A puppy playdate ended in chaos on the Auckland Harbour Bridge this afternoon as a spooked pet made a dash for freedom on the Northern Motorway.
Frank, 2 - who suffers from separation anxiety - was socialising with a group of fellow French bulldogs at Point Erin in Herne Bay when he escaped from the pack around 3pm, startled by a boy running.
His owner, who asked not to be named, watched in horror as Frank ran on to the on-ramp and charged up the bridge's northbound lane, startling motorists and bringing traffic to a stop.
"I had this sick feeling he was going on to the motorway."
At first she thought Frank had run into bushes, learning later he was playing chicken with motorists on the harbour bridge
Herald reporter Kirsty Wynn said she was travelling south on the bridge when she saw a small French bulldog running north from Herne Bay. She had to brake behind rubberneckers who had slowed to watch.
"He was right on the peak of the bridge, just running along happily with his tongue lolling out," she said.
Mairangi Bay man Jade Rayner said he saw a man get out of his car to stop traffic in a bid to protect the runaway canine.
"I saw him run out of his car, and I immediately started thinking the worst. I thought, 'Oh man, he's going to jump off the bridge'."
As other drivers joined the pursuit on foot, Rayner drove around the fleeing dog to cut Frank off. He managed to grab Frank, handing the intrepid pooch to police and animal control officers.
Frank was taken to an animal shelter in Silverdale, but was returned to his owner soon afterwards.
Vets informed her that Frank had been hit, but the injuries appear to be mainly cuts and bruises.
"I've been told there's nothing life-threatening, but they're keeping him overnight for observation," she said.
She was grateful to Rayner for his quick thinking.
"I'm just really stoked he was able to get [Frank]. I don't want to think about what might have happened if he hadn't caught him."
Frank's owner said her beloved pet was prone to separation anxiety, but was "very much a work in progress".
She felt Auckland Council could do more to avoid the same thing happening in future.
"I spoke to a man who lives by the dog park at Point Erin, and he said dogs get on to that road all the time."
She would be advising her "Frenchie" group to visit Meola Reef in Western Springs instead, as this was better fenced.
Police said no vehicles were damaged during the incident.
The French bulldog originated in England and was created to be a toy-size version of the bulldog. The breed was quite popular among lace workers in the city of Nottingham and when many lace workers emigrated to France for better opportunities, they took the little bulldogs with them.