An English Staffordshire Terrier is being hailed a hero for helping save her elderly owner who had been missing in thick bushland for more than three days.
Kiaria, owned by Manfred Classen, 84, emerged from scrub in the Hawkesbury area of NSW, north-west of Sydney, to alert rescuers as to the location of her master.
Mr Classen had been missing for at least three days near Colo, prompting a full-scale air and ground rescue operation to locate him, after his family raised the alarm.
But while the rescue crews, police and the man’s son scoured bushland for Mr Classen, Kiaria found the missing man’s son and then helped locate her owner.
It led to rescuers finding the man on Sunday morning after he’d been reported missing on Friday morning.
Mr Classen left for a walk on Wednesday morning, meaning he went almost four days with no food, water or shelter from rain.
The search was made difficult by the thick canopy of bushland where Mr Classen was eventually found.
Kiaria led rescuers for 90 minutes, until Mr Classen was located hanging onto trees halfway up a rocky ledge.
“The search area was between two mountains with creeks running through the ravine,” Hawekesbury Local Area Command’s Facebook page reported.
“Kiaria started weaving in and out of bushland leading one of the sons to the general location of the missing man who was located conscious, suffering only what appear to be minor facial injuries exposure and disorientation.
“Search teams reached the location soon after and treated the man for exposure and dehydration.”
Mr Classen’s son, Lovell, told Nine News about the incredible relief of finding his father.
“I just hugged him and I couldn’t believe it,” Lovell Classen said.
“He’s definitely smashed his nose on something and had blood all over his face and scratches all over his body. He was barefoot in a t-shirt.”
Mr Classen was stabilised by medics on the scene before being winched aboard the air ambulance and flown to Westmead Hospital in a stable condition.
His facial injuries are believed to be from a fall.
Police described the ordeal and the dog’s contribution as something they had never seen before.
“The dog was just absolutely wonderful,” Inspector Jackie Smith told 9 News.
“It’s a first in my career, I’ve never seen anything like that before so a great story.”
Lovell saved Kiaria from the pound almost a year ago. He believed his father got lost after becoming disorientated after going for a walk.
Mr Classen’s wife has dementia and did not report him missing straight away.
“Of course full credit to Kiaria for leading searchers to his owner,” Hawkesbury LAC Facebook page wrote.
“Kiaria was rewarded by being carried back to the residence where he received much love and respect followed by food and water.
“Accolades to this faithful companion: Lassie or Skippy could not have done better.”