16th Aug, 2023

Written by Lesley Moore

Professional photography by Roxanne Zunckel of What a Treat 

When Dice the black-and-white pup went missing on a Devil’s Peak hiking trail late one warm Saturday afternoon, it would take several agonising days, the help of the community, and a little bit of luck to get him safely back home again.

Sliding down the path

It was the 15th of April 2023 at about 4PM and my son, Saxon, was enjoying a gentle hike with his two dogs, Kairo and Dice, between Rhodes Memorial and The King’s Blockhouse when the path got a little steep.

As Saxon was helping Kairo up, Dice decided he wasn’t waiting and tried to run up the path by himself. Unfortunately, everything fell apart then. Dice began to slide back down the path and freakishly managed to get his back leg caught on a metal rod. The poor little guy was yelping and clearly traumatised.

When Saxon went to help him get his leg off the metal rod, Dice really panicked and, as soon as his leg was free, bolted off back down the path. Saxon ran after him calling, but Dice kept running and then vanished into the dense bush.

Searching until dark

Desperate, Saxon asked people nearer the bottom of the Trail if they’d seen a black-and-white dog, but nobody had spotted him, so he knew Dice hadn’t come down. He continued looking, but the bush is so thick and the paths branching off the Trail go in both directions. He chose a direction and frantically searched on, but by this time, Kairo wasn’t interested in following him and was hindering his search. So, he chose to take her home quickly and return to continue looking for Dice.

Alone, Saxon searched until dark, stopping every person he saw to ask if they’d spotted Dice. The hiking trails were quite busy that day as it was a beautiful sunny Saturday, but Dice hadn’t been seen by anyone. Eventually, he had to abandon the search for the day. Needless to say, he was absolutely devastated that little Dicey was injured and lost and alone on the mountain.

My heart really broke for him and Dice. We could hardly sleep, thinking of Dice alone and cold on the mountain. He was only used to sleeping indoors and was quite skittish.

Networking for help

As soon as I found out that Dice was missing on the mountain, I went onto Facebook. I searched for all the sites that deal with lost animals as well as all animal rescue sites, SPCAs, vets, and posted wherever I could. There was this rush of support and concern that blew me away. People sent their prayers and advice.

There were also recommendations for animal communicators who’d helped in other cases of missing animals. We felt really comforted by the fact that so many people were aware that Dice was missing and that it would hopefully lead to him being found or spotted. We decided to offer a reward and Saxon printed out posters to put up in the area and surrounds.

Early the next morning (Sunday), my husband and I joined Saxon and Kairo to resume the search for Dice. We felt confident that we’d find him on the mountain if he was still there. We retraced the steps from the hike the day before; we all split up and went in different directions and searched all day calling for Dice.

We strained out ears listening for an answering bark. We asked everyone we saw if they’d seen a young black-and-white Pit Bull, but to no avail. We searched all day and left Rhodes Memorial that evening defeated and really worried for little Dice as this would be the second night he’d be injured, alone and cold. We were thankful for the warm weather.

Saxon decided to enlist the help of an animal communicator – a desperate step for him, as it wasn’t something he’d usually do. The reading said that Dice was still on the mountain and that he hadn’t been in contact with any humans, which was a relief as we were starting to consider that maybe he’d been picked up by someone and taken somewhere else. She also sent an aerial map with a blue cross where Dice could be and gave Saxon meditations and visualisations, which I think were really helpful for his mental state.

Later that evening, I received a message from a wonderful guy, Devin Droomer, offering to help with the search. We went to sleep that night sad but hopeful that Dice would be found soon.

High hopes

On Monday morning, Saxon was due to start a new job with a new company, so he could only search again in the afternoon. I spent the morning finding more sites to post on and contacted SAN Parks and alerted them to be on the lookout for a black-and-white dog. I could barely think of anything except finding Dice.

Later that day I received a call: someone had spotted a black-and-white dog with a red collar resembling Dice at the Wynberg Park on Sunday at about 6.30PM.

We were puzzled: how could Dice get from Rhodes Memorial to Wynberg Park? And he’d been wearing a red harness, not a red collar. But we were also desperate and the person insisted the dog looked just like Dice, so maybe.... My heart was absolutely racing. I called Saxon but he was in a meeting.

My husband and I hopped onto our bike and sped off – we live an hour away from Wynberg and could move through traffic quicker on the bike.

We arrived there, looked around and asked a few people, but no one had seen any dog. The security guard said that no dog resembling Dice had been seen. We were by then deeply worried as Wynberg Park is not the best part of town and Dice is a Pit Bull. We felt stressed and powerless at that moment.

