A grieving family whose mother died of breast cancer two months ago is worried that its much-loved dog has disappeared and may have been harmed.
Locky, a two- or three-year-old Staffy-Shar-Pei cross, was a comfort to Manurewa teacher Kirsten Meleisea's three children after they lost their mother on August 1.
Eldest son Dylan, 18, said his father, firefighter Vinny Meleisea, and the other two children Luca, 12, and Ellee, 6, all wanted to find the dog because he had "sentimental value".
"My mum actually picked the dog," he said. "We got him as a puppy, he would have been a few weeks old."
The dog, described as having "brown and ginger fur and bright green eyes", went missing from the family home in Tōtara Heights on Tuesday morning last week, October 8.
The family has checked with the pound, the SPCA and local vets, and have posted in several local Facebook groups, but with no sign of Locky a week later they now believe he may have been harmed.
"We are doing renovations at the moment. I think he found a way out himself," Dylan said.
"Usually if he gets out we cotton on to it and he's on the road anyway. He's a real shy dog, he doesn't usually stray too far away from his normal environment.
"But because he looks like a pitbull, but he's not, there's quite a lot of dog-fighting in the area down the road from where he might have been headed, we're just worried that they may have thought he might be an aggressive dog and done something."
Kirsten Meleisea, who was a teacher at The Gardens School near the Auckland Botanic Gardens, thought she had beaten breast cancer after a first bout with it 17 years ago soon after Dylan was born.
The couple had to delay having their other two children while she had hormone therapy to prevent the cancer recurring.
The second time round was sudden and a huge shock.
"She was well," Dylan said. "Probably about March we found out, and everything was all clear. Every step of the way they said we had clear margins.
"But it just progressed. They said they had never seen it progress so fast."
Since her death, Dylan said the family was "just doing everything we can".
"Mum did everything for us, we are just trying to follow her," he said.
Sometimes he thinks Ellee, at 6, doesn't really understand what has happened.
"She realises in waves, she'll have an outbreak one day and then - but she's very smart for her age, she writes about how she feels, she has a diary about it."
He said Locky was "about the gentlest dog".
"He has anxiety and depression. Every time we come into the room he has to sit on your lap. If I'm cooking eggs or something he'll sit on my feet," he said.
"He always has to be around someone, otherwise he shakes."