Saturday 26 May 2018

The heartache of searching for a missing pet

Every dog owner fears their beloved mutt going missing - but some stories do have happy endings, as the tale of sheepdog Pero proves.

Annie May with her sheepdog Pero, who turned up at her doorstep two weeks after he went missing 240 miles away.
Annie May with her sheepdog Pero, who turned up at her doorstep two weeks after he went missing 240 miles away.
Suzi Duncan with her dog Nala, who she found after nine days with the help of her Malahide community.
Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

It started off as just an ordinary Sunday in Tipperary for pet-owner Suzi Duncan, but ended up in heartbreak when her beloved nine-month-old dog Nala went missing. Nala was out for a walk with a family friend in Malahide when she ran off and couldn't be found, sparking a nine-day search earlier this month that involved the whole community.

Suzi has five dogs and was particularly close to little black and grey crossbreed Nala, who was one of seven puppies born to a stray Llewellyn setter dog, Indie, that Suzi had rescued.

Nala was lifeless when born but the vet revived her, and Suzi nursed her back to health.

"She idolised me and used to jump into my arms," she says. "When I heard she was missing I was absolutely howling, and I went up to Dublin and was out searching until 4am."

It took nine days for Nala to be found, but Suzi was really heartened at how the community in Malahide rallied around to help. Her friend Aoibhinn set up the 'Finding Nala' Facebook page, and searches were organised to scout around the area looking for the little dog.

"I couldn't have done it without all the people of Malahide," said Suzi. "Everyone kept an eye out and got involved in the search and they were so good. We even put up a humane trap to see if we could get her, but she kept running and was starving and had almost turned feral."

Suzi Duncan with her dog Nala, who she found after nine days with the help of her Malahide community.
Suzi Duncan with her dog Nala, who she found after nine days with the help of her Malahide community.

Suzi and the rescuers kept catching sight of Nala, but were unable to capture her as she was so panicked. The breakthrough came when a woman phoned Suzi to say that she thought the dog was in her garden. Thankfully for all involved, Nala had run into the bushes and was caught up in them, and she was captured by three men, Val, Chris and Dave, who went in after her.

While Suzi is so thankful to have her beloved dogs back safe and sound, some dogs have made their own way home after becoming separated from their owners.

It was reported this week that four-year-old sheepdog Pero made an incredible 240-mile journey back to his original owner in Wales a month after he was given to farm in Cumbria for a trial. Farmer Alan James was shocked to find Pero sitting on his doorstep 12 days after he went missing in Cumbria, but in a heartwarming twist, he and his wife Shan were so touched at Pero's loyalty, they have decided to keep him for good.

Even so, they would love to solve the incredible mystery of how he managed to find his way back home. According to Cork-based dog behaviourist Nanci Creedon, it may seem incredible from a scientific point of view that a dog could find his way home over such a distance, but too many stories abound about it happening to discount it.

"There is so much untapped potential in dogs," she says. "We see them doing things like sniffing out cancer, and we are nowhere near fully understanding their capabilities."

Nanci's advice to people who have lost pets is to set up a den or crate in off the path where the dog was last seen, and put blankets and clothes you have worn, into it.

Check it daily and replace the clothes with your scent on it, and hopefully it does the trick.

The fact that so many dogs in Ireland are allowed to roam freely doesn't help, she says, as people often can't distinguish between a lost dog and one just out for a potter about.

"People also need to remember that if a dog is missing for a while, he is not going to look like he did when he first went missing," she points out.

Suzi agrees with this as Nala hadn't eaten in days and was a lot thinner when she was found, and a vet check revealed that she had a virus.

Happily she has returned to good health and she sticks close to Suzi's side these days, sleeping next to her in bed. This, and the story of Pero will hopefully give hope to other dog owners who are missing their dogs, like the owners of eight-year-old Samoyed Nastro, who went missing on February 1 while being walked in Bellevue Woods in Delgany in Wicklow.

Dave and Maire, Nastro's owners, have been tireless in their search for the big fluffy white dog who is microchipped and was wearing a purple collar with their phone number on it when he went missing.

Despite many false leads and finding and reuniting many other lost dogs with their owners along the way through their Facebook page, 'Bring Nastro Home', their beloved dog still remains at large and the family are heartbroken.

"It has been a very tough 12 weeks on us all," says Maire. "Searching for Naz has been non-stop and our lives have literally been on hold.

"He loved a good snuggle and we miss him every day. We're counting the minutes until he is back home sleeping in our arms again." Please contact 086 385 5222 if you find have any information about Nastro.

Irish Independent

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