A real-life ‘Littlest Hobo’ has finally been reunited with her overjoyed owners after she remarkably survived for EIGHT MONTHS in the wilderness.
Izzy, a nervous American Bulldog, slipped her collar and disappeared into remote woodland after being spooked on a country walk.
Owners Carol O’Neil and partner Gerry Clarke spent hours frantically looking for rescue dog Izzy in vain before returning home heartbroken.
The devoted pair spent all their spare time over the next eight months searching – walking miles through the Welsh wilderness in all weathers.
A ten-strong team of dog-lovers – many of them strangers – joined the quest as they announced searches through social media.
‘Team Izzy’ scoured the countryside around Cwmcarn Forest near Newport, Gwent, where she vanished and weeks later spotted Izzy in the distance.
But Izzy, who was rescued from a cruel puppy farm shortly before she disappeared, was scared and ran off.
The couple set up a 6′ x 5′ deer cage with food left in it and a pad-activated trap was set. But somehow Izzy managed to get the food without activating the trap.
After five months the couple heard from a farmer who said Izzy had made friends with his smaller dog and was regularly coming on his land.
But it took another three months before they finally managed to catch her – after enlisting a marksman to shoot her with a tranquiliser dart.
Carol, 55, and Gerry, 53, called in the trained marksman when other local farmers threatened to shoot Izzy to protect their livestock.
She was found four miles from her home in Wattsville, near Newport – where she is now slowly getting used to human contact again.
Carol said: “People have been amazing. I just can’t believe it.
“I’ve had people out searching with me in rain, in snow and in mud – and almost all of them I didn’t know before Izzy went missing.
“I think most of my friends thought I’d lost the plot. They were asking me why I was still looking. But I just knew she couldn’t stay where she was.
“Luckily Gerry is a taxi driver, so he was able to take a lot of time off work.
“I work in a hospital as a nurse, so I was working 60 hours a week – and would still be out in the forest with a torch, quite often searching until 1am.”
“There were a few suspected sightings on the mountains, but they were all from a distance – it was a bit like seeing a unicorn.
“When we got her back I bawled my eyes out. I couldn’t stop looking at her for days.
“I never thought I’d get this ending.
“We had to treat her almost as a wild animal – I didn’t know if she was going to be aggressive, if she was going to turn on us.
“She’s still really nervous. We haven’t been able to talk her for a walk since in case she runs off again.
“Izzy has only recently allowed us to stroke her when she’s walking past, just for a couple of seconds.
“We let her out into the garden but we’ve put a 16ft reinforced fence around it because she’s a big dog.
“When I think about everything we went through for her I still can’t believe it.
“Her story is also about all the amazing people who helped us, people we had never met before who put their lives totally on hold to help her.”