Written by Kevin Hanenberg
Professional photography by Strike a Pose Photography
Aero went missing on the evening of the 28th of August 2019, sometime between 16h00 and 19h00. And, just as we needed them to, our surrounding communities in Fairland, Northcliff, and beyond came to the fore to help us find Aero.
Once word got out on Facebook that Aero had gone missing, his poster went viral. We had people from all over getting in contact with us, providing us with helpful advice and sharing our poster – it reached over 50,000 people.
Three days later, however, we were still worried for our darling Aero and had no leads. That’s when we decided to get in touch with Shonelle Deolall from Keshvam Animal Communication & Healing. There were three main things that she mentioned in her findings:
- Aero had been picked up by people who live in a sort of informal settlement and who were constantly making fires.
- They’ve decided to keep him – they felt lucky to find him.
- He’s still in Fairland.
At first, we weren’t sure whether to believe any of these things, but with no leads we decided to follow her advice. We spent the next few weeks searching through various informal settlements and distributing flyers that featured Aero’s picture and a clear indication that a reward was offered for his return.
Needless to say, we didn’t find Aero after all the searching, posters, announcements and paid advertisements.
Just over five weeks had passed and there was still no sign of Aero. That was, of course, until an incredible group of people on a WhatsApp group called Fairland Northcliff Rescue spotted him in the evening on the banks of the N1 Highway, next to the Mosaïek Church back entrance.
We quickly shot off to try and find him on the highway and managed to see a brown dog above us by the church. As we ran towards him, however, he panicked and went back into the bushes. From here we had two amazing sets of people whom we’d never met before trekking through some abandoned houses in the hopes of spotting “the dog” again.
Again, another member of Fairland Northcliff Rescue saved the day, as we received a call on the 8th of October 2019 at 08:56 from Cristina Batten saying: “I’m on the highway now and I see your dog; it’s definitely a brown Labrador.”
Knowing that Aero was going to run because he was frightened, we decided to bring three people to try and catch him. We caught up with Cristina, who waited for us on the highway and gave us the directions he took.
To explain this scenario, it felt like we were taking the scenes right out of a movie.
We started running after Aero and found that he was passing through to the highway from a broken barbed wire fence that the people living there used to enter. Once we entered, we felt like we were in the jungle.
There was a small stream that split into various directions, large dunes that were made of mud all around us, and broken pieces of concrete forming the storm water drains, completely covered with bamboo sticks with pathways that were made by the residents. At this point we’d lost sight of Aero but knew he couldn’t get too far if we kept on following.
Eventually we reached a fork in the road where Clinton (one of our fantastic staff members) went one way and I went the other. With so many obstacles in front of us, we began slowing down, slipping and losing hope of catching Aero – we could only imagine how terrified he was. He ended up circling back past me and trying to run through the thick patch of bamboo sticks to try to get away.
I shouted out “Aero” again and he immediately stopped and turned his head towards me. In that moment, I knew Aero was coming home. Once he turned his head in my direction, he started to wag his tail profusely and let me put the lead over his neck to take him with me. When we got out of “the bush, the old Aero came back, jumping and squealing with excitement and joy at seeing us, running towards everyone who was there to help him.
Dr Ernie van Zyl from Northumberland Animal Hospital gave Aero a checkup and deemed him to be in good health, although he’d lost some weight. Aero is now back home with his family, extremely happy to swim in his pool again.