During a search-and-rescue training session last week, a police dog named Thames went missing in the Tararua Range, a mountain range in New Zealand.
For seven days, six people searched for the 4-year-old German Shepherd, including his handler, Constable Mike Wakefield.
On Saturday, just as Wakefield was giving up hope of finding Thames, the team came across a “big, fresh paw print in the mud,” the New Zealand Police said in a news release.
The next day they saw Thames in the foliage, just before a clearing.
“I whistled and called, but he ran off as if to say, ‘Come this way,’ before running back and giving me a big lick,” Wakefield said in the news release.
“He wolfed down half of my salami, which is a treat for him. I gave him a cuddle and we had a big play. I was just lost for words.”
In the video “Thames and Mike’s Big Reunion Moment,” posted on YouTube yesterday by the New Zealand Police, Thames covers his handler’s face with smooches. In a bit of an understatement, Wakefield says, “As you can see, he’s pretty happy to see me and I’m pretty happy to see him.”
Although Thames was “a bit skinnier in the haunches after a week of foraging,” according to the news release, he was well enough to take a four-hour walk down the mountain with his rescuers. It was too windy to attempt to fly him out via helicopter.
Thames and Wakefield are taking a few weeks of annual leave to recover.
“The vet says Thames is remarkably healthy for his ordeal,” Wakefield said today in a news release. “He’s a bit skinny, stiff and sore, but that’s to be expected. We’ve had a good night at home and now we’ll recoup, ease the muscles and then get back into work.”
Wakefield said it was great to have Thames, who is also a family pet, back at home.
“The response from colleagues, the search-and-rescue and civilian volunteers, and the support from members of the public has been amazing,” he said. “I can’t thank people enough.”