When 13-year-old foxy Blue slipped out the cat door and went for an early morning jaunt along Western Hills Drive on Tuesday, he was blissfully unaware of the series of events that would follow.
They involved bringing a line of heavy-load traffic to a standstill, a joy ride with a pig ear, a nap in the back of a pilot vehicle, making friends with a fellow canine, uniting strangers, a box of chocolates and then fame.
All the while, Blue's owner Jenny Goodhue was oblivious.
It was 3am when Auckland pilot driver Michaela Daly-Carter was heading through Whangārei with an entourage of five other vehicles, between them escorting five large classroom dwellings to Kaitaia. Then a small figure appeared on the road.
"I was halfway up Western Hills Drive when I spotted what I thought was a cat. Then I realised a dog had run out in front of me. It was a blind corner but I didn't want the dog to get run over so I stopped the vehicle and radioed the house mover."
The midnight move entailed two house moving trailers carrying five classrooms from Mt Roskill destined for Kaitaia which entailed four pilot vehicles. While one load carried a single classroom, the other had four adjoining classrooms measuring 8.5m wide and 27m long and was about to become the longest building to travel over the Kaeo bridge, said Daly-Carter who owns All Sized Piloting Ltd.
The small fox terrier brought this fleet to a halt along with many other heavy load traffic travelling behind it, while Daly-Carter hopped out and retrieved the dog, later revealed to be named Blue.
"At first he was a bit edgy and then I calmed him down and he sniffed my hand and I saw that he had a collar. I picked him up and put him in the car, hoping there'd be a number," she said.
"He had a council tag but, at 3am, nothing's really open. I knew we'd be coming back through later so I put him in my car and he lay down."
She also gave him a puppy pillow, pig's ear and a bowl of water which happened to be in the car along with her nine-week old rottweiler Kruz who was intrigued by the newcomer.
"Kruz was in the front with me but he kept wanting to go in the back to check out the new dog. He was just a little bit curious. I got them to sniff each other but I was also trying to do my job," laughed Carter-Daly, who was born and raised in Whangārei before moving to Auckland five years ago to start her own piloting business.
While explaining to the other drivers behind her what she was doing, she posted to the Cop stops - Whangārei Facebook page about finding the dog in the hope the owner would come forward.
It read: "Found this little fella on Western Hills Drive 3.10am. He's got a council tag but no name tag. I've picked him up and he's coming for a ride while I pilot a house north.
Message me and I can drop him off after work, otherwise, I will drop off at a pound on my way back to Auckland if owner isn't found."
They continued north but, as it happened, Blue's joy ride came to an end near Hikurangi. With wide load transportation a nocturnal job, stricter than usual Easter curfews meant they wouldn't reach their destination before deadline. The convoy pulled over near Hikurangi intending to pursue their journey within the next safe timeframe.
"I figured whoever owns him would probably be asleep but I drove back to Western Hills to see if anyone was out looking for him then returned and had a nap. I woke up at 6.30am to a message from the owner."
The message was actually owner Jenny Goodhue's daughter Grace who, upon waking, scrolled through her Facebook and spotted her mum's dog.
"It said, 'Hi, you've found my mum's old dog Blue. He's mainly deaf and partially blind'. That will explain why he was wandering around in the middle of the road."
Said Grace: "I follow the page and briefly checked it as I got up to go to work around 6.15am. I saw the photo and thought 'Oh s***, oh no'. I called mum and she said she wondered why he'd had gone quiet."
Goodhue said she hadn't known Blue to escape out the cat door in the almost year since she had inherited him and expected it of her other two younger dogs.
"He's getting old and dopey and forgets where he is sometimes."
Her parents, who had owned Blue since he was a puppy, had tragically died either side of Covid lockdown and Blue had come to live with Goodhue. She was getting ready for work when she received the call from her daughter that Blue had gone walkabout.
"I thought, 'Oh gosh, what's our boy been up to?' I thought he was on the couch asleep.
"I think he's becoming a bit forgetful and it was just lucky he got picked up by the right person and not become another statistic."
Daly-Carter dropped Blue to Grace's work, receiving a box of chocolates, and where Blue lay under her desk by the heater both napping and lapping up the attention, before reuniting with Goodhue later that morning.
Although Blue's escapade entailed a lot of sleeping, he was tired upon his return and went straight to bed, said Goodhue.
"He came home pretty tired. When he's in a vehicle, he lies down and goes to sleep, that's what he was taught to do by my mum," she explained.
Daly-Carter's good deed generated a lot of positive feedback on her social media post but she said Blue was "no hassle" during the 4.5 hours in her company and, by the end of it the two dogs were "hanging out as friends".