After losing his dog on Earnscleugh Station, George Sheild could not believe it when his huntaway was found alive — one year later.
As there was no sign of huntaway Ben, in the three months after he went missing in the hills above Earnscleugh Station, Alexandra, Sheild, of Blackmount, had to assume he was dead.
However, 51 weeks after disappearing into the Old Man Range above the station, the 6-year-old dog was found last month.
Sheild said when his dog arrived back home, it was so pleased to see his boss, that it ''took my legs clean out from under me''.
''I lost him when we did the autumn muster on Earnscleugh Station, on the first day.''
He said his dog had disappeared after following a female dog.
Sheild had returned to Earnscleugh Station several times to look for Ben but after three months was convinced his dog had died.
''Being smart contributed to his survival,'' he said.
''I also give credit to his breeder, Kerry Kilmister.''
Earnscleugh Station is owned by the Campbell family, and Amanda Campbell, who is a vet, said Ben had been found by a hunter.
She said the huntaway was malnourished but hugely pleased to be back with people.
The dog had apparently survived on sheep and cattle carcasses.
Sheild said he was still shocked and thrilled to have his dog back.
''Logan Clulee was hunting on Doc land above the station and found him,'' he said.
''He brought him down to Thomas Ballantine, the station's head shepherd, and he sent me a photo.
''I knew it was him straight away.''
Ballantine said the hunter took about half an hour to catch Ben as the dog was ''pretty wary''.
''It was the first time I have heard of a dog surviving up there,'' he said.
''It is pretty unusual and he looked pretty scruffy.
''Normally they find their way out but as George works down south [the dog] might have set his beacon [homing instinct] to go that way.''
He said he had not heard of anyone else seeing the dog up the range.
He thought Ben would have sheltered under rocks or tussocks.
They had found a cow carcass that looked as though the dog may have been able to feed on.
The dog was driven back to his home at Blackmount by Murray Kennedy.
The huntaway was light in condition and rough coated from a poor diet, but was now back competing with his boss at the North Otago Centre championships on the station last week.
However, they were not placed.
''I want to thank Duncan and Alistair Campbell, and Amanda Campbell, and Tom and Logan for finding him and bringing him back, and Murray.
''It is unreal that he is back,'' Sheild said.
''He was still the same dog as when I lost him and did not go feral.''