Dachshund reunited with owner after seven days lost in Lairg forest
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A massive operation involving professional stalkers, quad bikes, drones and locals ended with success as a lost dog was finally found after seven days on the run in a Lairg forest.
Wirehaired dachshund Llew had an emotional reunion with his owner Arwel Thomas last Friday after being reported missing seven days prior while the two were walking at an area called Gruids near the Sallachy Estate.
"It was an emotional week to say the least," said Arwel from his north Wales home in Anglesey.
"I lost the dog last Friday (October 25) around 1pm. After waiting patiently till 7pm thinking he'd come back out of the forest, panic started to kick in."
Arwel knew the Sutherland location well having previously worked as a deerstalker on an estate in the area. He scanned the location throughout the night with a special thermal imaging device to try and find the missing dachshund but had no luck.
The next day he went back to the huge expanse of forestry near Lairg where Llew was last seen and desperately searched from 8am until it started getting dark at 7pm.
"I did the same on Sunday but with the help of a few fellow stalkers with dogs, one with a quad bike."
Arwel also shared information in a post on social media and joined a few Facebook groups to help with the search.
"Within hours I was inundated with messages of support from both the local community and people as far away as Inverness, Glasgow and Dumfries willing to come help search."
Two women who helped coordinate the search, Lee Heron and Lorraine Brown Robertson, had seen Arwel's post and told him about their experience of successfully locating lost dogs.
Lee said: "I run a [Facebook] group called Lost Dogs Dumfries and Galloway and have helped lots of families with lost dachshunds over the years.
"I was put in touch with Arwel by a dachshund group, along with a lady Lorraine Brown Robertson – based in the Central Belt) – and between the two of us we helped advise on the things to do."
Arwel had no choice but to drive the long and lonely road back to Anglesey minus his beloved pet on Monday. Throughout that week, Lee and Lorraine kept him updated on the search.
Information was also posted on a website called Dog Lost where owners can send details of their missing pet for free.
A volunteer with Dog Lost, talked about what happens when a dog goes missing and how owners can inadvertently do the wrong things when searching for the animal.
She explained how dogs can go into "survival mode" after being lost for a period of time and "the worst thing you can do is try to call his name". A silent search with heavily scented food is advised instead.
Two local women put out food for Llew and even ventured into the forest to cook a barbeque to try and entice him out but to no avail. Drones were also used by volunteers and caught an "occasional glimpse of something" but as the days went by there were less and less sightings of the little dog. Stalkers had even travelled from Aberdeen to help but found nothing.
"Someone thought they herd a dog whimper on a few occasions, but it proved to be a red herring," said Arwel.
He packed his stuff last Thursday night and planned to drive up to the area again the next day along with his brother and sister in a final bid to find Llew.
Then, around lunchtime on the Friday, Arwel received a call to say Llew had been found by couple Margaret and Brian Steel.
"He was found safe and well exactly a week after being lost, to the day and hour by a local couple and their son, who were out walking, not knowing the dog was lost.
"But more so of a coincidence was a couple behind them who just happened to be looking for Llew."
A few "emotional teary eyed phone calls later" he drove up and arrived at Inverness around 1am and slept in the car overnight before gratefully picking up his dog the next day. Llew ate sausages "like a crocodile" on the journey home, said Arwel.
"We've been overwhelmed with the support from the various lost dog associations and groups and the local community.
"We can't begin to extend our gratitude to the people of Lairg and further who ventured out to help find the missing dog."
Llew was "a little sore and thinner" but in good health despite his week-long sojourn into the forest. "He'd have had water but who knows what he's eaten for those seven days," said Arwel.
Arwell said he wants to leave the Facebook group, Llew Found Safe , up as a thanks to the community and volunteers who helped find him and to help others who have lost dogs.