Golden retriever escapes and walks 40 miles back to his old owners

A dog miraculously survived for 27 days on his own after escaping from his new owner and walking 40 miles back to his old house.

Cooper had just arrived outside his new home in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, when he leapt out of the car and made a run for it.

The golden retriever had been rescued from the kennels by a devoted dog lover after his previous owners had to give him and his brother George up.

After bolting, Cooper incredibly spent almost a month making his way along main roads, down country lanes and through fields and forests until he was back where he lived before.

His remarkable journey saw him walk 40 miles – mostly at night, without any idea where he was or any humans to feed him – to where his life started as a puppy in Tobermore, Co Londonderry.

All of this happened while people were desperately searching for Cooper every day to try and bring him back to his new home in Northern Ireland.

New owner Nigel Fleming, a photographer from Dungannon, said losing Cooper as he pulled up outside his house was ‘a disaster’ but he’s now a ‘very happy and relieved man’.

Mr Fleming had adopted the dog from the pound because he thought he would be ‘good company’ for his other golden retriever Molly – he admitted he’d love to have also taken Cooper’s brother George but said three was ‘too much’.

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.’

Whether Cooper missed his old family or his brother, we will never know, but the fact he’s living to bark the tale at all is almost implausible.

Mr Fleming said Cooper is ‘safe now’ and ‘eating small meals to build up his strength and put some weight back on slowly’.

Reflecting on the astonishing nature of how Cooper managed to somehow make it back to his old house unscathed, Mr Fleming 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 had first gone missing on April 1 and wasn’t found again until April 26.

Charity Lost Paws Northern Ireland (NI) said it was ‘absolutely delighted’ to have been part of Cooper’s rescue and 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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