3 Feb 2022

Epic coast-to-coast search for missing dog

From Afternoons, 1:32 pm on 3 February 2022

A heart-broken dog owner has appealed for the return of her pet after he bolted from her tent on New Year's Eve.

The beloved Jack Russell named Pārore went missing when he was spooked by fireworks while his owner was on holiday in Taranaki.

The woman who owns him, Jess Potaka, lives in Gisborne, but has been travelling back and forth to the West Coast ever since to continue the search. She tells Jesse her gut feeling is her sociable and fun-loving four-legged friend is staying with people.

Potaka says she has lived with regret about not grabbing on to her dog when the initial firework startled him.

“We decided to do a camping trip. My partner had never been camping before and we’d never taken Pārore out for a nice little camp and I’d never been on the West Coast," she says. "We drove down and stayed in the Waitomo Caves and then came through to Waitara on January 31.

“We were inside the tent all night. Some fireworks were going off and he wasn’t happy about it and he just launched out of the tent and he was away. It happened within about 15 seconds. One second he was there on my leg – and I should have picked him up and I didn’t because I wasn’t thinking – and the next minute there’s a firecracker going off and he just bolted.”

Potaka spent the next couple of hours running around the area trying to locate him, going to around taking to revellers having parties to see if they’d seen her brown-coloured dog, and calling him frantically on the streets.

“I thought he would have run to some people because he’s very social,” she says.

At 5.30am in the morning, her partner convinced her she should get some rest and start searching again after she woke up. That search would go on for another four days.

“I went to the tent and lay down for an hour and got back up and went out there again, knocking on doors.”

Flyers have since gone up around the neighbourhood as her efforts to find the dog have now lasted five weeks.

Her connection with Pārore is special, she says. He even obeys commands when she talks te reo Māori  to him.

“He’s about six years old, give or take. I’ve had him coming up to around three years now, but when I first got him, I would have talked to him in te reo Maori and he clicked on. When I was like ‘noho iho’ telling him to sit down, he’d sit down.”

Her dog follows te reo commands to go to bed and lie down, among other prompts, impressing those who observe bilingual Pārore’s cleverness.

Her dog had bolted before due of fireworks, running 3km back to her house from a 21 birthday party, she says.

“It’s unfortunate that it happened on holiday because I can’t think of places where he would run. My head is thinking he is so social he would run until he would find somebody to hold on to.”

She’s still hopeful someone will ring her with news he’s safe and well and is ready to be picked up.

“If anyone has picked him up I’m just waiting for that call,” she says.

She is haunted by the day she had to leave to go home from her holiday trip.

“It was so painful for me to get into that car," she says. "We had to drive at about 8pm at night after we done a whole day of searching because I knew the next morning I wouldn’t be able to just pack up the tent and drive away in the middle of the day.

"So, we got home at about 6.30am on the East Coast. It was great because I was exhausted and I didn’t cry, I just fell asleep. I woke up and he wasn’t in our house and I felt so guilty. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be at home without him. It’s the worst feeling when you make a mistake and you try really hard to right your wrong and you can’t.”

Her message to anyone who may have Pārore is simple and heart-felt - thankful for looking after him, but please give me a call.

“If anyone is looking after him, if anyone is holding on to him, please don’t think that I’m angry or I have any animosity. Don’t be embarrassed," she says.

“I’m so grateful that he’s OK, I’d just really love to take him home. You don’t have to contact me, you can contact the district council or contact the vets and take him back to the Waitara Holiday Park.”

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