Family welcome home rescue dog Juno with cuddles and leftover turkey
- Credit: Danielle Booden
Bounding around after days of cuddles and turkey leftovers, Juno is once again at the centre of family life.
The search and rescue dog is well on the road to recovery at home after being found safe and sound after going missing for almost a week.
Lost during a routine training exercise with Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue (NorLSAR) in Fritton Woods on December 21, she was reunited with her handler and owner Ian Danks on Monday.
Messages from as far afield as Canada and Australia and treats from well-wishers are a testament to how her disappearance touched the hearts of the nation.
But for her owners she is much more than a specialist working dog - she is a beloved member of the family whose absence was keenly felt over Christmas.
“We still had the family Christmas but it was really difficult because we had lost Juno,” Mr Danks said
“We still tried to make the best of it, but it was very difficult. There was a lot of turkey leftover and a lot of crackling from the pork."
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Wrapped presents for the family pet went unopened, along with Christmas dinner leftovers, as Mr Danks, his wife Katherine and daughters Bella, 11, and Rosalyn, nine, anxiously waited for news.
“My daughters took the situation a lot better than I did,” said Mr Danks.
“With my mum having died unexpectedly earlier in the year, my wife knew how it would affect me if we had lost Juno. She told the kids you need to be strong for your dad.
“They really put on a brave face. They were always coming and giving me a cuddle saying 'it’s alright daddy we’ll find Juno'.
“But it did, of course, affect them a lot. When Juno came back I’d walk in and I’d find Rosalyn giving Juno a secret cuddle saying merry Christmas and that she was so glad that she was back.”
Finding Juno had become a family affair, with Mrs Danks monitoring social media for sightings and tip-offs and their daughters helping to design posters appealing for information.
The female German Shorthaired Pointer was eventually spotted by a drone team close to where she was last seen.
Mr Danks said it had been hugely emotional when he got the call the family had been desperately hoping for.
Looking at the lively dog as she bounds in and out of her bed in front of the roaring fire at home in Caistor St Edmund, it is like she has never been away.
After being checked over at the vets, she has been given an almost clean bill of health, despite losing weight and having sore feet.
“For the first 48 hours she slept apart from me waking her up to feed her,” said Mr Danks. “We have been feeding her about four times a day with really reduced portions of rich food.
“She is almost back to normal. I think she is really ready to go out for a walk but I’m still a little bit off doing that because of her feet.”
She has also been getting some extra fussing.
“The girls have made a point of giving Juno more cuddles and letting all their friends know that she is now back home and safe,” he added.
Juno has been involved in search operations across East Anglia since qualifying as a search dog in 2019.
She has assisted in the recovery of a number of high-risk missing people and has helped return them to their families.
“She has an incredibly high drive, and that is now tailored to finding missing people,” said Mr Danks, an engineer stationed at RAF Honington.
“The attributes she has got such as her agility and speed mean she can move over terrain, which helps us to clear vast amounts of areas incredibly quickly. If there is anyone in those areas Juno will find them.”
The search and rescue team is funded through fundraising and like all its 75 members Mr Danks is a volunteer.
“I’m really lucky that the RAF is prepared to release me to help out the local community on a voluntary basis,” he said. “Without their support there is no way me and Juno could do what we’ve done and what we continue to do.”
• To donate to NorLSAR, or to find out more about the charity, visit norlsar.org.uk