A single paw print in the mud led to the recovery of missing police dog Thames. The German Shepherd was found safe and well, but hungry, yesterday after getting lost during a training exercise in the Tararua Ranges on Sunday last week.
Extensive searches had failed to find any trace of the four-year-old dog, but yesterday afternoon he was found, and last night had his first night back at home with his handler, Constable Mike Wakefield.
Mr Wakefield said the searchers had seen a paw print on Saturday but light was fading, so they tramped back to the spot on Sunday and that was where Thames suddenly appeared from around a ridge.
"I think he was just as scared as we were, I started jumping up and down and getting all excited, and he sort of disappeared back round the corner. And mad panic set in again. Then I managed to calm down, took a breath, and sure enough about a minute or two later, he hunkered back round the corner and came up to me," he told Morning Report.
Mr Wakefield said Thames was in pretty good shape after spending five nights lost in rugged country.
"He's a little bit skinny and stiff and sore."
Constable Wakefield remains unsure as to why Thames got lost.
"We just got separated coming down a ridge. Given the terrain, I'm a lot slower than he is, he's gone a little bit further, and he's just got onto something, I don't know what, and then disappeared."
Mr Wakefield said Thames would be taken to the vet today to check if he had any underlying injuries, and to get him back onto some normal eating habits.
After Thames has gone to the vet the pair will take a few weeks off to recover.