A dog marooned on an island off Nelson is back home 10 days after she ran away, thanks to a marathon rescue effort by strangers determined to help the lost pup.
Quizzy, a shih tzu-jack russell cross who was adopted from the SPCA after being caged and badly mistreated by a previous owner - went missing from her Stoke home on January 26.
She was returned to her grateful owners, Vicki and Phil Leslie, on Monday, after spending several days on Oyster Island in Waimea inlet, without food and water.
In an adventure reminiscent of the seafaring dog on the Lotto ad, Quizzy - who is fearful of humans - was eventually caught after she swam 500 metres and ran 3 kilometres down wet sand behind Nelson airport.
Nelson paddle boarder Marcus Graf first spotted the small dog running around on Oyster Island last week. He went back that evening and spotted her again but she would not come when called, and took off.
Graf said he went back a few times to look for her, but did not see her again until Sunday. Unable to catch the dog a further time, he went home and called the SPCA. He also rang his ex-wife, Nelson policewoman and animal lover Nyanne Graf, seeking help.
They rallied a group, which included SPCA volunteer weekend duty officer Amy Jukes, her partner Cameron Strange and boat owner Blake Abbott, to go to the dog's aid.
Graf said after searching the island on Sunday, the group found Quizzy, but due to her mistrust of humans she ran away, jumped into the sea and swam off "like crazy".
Jukes swam after the dog, but the little dog was too far in front.
Retrieving the boat from the other side of the island, Graf and Strange followed the little dog north along the sandspit behind Nelson airport. "We ran and ran, trying to find this dog, following its paw prints," Graf said.
They followed the dog's tracks to the area where Nelson airport meets the Nelson Golf Course, eventually chasing Quizzy through the golf course.
She said they were determined to save the poor dog and joked the dog "must have a Lotto ticket in its mouth".
Graf said she was eventually able to catch the dog when she ran towards her, and Quizzy got tangled up in long grass.
"I just jumped on her and grabbed her. She was absolutely exhausted and all her skin was just sore and red from the salt and grass."
She said it was a real team effort to catch the dog and everyone was so determined not to give up.
The story does not end there, though.
On Sunday night, Sally Parkins, a friend of Graf staying from Christchurch, went to Stoke Countdown where she saw a notice for a missing dog and guessed it might be the one they had rescued.
Graf contacted the Leslies straight away.
"We showed her the photos and she burst into tears; they had just been looking everywhere for this little dog."
Leslie said it was awesome to have Quizzy back.
"My husband and I really thought we were not ever going to see her again."
She said Quizzy dug a hole and escaped from their Stoke property. She did not know how Quizzy had ended up on Oyster Island, but had been told it was possible to walk to Oyster Island at dead low tide. She said the whole rescue story was amazing.
"She has got an angel on her shoulder, I think."
The Leslies adopted Quizzy from the SPCA in Nelson.
She was one of 50 dogs rescued from a North Island man after he was found keeping caged dogs, in filthy conditions, to breed to supply pet shops.
Leslie said despite her pet's bad start she had a beautiful nature.
Quizzy was pleased to be home.
"We've certainly fixed it so she won't be able to get out again. The ironic thing is my husband and neighbour went past Oyster Island on Friday fishing and didn't even see her at all.
"We were very lucky that everyone went to the lengths they did to save her. We feel very lucky. We just can't thank them enough."
- © Fairfax NZ News