Chief Petty Officer Alan Haraf said the 140-foot cutter Bristol Bay was heading Monday to help another vessel stuck in ice when the dog was spotted. Three crew members suited up in weather-resistant gear, he said, and left the ship to help retrieve the dog.
The crew, which is handling icebreaking in the Great Lakes region, hoisted the dog aboard and gave it food and care before taking it to an animal shelter. The dog was 4½ to 5 miles from land off the Detroit suburb of St. Clair Shores.
"It was cold, weak and tired," Haraf said. "It may have been out there for a couple of days or so."
The dog, which initially was spotted with what appeared to be a group of foxes in the distance, had a harness and collar but no identifying tag, the Coast Guard said. The other animals scurried away, Haraf said.
"They noticed three burrows the dog tried to dig for itself for protection," Haraf said. "They said the paws were bleeding and the nails were pretty much down to nothing."
First Class Petty Officer Brian Essler, a food service specialist on the Bristol Bay, said someone on board called the dog "Lucky," a name that stuck. Another person called him "Cutter," he said.
"Hopefully he'll find a home," Essler said. "He's a darn good dog."