Dog returns from the Otago hills after a year missing

Must See 10/05/2019

Missing huntaway Ben has returned to his owner, a year after going missing in rural Central Otago.

It was assumed by owner George Sheild that Ben was dead after he went missing in the Old Man Range, near Alexandra last year.

Last month, an excited Ben was returned to his owner after a hunter had found him.

Sheild told Newshub Ben went missing during the autumn muster on Earnscleugh Station last year.

"I went back a couple of times - he wasn't there," he said. "Last year I would have wrote him off - [I thought] he's done. He's dead.

"It's quite hard to believe. I felt a bit guilty for leaving him there."

Sheild said Ben ran straight to his side when he went to collect him.

"He knew who I was, it's quite surprising," Sheild told Newshub. "It was pretty cool. [It was] pretty hard to believe. I'm still in a bit of shock now."

To stay alive, Ben overcame freezing cold Central Otago temperatures, which can drop to as low as -6degC in winter.

"He's a pretty intelligent dog - well-bred," Sheild said. "I'd say he's learned how to hunt possums - [it's] pretty remarkable.

"I couldn't honestly tell you how he survived."

A few decades ago, it was common for dogs to live outside. However nowadays, it's understood it can be hazardous for a dog's health.

"Dogs can freeze to death or suffer from heat stroke just like people can," veterinarian Dean Vicksman told Animal Planet.

But there should be no more cold weather for Ben - he's being retired back to his breeder, living out the rest of his days as a pet dog.