Times were hard for Bee. She’d lost 1.5kg, she had developed a skin irritation. But worse the starving Beagle had resorted to nicking and eating cat biscuits. And Bee’s a proud beagle dog.
But needs must. Because Bee had been on the run for 22 days. She was lost, hungry and miserable and she’d made everyone else miserable.
“But right now she’s asleep on my lap as I am driving back to Auckland,” says Bee’s mum Melissa Taylor. Probably not driver-wise but there was some serious reconnection required.
“Because I grew up on a farm with animals all around. None of them were pets. Then Bee came along and she was very different. I had a helluva a year last year and Bee was with me throughout.”
Now roles were reversed. Minder became the minded. But let’s go back to the start.
It was a dumb, impetuous doggie thing Bee did. She was visiting a kiwifruit orchard near Athenree with a foster family three weeks ago when she took off. Probably a new setting, new things to do, new places to explore. All very exciting and Bee was off and gone.
“I was in America trying to have a holiday. I was devastated to hear about Bee’s disappearance. It put a dampener on things.” Later that devastation would cause a major overhaul of travel plans, a holiday cut short. Expensive and painful.
Then a family went into crisis mode. From Auckland Melissa Taylor’s mother Donna Best launched a publicity campaign. Newspaper, news websites, radio stations – anyone who was prepared to listen. “Let’s get Bee home safely.” Even this cynical hack leapt into print for a lost dog.
Search parties went out – neighbouring orchards and properties were scoured by friends, family, colleagues and concerned people, doggie people. But as time passed and Bee wasn’t found, the story went off the boil, media interest waned.
A “special attachment” between a young woman and her dog brought Melissa on a mercy dash back to New Zealand. A young couple’s US experience was abandoned for Bee.
Melissa landed in Auckland 4.30pm last Friday. At 5pm the phone rang.
“Would you believe it?” Melissa was dumbfounded. “Half an hour in the country and she’s been sighted.”
At first light the following day Melissa and boyfriend Sam headed to Katikati and set up camp. “We searched for two days. Four properties around where Bee had last been seen. “We gave it everything.” But they had to creep off home crestfallen to Auckland.
Then Monday at 10am, like a scene that would have comfortably edited into ‘Milo and Otis’ Bee wanders out of the bush on a property that had been thoroughly searched the previous day.
“The woman was standing there hanging out the washing. Bee just wandered past her into the laundry and began eating the cat biscuits.” Bee’s a city dog. No living off the land for her. Cat biscuits were better than no biscuits.
Back in the car. Back to Katikati. Back to Bee. She’d been found up the same drive and only two properties away from where she had done a bunk. She had been right there but at the same time nowhere to be found for 22 days. And she missed her 1st birthday.
“She looked remarkably clean for a dog that had been roughing it. One-and-a-half kilograms lighter and skin irritation but she was pretty happy to see me. Her tail was wagging,” says Melissa.
Western Bay of Plenty District Council animal services officer Betty Hall summed it up nicely. “I wish I could interrogate that dog, find out where she had been and how she got by.”
For Betty, who sees a lot of animal hardship, a lot of abuse, this is an uplifting story.
“To see how committed this family was to get their dog back is inspiring.” She’s talking about the publicity campaign, the countless days in the field searching, the travel. “It’s certainly very refreshing.
Perhaps Melissa is having a quiet word with Bee. “Do you understand the sacrifices, the lengths people went to?” But Melissa tells us Bee is living it up. So perhaps not. But they are very, very thankful.