Lost dog has mir­a­cle sur­vival tale

Waikato Times - - News - NICHOLAS BOYACK

If Benny the bea­gle could talk he would have a great story to tell; it could even make a great movie.

On Sun­day evening, he was mirac­u­lously found alive hav­ing spent nine days stuck above a wa­ter­fall in rugged ter­rain in the Bel­mont Re­gional Park, north of Welling­ton.

Af­ter go­ing miss­ing dur­ing a pack walk on April 6, Benny sur­vived with­out any food and en­dured a freez­ing storm that brought snow and tor­na­dos to parts of the lower North Is­land last week.

De­spite only be­ing a few hun­dred me­tres from where he went miss­ing, he some­how es­caped the at­ten­tion of 1000 searchers and a he­li­copter with spe­cial­ist ther­mal imag­ing gear.

Own­ers Matt and Grace New­man-Hall set up a so­cial me­dia page to keep peo­ple in­formed on how the search was go­ing.

Matt New­man-Hall said Benny was in sur­pris­ingly good shape. A timid dog, he did not even bark when res­cuers even­tu­ally found him cold and hun­gry.

Buoyed by sto­ries of dogs be­ing lost for months and turn­ing up un­ex­pect­edly, New­man-Hall said he had never given up hope.

‘‘There were 70 to 100 peo­ple out look­ing for him [on Sun­day] so we were feel­ing very con­fi­dent that some­one would find him, and it was only half an hour af­ter we got home that we got the call.’’

But even af­ter he was dis­cov­ered, the ad­ven­ture was not over for Benny.

His res­cuers had to scale a wa­ter­fall and rock wall to fol­low a stream. They found Benny at­tached to a log by his lead. In fad­ing light, they sent out a mes­sage that they might strug­gle to get down.

Matt New­man-Hall alerted the park ranger and the SPCA an­i­mal res­cue team, but af­ter three hours his res­cuers emerged with Benny hap­pily trot­ting along­side them.

Benny was taken to the emer­gency vet, who said he had lost weight but was oth­er­wise in good shape.

Grace New­man-Hall said she was in­debted to the peo­ple who found him.

‘‘We can’t ex­press how thank­ful we are.’’

Af­ter they got home and had some cud­dles, Benny then en­joyed a long sleep. He spent the night snug­gled up be­tween his happy own­ers.

The New­man-Halls were ad­vised to keep him quiet for a few days and slowly rein­tro­duce him to food.

Matt New­man-Hall es­ti­mated that in the nine days Benny was miss­ing, 1000 peo­ple had helped with the search.

‘‘The search has been ex­pen­sive and ex­ten­sive.’’

The he­li­copter was paid for by in­surance and he said they would for­ever be grate­ful for all the help they re­ceived. One of the searchers came down from Whanganui and spent nine days search­ing the rugged park.

Wairarapa bea­gle breeder Chelsea Mack­lin said Benny did well to sur­vive in the cold. Hav­ing ac­cess to a stream was prob­a­bly the key to his sur­vival.

‘‘Bea­gles are small dogs but they are quite a tough dog. They are pretty re­silient and can cope with a lot.’’

PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Matt and Grace New­man-Hall launched an ex­ten­sive search of the Bel­mont Re­gional Park for Benny the bea­gle, cen­tre.

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