Just when Picton man Matt Pickering feared the worst for his two lost hunting dogs, an Outward Bound group came to the rescue.
The group, Rutherford Watch, were on an overnight trek last Monday on the Waikakaho/Cullen Creek Walkway, which follows the old goldminers' trail between Wairau Valley and Linkwater, when they heard barking.
Marcus Allan and team-mate Preston Te Wano, both 16, initially thought the dogs were with someone but soon realised that wasn't the case.
The dogs had no energy and were very skinny so the group tried feeding them canned ham and tuna as well as fresh water, Preston said.
"They drunk the water pretty quick."
The team walked about 6 kilometres with the dogs, taking turns at carrying them and leading them, to bring them off the hill, Marcus said.
When they got to their van, they put the dogs in the back and were on their way back to Outward Bound when they spotted Pickering looking for his dogs.
He was a bit "teary-eyed" when they told him they had his dogs in the van, Preston said. Pickering, who had been searching for three weeks, said he was "overwhelmed to get them back".
He got a call from a couple staying they had spotted them, so he jumped in his ute and drove down Cullensville Rd. That's when he saw the Outward Bound van.
"When they stopped me, I thought ‘This is me. I need to stop'. I said, ‘Have you seen the dogs?' and they said ‘no we've got them in the back'. Well I just about, I was just overwhelmed."
Ginny, a 7-month-old pup, and Blackie, a 14-month-old pup, had run away from their home in Picton on Monday, June 16. Pickering said they ran off after he took them for a run down the driveway behind his motorbike.
"I have rabbits in the driveway and since they are only young I let them chase the rabbits because it teaches them how to scent. Well they scented off half of them and they never came back.
"They were just totally lost. They would have eaten possums along their way. They were very skinny . . . the older one recognised me, but the young one, she didn't know who I was," he said. "She didn't know who I was until I got home, back to her surroundings when I let her out at home."
Pickering walked about 30km looking for his dogs and had plastered posters around town offering a $1000 reward because he thought they had been stolen, he said.
He gave $500 to the Rutherford Watch and $500 to the couple who made the initial phone call to him.
His dogs were recovering well, Pickering said.
"They've put on weight now but I've had them home since Tuesday. I've wormed them because they would have been scavenging any food they could," he said.
"They are definitely on the mend so they won't be out hunting for another week or so."
- The Marlborough Express
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