IT’S an incredible story of survival.
Missing for two weeks and three days without food or water, forced to endure sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow – they’re conditions bad enough to kill the strongest of men, let alone a little dog.
But Larry the five-year-old terrier, feared dead after disappearing during a walk in Sheffield, has cheated fate to be reunited with his astonished owners.
They believe he got trapped down a hole - and eventually, after over a fortnight deprived of food, got skinny enough to wriggle free.
Trevor and Diane Bell, of Stannington, had very nearly given up hope after a two-week hunt for their beloved pet proved fruitless.
Daily paid-for advertisements, an article in The Star, and posters put up at beauty spots around Sheffield had all failed to locate their rescue dog 17 days after he scampered off at Wyming Brook near Lodge Moor.
Trevor, aged 58, said: “He had become quite famous, everyone around Wyming Brook was asking about Larry and whether we’d found him.
“My wife was absolutely distraught, and we really thought we were never getting him back.”
But then came the miracle they had been praying for.
Professional dog walker René Pickard spotted Larry on a footpath – only moments after discussing his disappearance with a passing acquaintance.
Larry was dirty and dishevelled, wet and shivering, and René wrapped the skinny pup in a warm cloth, took him to his van, then called the Bells using the number on Larry’s collar.
René said: “I’d heard about the missing dog, then I was walking along and he was just sitting there right in front of me. He was very bedraggled and wet and shivering.
“When I called the family to say I’d found him they were in tears.
“I didn’t find him, though - he found me.”
After an emotional reunion with the Bells, Larry was rushed to the vet.
Staff at the surgery said they suspect the dog had got trapped down a hole, and only after weeks without food had he shrunk in size sufficiently to escape.
Trevor said: “He was absolutely black, so we bathed him and then took him straight to the vet.
“He is covered in cuts and bruises all over and on his paws. But the vet tested his bloods and said he should make a full recovery.
“We cannot understand how he has survived. We thought there was no way he would live through all that snow and ice. We had pretty much given up hope - but he never gave up on us.”
Diane, 55, said: “I am so happy. It’s a miracle - he was found almost exactly where he ran off.
“They’ve told me to feed him up very slowly. I slept with him in my bed the first night to make sure he was breathing okay. “I’m never letting him leave my side again.”