Dogs are undoubtedly our best friends. Their loyalty and love is irrevocable. They are a warm welcome home after a long day, the happy face that is elated to see us even if we’ve been gone for a short time. These special animals are just content with being in our presence. For Matt Hairbottle, his dog was all this and more.

Hairbottle and Zeus became best buds in winter of 2014. He was studying in Grahamstown at the time and he got Zeus from a breeder in Joburg. “I found an ad online selling puppies and I was really keen on getting a dog,” he said.

He explained that Zeus was the cutest puppy on earth, saying “he stole my heart and since then, he’s been my best friend. He’s done everything with me. He’s lived in all the houses I’ve lived in, he went through my varsity career, he grew up with me there. I lived on my own for two years while I was studying and he lived with me through that. When I moved in with some friends in my fourth year he was there with us.”

Hairbottle moved to Cape Town with Zeus in 2017. The pair moved into a digs in Rondebosch with friends where they made incredible memories and celebrated Zeus’s 21st (3rd) birthday.

“Wherever I’ve travelled in the country he’s come with me. He’s stayed at a lot of my friends’ houses, he’s lived an amazing life. He’s always been my best friend, my right hand man, always right there close to me.”

While in Rondebosch, there was an incident where Zeus had gotten off the property. The gate was on manual and he propped himself up, causing the gate to slide open slightly and he got out. “We managed to find him shortly after, someone had taken him to the vet nearby.”

A few months later, the same thing happened, except Zeus was nowhere to be found. “When he went missing again, I thought the same would happen.” Hairbottle was in town when he received the phone call and promptly returned to the digs. He went to the vet to see if he had been dropped off, “But no luck, hours went by, I put up a Facebook post. From there it was a waiting game.”

“I went to every vet in Cape Town, every animal rescue organisation, to get the word out. I knew in my heart he wouldn’t come back unless he was taken to one of these places. I was hoping they would scan the microchip and get in contact with me, or just know from the fact that I had been there and left a picture that this was the dog and this is who to call.”

“I got lots of leads from hundreds of people who may have seen my dog here or there, or another dog that maybe look like him. I would ask them to take a photo so I could confirm or deny.”

Months went by and after countless dead-end leads, hope began to dwindle. “I can’t say I gave up hope but at the same time I accepted he was gone. I hoped he was in a good home and just hadn’t been taken anywhere, or dead. I didn’t want him to be suffering.”

Fast-forward two years and Hairbottle received a phone call from Veronica from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) saying she had Zeus in her care.

“When I got that call, to be honest, I wasn’t very hopeful at all. I had gotten so many phone calls, pictures, messages before saying this could be him. Now two years down the line I was like, there’s no chance.”

“We’ve scanned the microchip and the number is registered as Zeus. I remembered your post from Facebook,” she said to him. Veronica proceeded to ask for Zeus’s microchip number and as Hairbottle read it out loud, she completed the number.

“Wow,” was all he could say.

Hairbottle asked how Zeus was, and Veronica explained that it was going to be a shock as he was a bit worse for wear. She assured him that everything was treatable. She sent him some photos of Zeus, which were harrowing.

Zeus was picked up by Veronica from PDSA. She received a phone call saying some children were playing with a dog. She searched the area for hours and before she gave up, she found him. She lured him in with some food and he jumped in the car with her. That’s how she knew he must have had an owner and scanned him for a microchip.

 

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“It broke my heart to see him like that, he looked super frail, the mange was all over his body. It was heartbreaking to think that he had been out there for two years, two winters, the drought. I had to try not think about all that and just focus on being happy that he was found and home. That brought tears to my eyes.”

“When I picked him up he definitely recognised me, he was super frail, he had just been washed and was cold, under blankets and had a little heater in front of him at PDSA. When he saw me his tail started to wag, which the staff told me hadn’t happened yet.

“He recognised my car and jumped right back in his same position: in between the two front seats with his front paws propped up on the centre console. I knew my boy was back, that was when it hit home the most.”

Hairbottle explained that he never lost all hope. “There was a point, probably close to the six month line of him being missing, where you just sort of expect the worst but hope for the best. I had sort of come to terms with him being lost, I always sort of hoped he would be found. I was always stressed about what he was going through, if he was still out there.”

Zeus is back home and doing really well. His recovery has been remarkable and the reunion between human and dog has been even better. He explained that in the first few days all Zeus did was sleep and eat, recovering from shock.

 

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Tuesday morning stretches and one big yawn for the tired little fella. ❤️ Now that he has the energy to jump back on the couch, he spends more time here than in his bed. I put him in bed at night only to come check on him just before I go to sleep and without fail, he’s left his bed and has decided to sleep on the couch instead. He used to sleep in the bed with me but with the mange, flees and all other sorts that he came home with it wasn’t the most it wasn’t really an option. Now that his skin has improved and had been treated for the pests, I’m sure he will be back in bed with us in no time… I just have to get it past my girlfriend @i_zed_zed_y 😉 Maybe we should vote ? 😌

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Hairbottle’s advice for dog owners whose dogs are missing:

1) “Don’t give up hope, if your dog is out there just keep trying your hardest, keep putting the word out, do your bit to try and find them. I believe dogs will make their way back home eventually.”

2) “Microchip your animals, it’s the only way the vet can link the animal back to you. It saved my boy’s life.”

3) “Don’t forget about the animal organisaitons. These people do amazing work for these rescued animals. Don’t forget about the work that they do. Donate and support them. One tends to forget the incredible work they do if it’s not hitting home. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have my boy back today.”

 

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Article written by

Imogen Searra