Nine-year-old Roxy enjoys some fuss from her family after going missing for 24 days. Ashley Stewart and Regan Williamson are pictured with sons Braden (4) and Hesten (19 months). Photo / Supplied
An agonising 24-day hunt for a missing dog that led to scores of people searching the Wakatipu Basin and a family close to heartbreak ended with a miraculous discovery.
Ashley Stewart and Regan Williamson searched high and wide, even using a helicopter, only to find their pet dog Roxy had been trapped under logs in the next-door paddock.
Stewart said the dog disappeared from their home on the Gibbston Highway on October 8.
She said Roxy roamed the garden freely in the day and sometimes chased rabbits into the neighbouring field, but never strayed far.
On this day, however, she first missed dinner then failed to appear the next morning, so Stewart said they searched the local area.
“It was amazing. She doesn’t bark, and Regan had personally gone past the logs pile several times calling her name.”
Not knowing their dog was trapped close by, the couple began to panic.
“When each of our boys were born, she went away for a night … both times she came back, and it was literally just like a pout.”
The initially put-out hound had become best friends with Braden, now 4, who joined the hunt for the missing pet, clutching a poster.
“We had one of those low moments four days in. We just got really hyper-emotional about it and then I remember thinking, no, she needs us.”
The couple had adopted Roxy from friend Brian Stone when he died from cancer, and in his memory redoubled their efforts.
Stewart began posting on social media, hoping for sightings of the dog, and the pair followed countless leads at all hours of the day.
A man they had not met before, called Andrew Rogers, organised a community search, and up to 60 locals took part in a hunt across Arrowtown and Frankton on day 10.
Stewart said they were overwhelmed by his and others’ mind-blowing efforts.
But, after three weeks, they had begun to accept the inevitable and were considering how to tell their children the bad news.
On Saturday, they set out on a family holiday across the South Island and had just reached Cromwell when they received a phone call.
Their neighbour, Adam Hill, had been milling logs on his land and had spotted a black silhouette – Roxy.
“We were speechless. We were in shock that we had got her back. We all had tears in our eyes.”
Roxy was taken to Remarkables Vets and somehow, despite having lost 5kg and suffering a bit of stiffness, there was nothing wrong with her.
Vet Rachel Burt said it was a remarkable tale, and the dog had benefited from a bit of excess weight.
“Given we assume she was stuck the whole time, it is fairly exceptional and she was very lucky we had a lot of rain to get enough water to stay hydrated.”