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30th Apr 2023

Dog walks 40 miles back to old owners during month-long solo journey

Charlie Herbert

He is back safe with his new owner

A dog managed to survive 27 days on his own as he made a 40-mile solo trip back to his old house.

Golden retriever Cooper had been given up by his old owner along with his brother George, but was adopted from the kennels by devoted dog lover and photographer Nigel Fleming.

But when he arrived at his new home in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, on April 1, Cooper leapt out the car and made a run for it.

Cooper miraculously managed to survive 27 days on his own, walking 40 miles (Lost Paws NI)

He miraculously spent a month on his own, walking along main roads and country lanes and through fields and forests before eventually making it back to his old home in Tobermore, Co Londonderry.

He’d somehow managed to walk 40 miles on his own, mostly at night with no one to feed him and no idea where he was.

Cooper’s disappearance prompted a desperate search for the pooch every day he was missing to try and return him to Nigel.

Posters were put up to help find Cooper (Lost Paws NI)

The pooch has since been returned to Nigel, who said he was a “very happy and relieved man.”

He had adopted the dog because he thought he Cooper would be “good company” for his other golden retriever Molly.

He told BelfastLive: “I’m sitting here looking at him and I cannot believe he’s home. We had literally driven from the dog pound to my home when he bolted. 

“The poor boy had no idea where he was and he was in the wind. I tried to chase after him but he was gone in an instant – so then the search was on.”

He added that Cooper is “safe now” and is “eating small meals to build up his strength and put some weight back on slowly” following his arduous journey.

Cooper is now safe at his new owner NIgel’s home with his dog, Molly (Lost Paws NI)

Explaining how they ended up managing to find Cooper, Nigel said: “In the end all we had to do was follow a dog’s nose home to familiar surroundings. 

“If only we’d known, we could have saved big Cooper all that anxiety. Hopefully now he is home for good but I’ve some added precautions in place if he ever feels the need to bolt again. He has been through a lot.

“Even when he was missing, my faith in humanity was restored thanks to the incredible help I was offered, and today with him here by my side and with Molly, I don’t really have the words to explain the gratitude I feel.”

Cooper was eventually found on April 26, meaning he had been alone for 27 days.

Lost Paws NI (Northern Ireland), a charity that help find lost pets, had been part of Cooper’s rescue, and a spokesperson for the organisation said his story will “live on in his family for generations to come.”


A spokesman for Lost Paws NI said today: “Cooper is settling in well to his new home life with his sister and is enjoying some home comforts.  

“We visited him several days ago when he was caught and he was cuddled up by the fire, comfortable and loved. 

“I’d like to comment that his new owner Nigel is one of the most dedicated owners we’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

“Nigel never stopped fighting, never stopped asking for advice, never stopped filling the food bowls every time we were on the move. 

“This story is one about positivity, perseverance, loyalty, battling for what you want in life and never giving up.

“Against ALL the odds Cooper didn’t stop battling and travelled a long distance through an area he had never been and had no way of knowing how to get back home, but he figured it out and arrived back at his previous address.”

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