THE owner of a dog recovered in a “miracle” rescue from the snowy Wicklow Mountains after two weeks believes her late mother may have helped bring the pet home.
Eight-year-old golden retriever Neesha was found by hikers after going missing while out for a walk with family a fortnight ago.
The dog was rescued by doctors Jean Francois Bonnet and Ciara Nolan, who discovered Neesha near the summit, freezing and unable to walk or bark.
Jean Francois carried the pet 10km down the mountains to safety before contacting an animal rescue service to find her family.
Nurse Erina O’Shea-Goetelen (52), from Aughavannagh, Co Wicklow, explained how her husband Serge, her daughter Shannagh (20) and son Caolin (16) had been out for a walk up the mountains with Neesha on January 23.
The family were on their way home and went to put Neesha and their other dog, a three-year-old German Shepherd called Harley, on their leads when the pets bolted after deer.
“My husband and children ran after the girls (the dogs), but they were faster,” Erina said.
The family believed the dogs would return to their nearby home but there was sign of either until Harley appeared nearby the next day.
“Neesha was still missing,” Erina said. “We looked every single day, up and down. We called her and put her bed out.
“We got loads of tips on Facebook and we searched high and low, but there was no sign.”
A man even got in touch and offered to try to find Neesha with his drone but the weather became too poor.
One week after Neesha vanished, tragedy struck. Erina’s beloved mother, Sally O’Shea (82), passed away in a nursing home in Armagh.
Sally had loved Neesha and Erina hadn’t been able to tell her mother the dog had been missing in the days before her death.
“It was an awful week. I had to deal with the grief of losing mum and Neesha. Mum was ill, and she’s at peace but I know she loved Neesha and I couldn’t bear to tell her on video calls that Neesha was missing.
“We were up to mum’s funeral on Wednesday and we took Harley. Mum had lived with us for three years and she adored Neesha. She’d give her wine gums.
“I said: ‘Now mum knows Neesha is lost and maybe she’s up in heaven with her’.
“We were getting our heads round that and it was a weird week with the funeral and everything.
“Three days after mum’s funeral, we thought there’s no chance of finding Neesha – she’s too old, it’s too cold up there.
“I said: ‘Neesha’s gone, she’s up in heaven with mum, she’s looking after her’.”
Then, that evening, a call was made to the family home. Ash Animal Rescue in Wicklow left a voicemail for the family to tell them the two doctors had found Neesha up the mountains.
“I’d given up, I’d even been talking to a friend about getting a replacement dog because Harley was lonely,” Erina said.
“Ash phoned and told me someone had found a golden retriever with a pink coat and they think she’s ours.”
The family travelled to the doctors’ house nearby and couldn’t believe their eyes. The dog was exhausted and cold but she managed to stand up to greet Shannagh.
She had some cuts on her skin, which turned out to be dermatitis, but the family made a trip to the vets and now the dog is on antibiotics. She’s receiving “all the TLC” she needs.
“Two weeks, it’s unreal. Neesha was found two weeks to the day she went missing,” Erina said.
“It’s a pure miracle really. It was Baltic up there and she’s not a young dog. Those two weeks were torture, a nightmare for our family.
“A lot of people are saying to me they think mum was looking out for Neesha and I really think she could have been.
“I don’t know how Jean Francois carried Neesha all that way. We can never thank them enough.
“Neesha’s part of our family. It’s amazing what the couple did for her. How they cared for her.
“And the public all tried to help us. We will never forget it.”