'We could see the little dog’s face poking out': Routine Coast Guard inspection of Houston port rescues dog trapped in shipping container


It was just another routine day of inspecting shipping containers at the Port of Houston for U.S. Coast Guard officer Ryan McMahon when he and his team thought they heard barking coming from inside one of the thousands of containers that surrounded them.

“Oh, it’s scratching, dude,” one of the inspectors said in video they recorded Wednesday morning as the team looked up at the container, stacked about 25 feet in the air.

A crane was used to bring it to the ground, and out popped a very sweet and friendly dog.

“As soon as we opened it, we could see the little dog’s face poking out. She was right there, like she knew we were going to be there to open it for her. And she just, she wasn’t scared or anything. She just seemed happy more than anything, to be out of that dark space and in the arms of people that were going to take care of her,” McMahon, a petty officer 2nd class, told The Associated Press on Friday.

Coast Guard officials would later determine that the canine — since nicknamed Connie the container dog — had been trapped inside for at least eight days, with no food or water.

She was a little dirty and “definitely pretty skinny,” McMahon said.

Petty Officer 1st Class Lucas Loe/U.S. Coast Guard via AP

McMahon and the three other inspectors drove Connie to an animal shelter in the Houston suburb of Pasadena, where she was checked out. A rescue group, Forever Changed Animal Rescue, has taken her in and is working to get her healthy and ready for adoption.

Coast Guard officials are not sure where the container came from, but inside were junked vehicles that were likely being shipped overseas to be sold for parts.

“So based on that, they think that the dog most likely was in a junkyard, in a car. And that’s how she accidentally got put in the container,” Guard spokeswoman Chief Petty Officer Corinne Zilnicki said.

McMahon said he’s grateful he and his team were at the right place and at the right time to hear Connie barking and prevent the container from being put on a cargo ship. They usually conduct inspections once a week throughout the Port of Houston, and on Wednesday they were at the port’s Bayport Container Terminal which likely has over 10,000 containers, he said.

“It would take at least another week to get to where she was going (on a cargo ship) and two weeks without food or water. I don’t think she would have made it,” McMahon said.

Forever Changed Animal Rescue thanked “all of the amazing people involved in this rescue and saving Connie’s life.”

The rescue group said in a Facebook post that Connie was a bit underweight, tested positive for heartworm and would be getting treatment for it.

“We will also be doing a full workup on her to ensure that she receives all the care she needs and deserves,” the group said.

The inspectors had thought about adopting Connie, but it wasn’t the right time for any of them.

“We know with all this, she’s going to go to a good home where they love her and take care of her,” McMahon said.

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