Farm dog Scott is one tough animal - three days after going missing, he was found hanging upside down in the fork of a tree, alive but extremely hungry.

Lawrence and Liz Rau, farmers from Matawai, an hour north of Gisborne, had raised Scott from a pup. Now 9, he had just qualified for the national sheep dog trials in Wanaka.

"We were out mustering stock on Good Friday when Scott disappeared," said Liz.

Scott headed over a ridge while Lawrence scouted around the bottom of the track, expecting to see the dog and sheep appear over the hill.


He waited for a while, then climbed the hill - the dog was nowhere to be seen and the sheep were undisturbed, grazing quietly.

"It was really unusual," Liz said.

After an initial search, Lawrence returned home for stronger boots and wet-weather gear. The couple spent the next four to five hours scouring the scrub in strong wind and rain, looking for Scott.

"The paddock is only 50 acres, the dog was fit and strong, but we just couldn't find him," said Liz.

The following morning, with the help of their son's family and farm worker Dean Hunter, they searched the area again but to no avail.

About 90mm of rain fell over the weekend but Lawrence was not about to give up and continued searching on Monday.

That day, he travelled further along the track to a steeper paddock with a young dog called Sleek.

When she howled suddenly, Lawrence stopped and turned off the bike engine. He could hear faint barking below.

Lawrence rang his son for help then carefully climbed down.

Scott was trapped head-down in a tree growing horizontally on an old slip site. He was exhausted. "He had ripped the bark off the tree trying to free himself and to get a grip on the tree," said Liz.

Lawrence managed to free him and scramble back up to the track carrying the exhausted dog.

"Scott was staggering and sore but, after a drink in the creek and some food, they were able to travel home."

"We had been on the track many times over the weekend but heading dogs don't bark much and we would not have heard him."

Scott slept in his kennel for two days and now seems to be fully recovered.