Saxon put up posters there and we asked around, but there were no other sightings. We stopped on the way home for a last look around Rhodes Memorial before the day ended. We also received a few cruel prank calls later asking for money in return for Dice.

I messaged the lady who reported the sighting and asked her if she was sure about the red collar, because Dice was wearing a red harness. I sent her a picture of him with the harness on and she was no longer certain that it was Dice. We were relieved and knew in our hearts that Dice was still on the mountain.

The search continues

Out of all this, though, came Jarryd Jacobs, another wonderful guy with three dogs, a Boerbul and two Pitties, who joined in with the search for Dice. Every day he went out with his three dogs either to the Rhodes Memorial side or the Newlands Forest side of the mountain to search for Dice. We were so thankful.

The search continued for Dice the whole week with no sightings at all. The weather was changing now and there was rain expected for the whole weekend. We were so anxious and worried for Dice as he was only five months old and had been missing for a whole week. Saxon continued fruitlessly searching over the weekend in the rain. The weather was terrible.

By now, we were starting to really doubt he was even on the mountain as no one had seen him at all.

We were consumed with worry – Dice was all we thought about. Our lives felt empty without him. There was also the possibility that somebody had picked him up. The most terrible and worrying thoughts went through our minds. There are so many stories of stolen or lost dogs, and we prayed that if he was picked up, hopefully it would be by a kind, caring person.

By the following Monday, we were drained physically and mentally; we’d cried so much. Our hearts felt raw with the emotional rollercoaster we were on. It was day nine since Dice had disappeared into the bush. We’d searched and searched, and we’d posted the heck out of it on social media. We’d put up posters everywhere, we’d offered a reward, and had enlisted the help of an animal communicator who felt Dice was still alive. Dice seemed to have just vanished.

We had to start accepting that perhaps we wouldn’t see him again, heart-breaking as it was. If we were meant to get Dice back, we would.

A cry in the bush

On Tuesday, 25th April, Dice had been missing for 10 days. We were feeling utterly broken but knew deep down we had to put ourselves back together again as life goes on.

At about midday my WhatsApp beeped and I saw there was a voice note from Saxon: “I think Dice has been found! I’ve just had a call from someone so I’m heading up to Rhodes Memorial now. I’ll let you know how everything goes. It seems that he might need to go to the vet straightaway. I just wanted to let you know and will give you a call as soon as I know more.”

I can honestly say that I’ve never experienced such joy and relief in my whole life. About 20 minutes later I received another message: “It’s him!” The tears of relief and joy just flowed and flowed – I could only imagine how Saxon was feeling.

Dice was found near to where he’d gone missing. We’d searched that area so many times! He was found by a woman, Leigh McGaughey, and her friend Elif Poshor, who were hiking up to the King’s Blockhouse when they heard a little cry in the bush.

Leigh recalls: “I was with a good friend who was visiting from Turkey and a few things had ‘gone sideways’ that morning. But it’s good they did as we wouldn’t have ended up there! We were meant to go to Newlands Forest, but then I had to drop something off in town. On our way to the forest, we passed the Rhodes Memorial sign and, as I hadn’t been up in a very long time, I turned the car around to take her up for a quick look. We then decided just to walk there because we were running out of time. I suggested going along the contour path, but she wanted to go right up.

Somehow, I had a feeling when I saw the poster at the bottom that we might find Dice. And I’m so happy we did. He was really hidden away in the bracken about 100m off the path. We would never have found him if he didn’t cry that little bit! He’d struggled in his harness and it was on in an awkward way, cutting him under his arm. I got it off with some effort. He was so sweet for the carry down, even with his injuries. He couldn’t stand, though.”

Thank goodness Leigh had seen the poster of missing Dice in the parking lot!

Home, sweet home

Saxon took Dice straight to the vet as he was in a bad way. The wound on his leg looked quite serious and he had a cut on his side where the harness had chafed through his skin. He was also terribly thin and clearly hadn’t eaten for 10 days! The vet treated him for dehydration and prescribed antibiotics and ointment for his wounds. The wound on his leg couldn’t be stitched as it had already started healing. Dice was able to come home wearing a cone around his neck.

When they arrived home and Dice saw his “sister”, Kairo, waiting eagerly for her playmate, his tail gave a little wiggle of happiness before he walked straight to his bed and climbed in. We were so relieved that he’d be ok.

Saxon said, “I’ll never cease to be amazed by the strength and resilience of dogs.”

Dice took a few weeks to recover his strength and gain some weight but is back to his normal, happy, playful self.

As Saxon said, “What a humbling experience this was. I’m so deeply grateful for all the help and support from everyone.”

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