Juanita, a healthy and fit retriever cross who loves chasing rabbits, seems blissfully unaware of her tragic past.

Two months ago the 2-year-old dog was pulled, timid and shaking, from the sailing boat Tafadzwa.

She had survived the sailing trip that claimed the life of her owner Paul Janse van Rensburg, from Tauranga, who is believed to have fallen overboard in the Bay of Plenty on March 13.

Juanita remained on the boat for 17 days as it self-steered, with tattered sails, to seas near the Chatham Islands.

She was the only sign of life when rescuers boarded the yacht.

Mr Janse van Rensburg's partner Kristen Duirs said it was "quite nice" to have the dog around, even though she was a reminder of her partner of two years.

Juanita had eaten well on the boat in her owner's absence but was upset when she was taken ashore.

She was adopted by the Chatham Islands' only constable, Kane Haerewa, until Mr Janse van Rensburg's South African family decided she should live with Ms Duirs.

A Zimbabwe-born veterinarian who lives in Ohakune, Ms Duirs has now nourished the dog back to full health.

"She's back to her normal self - being naughty, chasing rabbits," she said.

Ms Duirs has returned to work after taking several weeks off to help with the search for Mr Janse van Rensburg.

She did not want to reflect on her lost partner, saying she "was working full-time ... and just trying to get on with life".

Mr Janse van Rensburg, 40, an engineer and experienced sailor, had been sailing from Tauranga to Gisborne, where he was to start a new job.

After an official search for him was called off, his yacht was spotted by the Royal New Zealand Air Force during a training exercise.

His friends and family studied his log and believe he fell from his boat in high winds or rough seas while tying a reef in his sail.