Real Life

Castaway Quizzy’s amazing rescue

Thie real-life Lotto dog had the adventure of a lifetime.

Animal lover Vicki Leslie would never have guessed when she adopted a dog from the SPCA it would propel her to Lotto fame. But when her pet took off on an escapade reminiscent of the adventures of Wilson – the seafaring hound in the organisation’s TV adverts – that’s just what happened.

Quizzy – a shih tzu-Jack Russell cross – escaped from the garden of Vicki’s Nelson home and became marooned on an island in the Waimea Inlet, nearly two kilometres away. The plucky pooch had been living with the Leslies since September 2011 after Vicki spotted her on the SPCA’s website. “She was so pretty, with cute tufts of hair. But she had been badly mistreated and was timid and afraid of people.”

The four-year-old dog soon settled, following Vicki like a shadow, and eventually allowing husband Phil, son Chris and dad Merv to pat her. But the family hadn’t banked on her inquisitive nature – or her digging prowess.

On Thursday, January 26, after she’d given Quizzy her morning treats, Vicki (50) was surprised when the little dog didn’t follow her. “When I looked in the garden, I was horrified to see a pile of dirt where she’d dug a hole under the gate.” A desperate search ensued, but a week went by with no sign of the beloved dog. “I knew she’d be hungry as she was so afraid of people,” Vicki recalls.

In a last-ditch attempt to find Quizzy, on Sunday – 10 days after she disappeared – Vicki put up “Lost” posters in her local area, with a photo of the adorable dog. Unbeknownst to Vicki, at the same time that Sunday a huge effort was

going on to rescue the little dog paddle boarder Markus Graf had spotted on the usually uninhabited Oyster Island, half a kilometre offshore from his home on Nelson’s Monaco Peninsula.

“I had seen her four days before, but assumed she belonged to fishermen or a nearby houseboat,” says Markus (50). “On the Sunday, there she was again. I could see she had a collar and knew there was no fresh water on the island.” She ran away when Markus approached, so he phoned his ex wife, off-duty police officer Nyanne (50), who then called the SPCA. Within 30 minutes, they were on their way to search for the mystery dog.

Armed with water and dog food, they searched the 200m-wide island. Eventually Markus flushed her out of the bush, but she sped past Nyanne, jumped into the sea and began swimming to the mainland. It was the start of an epic journey – which included a 500m swim and a 5km run – with little Quizzy doing her best to evade capture once he reached land.

“The little thing was about the same colour as the grass,” says Nyanne. “Every now and again we’d spot her. We tracked her prints whenever we could.” For over an hour they pursued the dog – determined not to leave Quizzy to die in the heat. “Cameron joked the dog was bound to have a Lotto ticket in its mouth,” recalls Nyanne.

Four and a half hours after the search began, Nyanne caught the little dog – exhausted and tangled in long grass. “She was absolutely terrified. I tried to calm her, but could feel her heart racing and see the fear in her eyes. Her tummy was red raw from the salt water and she had sticks matted in her hair.”

They took her to the nearby Nelson Aero Club and then arranged for her to be taken to the SPCA. At a party later that afternoon, a friend of Nyanne and Markus recalled the lost poster they had seen and the pair excitedly phoned the number given. They then raced around to show Vicki a photo of the dog on Markus’ cellphone.

Vicki burst into tears of relief when she saw the rescued dog was indeed Quizzy. “I could not thank them enough,” she says. When New Zealand Lotteries staff heard about the incredible events, to thank the rescuers and acknowledge the similarities of the dog’s ordeal to Wilson’s, they sent two Triple Dips to Vicki. Reunited with her darling dog, Vicki is extremely grateful to the rescuers.

“Quizzy’s such a gutsy girl,” she says. “There’s a motorway between us and the inlet, so it’s amazing she made it as far as she did. All in all, she’s turned out to be one lucky dog.” Everyone’s hoping her luck will extend to the Lotto tickets, one of which Vicki has given to Nyanne – the person who finally caught her.

If the ticket proves to be a winning one, it could help pay for the pet therapist that caring Vicki is calling in to help Quizzy overcome her anxiety.

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