If ever there was a story to remind you never to give up hope, it is that of one-year-old jack russell foxy Benny, found safe and (mostly) well despite being lost in the bush for more than three weeks.
On Sunday August 18 Jackson Baxter decided to take family pet Benny for a walk to the top of Mt Fyffe.
Despite his short legs, the dog was running rings around Jackson and they were on the return from the summit when disaster struck. In usual dog fashion Benny was running on ahead and back again, but when he hit an icy outcropping he just couldn't stop.
"He hit the ice and skidded and I just saw him disappear," Jackson said.
"He flew off the side, I saw him doing flips, and then he was just gone."
Jackson tried to walk down to find him but it was solid ice with a sheer rock face underneath so he called his dad, Richard, to raise the alarm. He then left a note in the hut to say he had lost his dog, in case other trampers came across him.
He headed back down the mountain and in the meantime, Richard had called Kaikoura Helicopters to see if they could help search.
"They picked me up at Sandy Saddle . . . we had a look around but we couldn't hear or see anything," Jackson said.
"And it was gnarly-as when we were looking at [the drop] from the chopper.
"But when I got home dad and granddad had been talking, and the next day they got Mike Morrissey and Karl Townsend who said they would give dad a hand."
So the search resumed next day, with the help once more of Kaikoura Helicopters.
"They had a look around and found some blood and hair, which was from him for sure, but they didn't find him," Jackson said.
"They basically thought he wouldn't have made it . . . We kind of wrote him off really."
Jackson left a blanket at the car park at the start of the track, where he and Benny had started their walk, but despite regular checks, there was no sign of him there.
So imagine the family's surprise when last Tuesday they got the news that Benny had been found, alive, by a pest control team. Benny had managed to get back to the car park after all, and walked into a possum trap which had been set only the day before.
"I'm not sure how he made it out but it would have been a long walk for sure," Jackson said.
"I'd say the trap saved him, he would still be wandering around otherwise."
Jackson's sister and mum collected a scratched and skinny but otherwise pretty healthy-looking Benny from the vet, where he was treated for broken toes, and took him home to wait for Jackson to finish work.
"I got home from work and everyone was sitting around, and dad said I had something to pick up from by the fire . . . and he was sitting there. I thought mum and dad had got a new dog at first."
Benny still has a few meals to go before he is back to his usual weight, but the adventure won't stop the pair going up Mt Fyffe again soon - just not in the snow.
And the whole family is most grateful to all who took the time to help look for their much-loved pet.
- © Fairfax NZ News