The day after Mia did a bunk, a low pressure system descended over our work pod. The mood became distinctly grey, heavy and cheerless. It was like there had been a death.
Mia is about two handfuls of white fluff – a choodle, a chihuahua-poodle cross.
“She was my mother's dog,” says Cayla-Fay Saunders. “But over time we bonded. She started following me around and sleeping on my bed.” Then came the realisation Mia liked Cayla more than Mum. And now there was another realisation, Mia was gone. Missing.
With each passing day my colleague Cayla became increasingly despondent. The high volume of banter across the partition dried up. And even a harmless ‘Good morning' or ‘How the hell are you' brought her to the brink of tears.
Mia the prissy but outdoorsy choodle – the bright white powder puff that chased lawnmowers and liked swimming, who was everyone's friend, was gone. “She may have looked like a handbag-type looking dog but instinctively she was a farm dog.”
And now Cayla, who won me over by sticking a “post-it” with a ‘Hi Hunter' on my side of the partition when she arrived on the pod was testing my compassion. After all, it was just a dog.
But she was grieving. “I just got more and more stressed and more and more upset,” says Cayla. “And I found it very hard to get on with things because I felt I should be out there looking under bushes, calling her name or posting flyers.”
Was Mia dead, was she lying injured, had she been dog-napped or used as bait for a dog fight? Yep, Cayla was grieving. And she needn't have been. Cayla expended a lot deep feelings and at least a one-hour-long sob over that missing dog. And she needn't have. There was also the fruitless wandering of neighbourhoods, of flyer drops, of crying ‘Mia' into the days and nights, and of Facebooking. And it was all needless.
Instead, one rainy afternoon Mia was found wandering in Pyes Pa and ended up in the Waikato. A kind person picked her up and checked a couple of neighbours to check if she was known. She wasn't so Mia was packed up in a car and taken across the Kaimai Range. It is unclear why the people who found the dog did not hand it in or contact authorities earlier.
“I suppose it comes down to best practice when a dog goes missing,” says Cayla. “And don't get me wrong because I am so grateful to have her home. But if Mia had been taken to a vet, an SPCA or a council office they could have scanned her microchip and she could have been home within 24 hours.”
“She had a collar on, but no tag. That's my fault and I will see to it. But she was obviously a family dog and so every effort should be made to reunite it with that family.
“And that could have been done easily. It was so frustrating and unnecessarily stressful.”
Cayla says it's unclear how long her dog was in the care of others but she believes at least four days.
Western Bay of plenty District Council animal services officer Peter Hrstich says if someone finds a dog, the best thing is to call the local council. “An animal services officer will collect it and scan it for a chip. “Then we can phone or mail the owner.”
The system apparently works the majority of times. “And in the meantime the dog is well cared for in a council shelter,” says Peter.
Cayla is unclear how long the dog had been held before she got a phone call last Sunday morning. Facebook had worked when all else had failed. “Those people who found Mia could have been spared the responsibility and we could have been spared a lot of angst.” She has raised the issue to assist other people in similar situations – lost dog finders and dog losers.
The council says one important thing for dog owners is to ensure their microchip information is held by council and their contacts are up-to-date.
“Microchipping is the best way of identifying a dog because collars and tags can often be lost or removed,” says Peter. “It has successfully allowed us to find rightful owners very quickly, but it does rely on people reporting lost or found dogs to council.”
So the low pressure system has lifted, Mia is home and a family is at ease again. Especially Mia's dog boyfriend, the family's other hound, a Labrador called Toby. Every time Cayla went outside and called Mia, Toby would perk up and rush around expecting to see her.
“In the space of a week I had decided Mia was gone and not coming back. So it was like grieving and then being told: ‘Well actually just kidding, they're still alive'. Emotionally very confusing because I was so used to feeling sad. The dog was gone but then not gone.”
So the council and Cayla are both saying if you care enough to stop and pick up a lost dog, don't stop there. Call the council.