A 95-year-old Northland man who lost his pet and best mate in a dog attack has been swamped with gifts, messages of support and donations to cover his vet bill.
Jim Morgan was walking his 12-year-old fox terrier cross, Sandy, on Sunday when they were attacked by a pack of loose dogs near their home on Harold Ave in Kaikohe.
Morgan, who was knocked to the ground in the melee, sustaining bruising, but Sandy suffered lacerations and a badly fractured rear leg. Initially it was hoped Sandy would recover once the shattered leg was amputated but on Monday vets decided putting the dog down was the kindest option.
Since then Morgan, via his neighbours and Bay of Islands Vets, has been inundated with sympathy and support from around New Zealand and even the US and Switzerland.
Donations have more than paid for the dog's vet bill and cremation, and the balance would be given to Morgan to use as he wished, Bay of Islands Vets director Max Newport said.
The clinic had also fielded a large number of calls from people wanting to express their sympathy.
Neighbour Cynthia Moran had taken phone calls from as far away as Auckland and Wellington. A dog-lover in the US wanted to make a donation and someone in Switzerland had asked for Morgan's address so she could send chocolates.
A local gave him a $100 supermarket voucher which Moran said she would insist the ex-serviceman, who was far from wealthy, spent so he had some nice food for Christmas.
Advocate readers have also showed their generosity by donating money via the vet and dropping gifts and cards at the newspaper's Kerikeri office and several hundred dollars into the paper's Whangārei HQ.
''There's huge sympathy for him, and anger that this has been allowed to happen,'' Moran said.
Morgan was holding up well under the circumstances, she said.
''But he is very, very sad. He said he was so depressed he'd rather go with Sandy.''
With Morgan's wife dead and no family in Northland, Sandy was all he lived for, she said.
Moran said neighbours would make sure he was not alone during Christmas. He has also been invited to a community Christmas breakfast.
■ Gifts or messages for Jim Morgan can be dropped off at the Advocate offices in Whangārei or Kerikeri. His neighbours plan to set up a Givealittle page but in the meantime donations can still be made to Bay of Islands Veterinary Services, bank account number 12 3097 0193104 00 (make sure you add the reference code MORGA261).
Council investigation continues
The Far North District Council is continuing to investigate the dog attack that led to Sandy's death — and admits an error at its after-hours call centre meant it wasn't acted on until 24 hours later.
Dean Myburgh, the council's district services manager, said he was appalled that Jim Morgan and his much loved companion had been attacked by wandering dogs on Harold Ave.
Animal management officers had spoken to him and witnesses, and were now questioning locals in a bid to identify the owner of the dogs involved in the attack.
There were no CCTV cameras in the area but residents were being asked to check household security camera footage.
Once identified the dogs would be seized and held in the council shelter pending prosecution.
Meanwhile, a separate investigation had verified Harold Ave resident Cynthia Moran's claim she reported the attack on Sunday morning but was not contacted by animal control staff until Monday.
Myburgh said the council's after-hours service provider confirmed her call had been received on Sunday morning, but the wrong email address had been used to alert on-call staff.
As a result animal management staff only learned of the attack when they got to work on Monday morning and saw an email Moran had sent after phoning the after-hours service.
Discussions were being held with the after-hours phone provider to ensure the problem did not recur.
Animal management staff had already stepped up routine street patrols in Kaikohe to reduce the number of stray dogs, and those patrols had now been increased.
They had also been conducting door-to-door registration checks on randomly selected streets to help tackle problems with wandering dogs around the district.