Like a something out of a movie, dogs Chica and Joy gave plenty of people the slip as they had their very own adventure around Te Puke recently.
The friendly, chilled-out pair, a border collie cross and a huntaway cross, belong to Nic Reid and his partner Sarah Futter.
They disappeared from their Alley Rd home on November 10 and, despite sightings in Dunlop Rd and Dudley Vercoe Drive, always seemed to be one step ahead of those trying to bring them home.
To make things even more frustrating for Sarah and Nic, as the story unfolded on a Facebook page created by Sarah's daughter Frances Lockett, they could only watch from afar, on holiday in Rarotonga.
While the power of social media at least meant the searchers knew the dogs were still alive and still in the Te Puke area, in the end the intrepid pair made their own way home.
"We got a video, but didn't open it until the following day because the internet was so slow — but what a relief," says Sarah.
"We were like kids at Christmas," says Nic.
Chica has form — this wasn't her first such adventure. She went AWOL two years ago — also just days before Nic was due to leave the country.
"[Joy and Chica] went missing two days before we went away to Rarotonga and I lost Chica a couple of years ago. She left four days before I was due to fly to the States.
"This time I just thought 'you're kidding me'."
Two years ago Chica was with "Potty" (a "fluffball" named Potter due to a lightning flash marking on his head).
"They disappeared and I searched for four days and I had to go. I never saw Potty again and don't know what happened to him."
He later found out that Chica first went to Manoeka.
"To cut a long story short she ended up at another farm and someone recognised her from the fliers I sent round and rang the pound and I got her back — that was 10 months later. Now she's done the same again."
"And took my dog with her," laughs Sarah.
Nic and Sarah don't think there was any specific trigger that led to the dogs' disappearance.
"They go chasing rabbits around here and on the neighbour's place, so we're presuming that's what they've done. But they normally come home," says Nic.
"Sarah and I went out searching for the next two days, but we couldn't find them. It was pretty sad going to Rarotonga for what was supposed to be a relaxing holiday."
Frances was away, but returned the following day and set up the Facebook page on which she got the first message saying the dogs had been spotted. They had spent a few days at a property in Dunlop Rd, sleeping on a couch in the carport.
Frances visited the house, but by then they had moved on and turned up on an orchard in Dudley Vercoe Drive.
"I then got a message on the page from a woman who'd received a Snapchat from one of her friends on an orchard — the dogs had been hanging out with him all day. He was asking 'who owns these chilled-out dogs?'."
Frances and Nic's daughter Jasmine spent time searching the area and, while lots of people had seen the dogs, no one had managed to hold them.
Then they just turned up back at home, a little thinner perhaps, but healthy.
"Joy is a bit of a sook," says Sarah. "Chica's pretty resourceful. If there's a rabbit she'll find it and if she's lucky Joy might get a little bit."
"Or it might run into her mouth — that has happened," says Nic.
The couple only returned from Rarotonga on Monday, but intend to buy tags for the dogs that can then be used, via an app, to track them should they go missing again.