Percy was gone, doggone in fact.
The perky Maltese escaped from his New Plymouth property last Tuesday and only sharp detective work by a New Plymouth ranger reunited the little bloke with his distraught family three days later.
Percy was "dog-napped" after wandering out the front gate which had been blown off its hinges by high winds.
A Hawera woman spotted him loose and took him home, then began making inquiries about adopting the 5-year-old.
Meanwhile real owner Victoria Lewis was frantic and had alerted animal authorities that her pet was missing.
Enter New Plymouth animal control officer Jim Aitken, whose suspicions were aroused when he fielded a call from South Taranaki.
"The caller said she had found a stray dog in New Plymouth and wanted to adopt him," he said yesterday.
"I told her she was obligated to take the dog to the pound as found property, and that if the animal wasn't claimed then she would have first option to adopt.
"But she wasn't very forthcoming. She wouldn't give me her name or her telephone number."
Mr Aitken was able to trace the call and gave it to Ms Lewis who telephoned the woman asking for her dog back. "But she said he might not be my dog and that she had decided she'd quite like to keep him anyway.
"I promptly burst into tears - which may have given her the guilts because she then invited me to drive to Hawera to check things out."
When she and her partner arrived a delighted Percy leapt into her arms.
"And then he buried his head under my arm as if to say ‘Get me out of here, mum!' "
Ms Lewis had intended offering a $500 reward for the missing dog.
"There was no way she was going to get one cent of the reward."
Ms Lewis said Percy wasn't wearing a collar because she did not expect he would escape from the family property, which was fully fenced.
Mr Aitken said the dog's adventure was the perfect illustration of the value of having animals microchipped. "If he had been microchipped, we could have proven conclusively within minutes who he was. It's a $40 lifetime insurance against these incidents for both the animals and their owners.
"We've had some wonderful reunions thanks to microchips. Last year we impounded a Coromandel pig dog in the Mt Messenger area."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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