A Wellington couple have thanked many people in the Kāpiti community for helping in the successful search for their lost whippet dog.

On Monday last week Helen Cairney and husband Alan Bailey, from Hataitai, dropped their 10-month-old purebred whippet Poppy at an address in Raumati Rd, Raumati Beach, and then drove to New Plymouth for a mini break.

But when they got to New Plymouth and checked into their accommodation they got a call from the person looking after Poppy saying the dog had jumped a high fence and couldn't be found.

So they drove all the way back to Raumati Beach, arriving mid evening, and started a search, which would last until mid Thursday afternoon when Poppy would finally be reunited with her family.

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The search included lots of door knocking, looking around private addresses, public areas, handing out flyers, social media awareness and reading about how to find a lost dog.

About 20 people, on and off, were involved in the search including a woman called Nadya who devoted two days, and Fi Leith, who had seen the dog earlier, and took a day off work.

Some of the many others who helped search were Elaine Taylor, Emma Spicer, Toni Fleming and Vanessa Kenny.

As the search stretched out, and despite a few sightings, Helen feared Poppy could die, if she wasn't dead already, because the weather was bitterly cold.

"We were almost hypothermic ourselves and we had jackets on."

The break came about noon on Thursday when a man in Raumati Rd contacted them saying "your wee girl has just run off from my garden".

The search, in pouring rain, now concentrated on an area of wetlands behind properties in Conifer Court.

Alan and the couple's other whippet called Jack spotted Poppy in a wooded area of the wetlands but she wouldn't come to them, probably because she was still in a state of fear.

Alan and Jack sat quietly on a bridge nearby while Poppy would come out of the wooded area, growl at them, and go back into the woods.

But slowly Poppy got closer to them, and when Alan and Jack retreated back to the car, Poppy ran into Alan's arms.

"Everyone was crying," Helen said.

She had high praise for everyone involved and who kept their spirits up.

"We are just awed by how people helped us.

"We can't believe how lucky we are that people were so wonderful.

"It's a very special community and I'm not sure other communities would have rallied around as amazingly."

Poppy had lost some weight but other than that was "pretty much unscathed" from the ordeal.

Helen and Alan's tips to find your lost pet

Day One:

■ Quickly put the word out through social media that your pet is missing with as much detail as possible. Start with Facebook lost and found, local community group pages, Neighbourly, Lost Pet Finder, and the local radio station. Ask friends to share your post with anyone who is in the area. The public is much more likely to come across your pet than you are. They need to know how to recognise it and how to let you know.
■ Search the area where your pet went missing. Don't assume they will come when called as they often immediately go into survival mode and avoid contact — even with you.
■ Go door to door in the nearby properties. Your pet may go to or be in their yard or house.

Day two:

■ Make a search plan that starts close by their escape, and works outwards.
■ Search at dawn and dusk daily. Your pet is most likely to move during these times. Search sheds, under houses etc as your pet may be hiding.
■ Distribute letterbox and lamppost fliers that include contact details.
■ Visit local vets, the pound and SPCA, in person.
■ Update the social media details, and continue to do this daily, so people know where you're focussing your search and where your pet has been spotted. Try to respond to every comment. Ask for specific help if you want people to search a particular area.
People will volunteer to help, so take advantage of that by suggesting areas to search or distribute fliers.
■ If your pet has visited a spot, leave an item of your clothing or a toy so they know you are around.

Day three onwards

■ Don't give up. It took several days to find Poppy and we were lucky. It often takes longer.
■ Keep updating the community via social media.
■ Continue door to door contact and garden searches asking residents to keep looking daily.
■ Retrace your original search area, but slowly extend it with fliers and posters.
■ Accept help. We didn't find Poppy — someone else did.
If you locate your pet, don't let lots of people then search the area. It will frighten them away.
Try to stay calm and simply hang out. Even walk away from them.
They may follow, or ask the animal control officers to set a live trap in the area.