what they were dealing with.

Chasing The Iceberg

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Education Images/UIG via Getty Images
Education Images/UIG via Getty Images

The situation had taken a dangerous turn now that the team was forced to chase the iceberg. They weren’t just concerned with their safety, but also the safety of whatever was pacing back and forth on the iceberg.

They had to move fast to keep the boat near the iceberg. At the same time, they needed to remain cautious about the water surrounding them. Making matters worse, the day was half over and they would start running out of daylight soon!

The Animal Began Taking Shape

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They finally got close enough to the creature to start figuring out what it might be. They could see it had four legs and looked similar to a dog. There was no way this was someone’s lost pet, though.

As they predicted, the poor animal was soaked with cold water and was shivering uncontrollably. Allan, Cliff, and Mallory knew at this moment that they needed to do everything they could to save this animal, even if it meant putting themselves in more danger.

The Animal Identified!

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Education Images/UIG via Getty Images
Education Images/UIG via Getty Images

After a few moments of disbelief, the friends realized they were staring at an Arctic fox! They didn’t have time to figure out how it may have stranded itself. It was weak and there were birds starting to circle above it.

Not only was the fox in danger of freezing to death, but other animals were getting excited about their next meal. The friends jumped into action, desperate to make sure the little Arctic fox lived to see another day.

A Dangerous Rescue

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Gareth Fuller – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images
Gareth Fuller – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

With time running out, the group needed to work together to come up with a plan to save the fox. There wasn’t a lot of time, and there was still one big question that needed to be answered.

Would the fox even trust humans with its life? There’s no way of knowing how much contact this wild dog had previously had with humans. That meant despite their best intentions, there was a real possibility that they wouldn’t be able to help.

The Plan

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Einar Gudmann / Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Einar Gudmann / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Cliff, Mallory, and Allan needed a plan to lure the fox to them. First, they tried speaking quietly and holding out their hands to see if the scared dog would come to the safety of their arms.

The fox’s first instinct was to run away. Of course, it had nowhere to go and ended up just staring at the strange humans trying to save it. It refused to jump to them, and they refused to leave.

Patience Is A Virtue

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Erich Thielscher/McPhoto/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Erich Thielscher/McPhoto/ullstein bild via Getty Images

The waiting game was on. The fox showed no interest in the three friends. They continued to show interest in it though and they decided the best game to play was the long game.

Their patience was being tested, but they refused to give up. Finally, just as they were about to break, the fox stepped toward the boat. Would it take a leap of faith? Putting its trust in the hands of humans was looking like the only way to survive.

Fox Aboard!

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The fox got as close as it could to the boat. It wasn’t strong enough to jump aboard however and looked to Allen for help. He gently picked it up and placed it on the boat.

Things still weren’t alright. Allan and Cliff grabbed towels to dry the fox and keep it warm but were hesitant to handle the scared creature. One wrong move and it could attack. How long was this fox’s trust going to last?

An Escape Attempt

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Salvatore Leanza/ClickAlps/REDA&CO/UIG via Getty Images
Salvatore Leanza/ClickAlps/REDA&CO/UIG via Getty Images

Scared to death, the fox decided it made the wrong choice and jumped out of the boat without warning. Everyone was stunned as the wild animal raced in the water to get back to the iceberg.

The friends followed the fox until it ran out of energy. Allan gently picked it back up and placed it in the boat again. It scurried to a corner and stayed there, terrified of the situation it was in.

Back From The Brink

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Einar Gudmann / Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Einar Gudmann / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

This time the team was going to make sure the Arctic fox couldn’t get away. While Mallory was busy steering the ship back home, Allan and Cliff watched intently and waited for their moment to approach.

They knew if they couldn’t warm the fox back up its body would go into shock. They looked around the boat, trying to find anything to make the little guy warmer and more comfortable. They never took their eyes off the animal, though.

A Warm Place To Rest

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Andia/UIG via Getty Images
Andia/UIG via Getty Images

From behind the steering wheel, Mallory suggested that they find a way to give the fox warmer accommodations. Cliff and Allan could only find sawdust, which they thought they could use for filled as bedding.

While collecting the sawdust, they found a plastic bin to put it in. This would make a great bed frame! They packed sawdust into the bin, hoping it would act as insulation, then placed it in an area on the boat with the most sun.

Getting The Fox In The Bed

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Allan, who up to this point was the de facto animal handler, picked up the Arctic fox and placed it in the bin. In a matter of seconds, the exhausted fox was sound asleep.

While it was recuperating, the team continued to get back to the Canadian shore as quickly as possible. The fox was okay for now, but surely needed medical attention to make sure it would survive long term.

No Rest For The Tired

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Still about 30 minutes from shore, Cliff took over driving duties from Mallory. He changed course, knowing they might not have 30 minutes. Then he hit a wave and the fox woke up.

It stared up from the bin, terrified and exhausted. Looking to calm the fox back down, Mallory suggested trying to feed it. Surely they could spare some of their fresh catch. A good meal could do wonders for the animal, if it was willing to take food from humans.

All Turf, No Surf

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Fredrik von Erichsen/picture alliance via Getty Images
Fredrik von Erichsen/picture alliance via Getty Images

The fox was dry now, and the bin had indeed helped warm it up. Mallory offered the fox some fish and crab but it looked away, disinterested. There had to be something it would eat?

Mallory decided to look in the crews personal food supply. She found some Vienna sausages, which she soaked in water and put in a bowl in front of the fox. It sniffed the food, then scarfed it down like a ravenous animal. This was its first meal of the day, and possibly more.

Coming Back To Shore

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The fox fell back to sleep after eating its meal. Shortly after, the boat began docking at shore. The noise ended up waking the fox back up. Mallory stayed near it, trying to keep it calm with the storm of noise around it.

Mallory spoke softly the to the fox. It wouldn’t be able to understand what she was saying, but maybe her voice would help soothe it. She just needed to keep it calm until they were done docking.

Finding The Fox A Home

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Education Images/UIG via Getty Images
Education Images/UIG via Getty Images

Safely ashore, the next decision the friends had to make was what to do with the fox. It was warm, dry, and fed, making this the last big thing to do.

True to her character, Mallory came up with the answer. She remembered there was an area near the docks that would be perfect to release the fox back into the wild. There would be no imminent danger and they could watch it safely reintegrate to its natural habitat.

A Room With A View

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Not only was the fox’s new location safe for it to re-enter the wild; it was equipped with a makeshift dog house! The structure was 10 minutes from the dock and very remote.

They searched the area for the dog house. They knew it was located on the bluffs, but were uncertain of its exact location. Cliff carried the fox the whole way, doing his part to keep it safe while the friends finished their rescue mission.

A Successful Rescue

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Arterra/UIG via Getty Images
Arterra/UIG via Getty Images

It took a bit of time, but the friends found the fox a house. As they had done all day, they left the fox as much to its own decisions as possible. They placed the bin near the house and waited.

The arctic fox stepped out of the bin, shook itself off, and walked to the house. It sat down at the entrance and looked over its new home. At this moment, Mallory, Cliff, and Allan all knew they had done something amazing.