A PET dog which was feared dead after going missing in the hills above Fort William for over a week, has been re-united with its overwhelmed owner after being rescued by a local walker.
Pico, a four-year-old Miniature Pinscher, scampered from a campsite in Glen Nevis during a storm and despite frantic searches over two days, distraught owner Brian Shields had to return south to his Hertfordshire home believing he’d seen the last of his beloved companion.
But on Monday afternoon this week, Mr Shields (74) was bowled over when he received a phone call from Anthony Angus, of Badabrie, Banavie, who informed him that he had retrieved Pico, alive, from 900ft Cow Hill.
Overjoyed Mr Shields travelled nearly 500 miles from Hemel Hempstead to Fort William on Tuesday to pick up his pet and pay thanks to Mr Angus and his wife, Jane and daughter, Sian, who had provided much-needed TLC to Pico at their home, ‘The Rowans’, during the previous 24 hours.
Mr Shields, a retired shoe salesman originally from Glasgow, told the Lochaber News: “I had been camping at Glen Nevis Camp Site since Monday, May 7, and then we had that terrible storm on Sunday the 13th.
“The weather was terrible throughout the night and when I woke up on Sunday morning Pico had gone.
“I had a search round the site and up and down the Glen Nevis road to no avail. I informed the campsite owners and the police and continued searching.
“It was the worst day of my life – my tent even collapsed in the storm and I spent the next night sleeping in my car.
“On the Tuesday I thought there was just no point in continuing. I had searched everywhere I could think of but hadn’t thought about going as far up as Cow Hill.
“I returned home feeling absolutely terrible. I felt so guilty for leaving him and I really thought he was dead.
“And then on Monday I get the phone call from Anthony – words can’t describe how I felt at that moment. I had gone from hell to heaven.”
Mr Angus (51), a meter reader for G4S, took up the story: “I was just out for a walk on Cow Hill and got to the junction on the Peat Track where you can branch off for Glen Nevis or continue up to the mast.
“I had noticed the dog on my way up and I asked some other walkers if they had lost a dog.
“On my way back down a woman managed to grab the dog.
“I had to calm him down and he was clearly exasperated and terrified.
“He still had his lead on and I noticed a tag on his collar which had a telephone number.
“I rang it, not for one moment thinking I would be calling Hemel Hemstead. My mobile signal kept breaking up but Brian had taken a note of my number and contacted the local police station. They, in turn, phoned me and I later got back in touch with Brian to fill him in on the details.
“I took Pico home. He was clearly suffering weight loss and had been through the mill I think. But he survived eight-and-a-half days wandering on the hill and that’s the main thing. It’s great that it’s all turned out nicely in the end.”
Mr Shields completed his 1,000-mile return trip yesterday (Wednesday) after a stop-over on Tuesday night with family in Glasgow.
He said: “I was just so overwhelmed to receive news that Pico had been found and was alive. I just couldn’t believe it and am just so grateful to Anthony and his family who took care of him after discovering him.
“I have four dogs altogether but the house was like a morgue without Pico.
“I’m just amazed he survived that long on the hill. I was so worried he had been snatched by a fox – if there are any around here – or even a bird of prey.
Mr Angus declined Mr Shields’ offer of a reward for finding his dog but instead suggested he put a donation to Brain Tumour UK as his neighbour, Shaun Maclean, had recently taken part in a relay marathon in aid of the charity.