A DOG that was feared lost in the New Forest for more than 10 weeks has turned up alive and well – living at the home of a couple in Newbury 40 miles away.
Romanian rescue Lola sparked a huge hunt after she escaped from the back garden of her foster family’s home in Sway.
Lola’s original owner, who has not been named, had arranged for her to be transported to the UK. She posted an appeal on social media in the New Forest where she went missing.
The New Forest Dog Owners Group (NFDOG) took up the search, with member Kate Anderson organising a big search operation.
Volunteers turned out daily to look for her and dozens of people reported sightings all over the area of Lola, a small, tan, corgi-sized dog.
But now it turns out that apart from two to three weeks in the Forest, Lola had spent the rest of the time in Newbury – for the past three weeks happily ensconced in the home of a couple who have fallen in love with her.
A relieved Kate said: “The hunt has had a totally unexpected but happy ending. I am still finding it hard to process that for nearly all the time we were searching the Forest for Lola she was miles away!
“We even had sightings of her today.”
Kate revealed how the group had been lent specialist equipment including cameras by Canine Capture which had been set up in areas where Lola had reportedly been seen.
Kate said: “I was out at the weekend in terrible rain checking cameras to see if there were any photos of her and there she was lying on a sofa in the warm.
“I really cannot believe it.”
An army of volunteers helped the NFDOG in their search with the organisation Dogs Lost also pitching in with a big social media campaign, plus posters put up across the Forest.
Kate said: “So many people helped, it was unbelievable. They turned out in all sorts of weather to look for her.
“She was sighted several times at Setthorns campsite in Sway and the staff there really went out of their way to help us.”
Lola was brought down to New Milton to live with the mother of her owner in Surrey. But she did not bond with the dog and went to a foster home – which is when she escaped.
Kate said Lola had been found by a gamekeeper in Newbury about five weeks ago. He had a vet scan her but because her chip was Romanian he could not find out who she belonged to so he then gave her to a couple who had recently lost their own 18-year-old dog.
Kate said: “They only found out it was Lola when they saw a Facebook message about her on Monday. They immediately took her to a vet and when she was scanned she came up as lost, or stolen.”
She said the couple were “very emotional” when she contacted them saying: “They absolutely love her. They’ve really bonded with her and she with them.
“It would be awful to have to remove her, for both of their sakes, so we are very much hopeful that she will be able to stay with them. Romanian rescue dogs can get out of anywhere so the fact she has stayed put means she is very happy at their home.”
As to how she got to Newbury, Kate said: “It remains a total mystery. She could have walked which would have taken her about 16 hours.
“But I think she may have been taken there from the Forest by someone who was hoping to keep her. When she was found there, she did not have a collar so I think she may have fled again, leaving that behind. Then thankfully the gamekeeper found her.
“It’s a real mystery how she got there and to be honest I don’t think we will ever know. But everyone is just relieved that she has been found alive and well.”