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8 February 2010, 00:00
After eight weeks lost in the Tendring countryside in snow and freezing temperatures Robert Atkinson feared the worst for his two-year-old Patterdale Terrier.
Mr Atkinson, who had Rufus for just four days before he went missing in the woods, thought he may never see his dog again.
There had been sightings of the Terrier in the fields, and people had left food out for him, but no one had managed to catch him.
“He only has a short coat and was out all over the big freeze during December and January,” said Mr Atkinson, who lives in Bradfield.
“I spent many hours searching for him and looked in barns and old buildings but could not find him anywhere.
“He had only been with us for such a short while and did not know his own way home. People told me they had spotted him, but he would not go to anyone and as time wore on I really feared the worst.”
Tendring District Council’s (TDC) Dog Wardens Allen East and Rick Watt also walked the nearby fields several times over the weeks after possible sightings – but to no avail.
Traps were unsuccessfully set to catch Rufus and it was not until Mr East managed to borrow a large trap from kennels in Stowmarket that he was finally recaptured.
But this tale does not quite end there for when Rufus was put into Mr Atkinson’s van while he went to help recover the trap the little Terrier jumped up at the window and managed to lock himself in with the keys in the ignition.
Mr Atkinson and Mr East went back to retrieve a spare key from home and only then were dog and owner properly reunited.
“It was a very traumatic time and we were so relieved to finally get him back with us,” said Mr Atkinson.
“Others said Rufus must have perished in that weather but luckily he survived on the food people put out for him until he could be caught.”
Lynda McWilliams, Cabinet Member for the Environment at TDC, said that it was an incredible tale.
“Last week the dog wardens told me about how a Cocker Spaniel was reunited with its owner after a week out in the fields over the big freeze but eight weeks is remarkable,” she said.
“The wardens do an excellent job for the Council in returning strays and reuniting pets with their owners and I am delighted that this story had such a happy ending.”