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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Jilly Beattie

From Belfast to Borneo, news of rescue dog Cooper's 40 mile walk to his puppyhood home goes global

A dog who bolted from his new owner an hour after being rescued from the pound, has become a global sensation thanks to his epic journey back to the very place he had been forced to leave.

The Golden Retriever who was surrendered in Co Tyrone last March, managed to walk 40 miles over 27 days right back to the property where he had lived the first years of his life.

News of his arrival there and subsequent reunion with his new owner grabbed the attention of dog lovers across the world with readers responding from Belfast to Borneo, Nottingham to New Zealand and even further afield.

Read more: Northern Ireland only UK region with no shock collar legislation

So while Cooper might have travelled 40 miles on his epic trek, his story travelled even further appearing on 44 media outlets across 15 countries - clocking up a total of 100,000 miles from his comfy new bed in Dungannon.

Molly and Cooper have bonded (Nigel Fleming)

Cooper's story appeared on news websites in Belfast, London, Glasgow, Dublin, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Nottingham and then on to India, Pakistan, the USA, Germany, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Turkey, Nigeria, New Zealand and Borneo with readers responding emotionally to his solo trek and his new owner's dedication to find him.

New owner Nigel Fleming said: "It's incredible to know that this lovely boy Cooper, is known to so many people around the world. I'm still puzzling over his journey and how he made it back to his old home. But as we all know, dogs are incredible creatures with amazing abilities.

"After his big adventure he is settling in very well and had bonded with Molly. But he is very afraid and nervous of humans. He is shy and timid in the extreme and will need a lot of time to come round. I just want to give him a big hug but it will have to wait until he is ready and comfortable with more contact. I can see that he wants to trust me and he's working on it. He will have all the time he needs - he's home for good now and I just love him.

"I have been astonished by how far his story has travelled from DogsLive and Belfast Live across all of the UK and Ireland, to Europe, India, New Zealand, Borneo and even appearing in USA Today.

Exhausted but home with his devoted new owner who dedicated 27 days to searching for Cooper after loving him for just a couple of hours (Nigel Fleming)

Nigel and Cooper's search team at Lost Paws NI, have been approached for TV appearances, offered magazine deals and there have even been hints about a movie. But those around Cooper feel he has been through enough excitement and have politely declined any more media.

Cooper, who had been given up along with his brother George in March 2023, had been taken out of the pound on April 1 by photographer Nigel as company for his Golden Retriever Molly.

But moments after Nigel pulled up at his Dungannon home with Cooper, the three-year-old dog bolted from the car and spent the next 27 days on the run, heading more than 40 miles right back to where his journey had started.

The team at Lost Paws NI calculated he walked more than 40 miles alone, through back woods and along main roads, moving mostly at night and surviving without humans to feed him, until he got back to where he had started and the property from which he had been surrendered.

Cooper evaded organised searches day and night, he avoided traffic and human contact, darting into secret safety holes to bed down. He even avoided the sheep farmers watchful over new born lambs at the height of their busiest season as he flanked Co Tyrone farmlands.

He travelled from the town centre of Dungannon to Cookstown to Magherafelt and finally to the place he had been a puppy, Tobermore, 26 miles as the crow flies, 40-plus by the Golden Retriever.

Thankfully with the help of the public who reported sightings, of Pets Lost and Found Mid Ulster and the Mid Ulster Dog Wardens who did all they could to help, Cooper was finally secured and was reunited with Nigel, who had only known him for about an hour before he vanished.

Cooper's solo journey took him the length of Lough Neagh and more, zigzagging across more than 40 miles (Google Maps)

A spokesperson for Lost Paws NI, said: "Cooper really kept us on our toes but thankfully it all ended in good news. His new owner Nigel is one of the most dedicated owners we’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

" Nigel never stopped trying, never stopped asking for advice, never stopped filling the food bowls every-time we were on the move.

"We don’t know why Cooper and his siblings were surrendered and our job and goal was only to locate him safely and reunite him with Nigel. So this story is one of positivity, perseverance, loyalty, battling for what you want in life and never giving up.

After 26 days on the missing list, big Cooper is home and recovering from his ordeal (Nigel Fleming)

"Against all the odds Cooper didn’t stop battling and travelled a long distance through an area he had never been in before, and had no way of knowing how to get back home, but he figured it out and arrived back at his previous address. We think if humanity took a leaf from Coopers book then the world would be a much better place.

"Thanks to the interest of DogsLive and Belfast Live, we knew we'd get Cooper's story out there to help us find him, but just as they were about to publish the call for help, Cooper was found. But of course then we had an even better story and they were delighted to publish that.

"It has been incredible to see just how far and wide Cooper's story travelled. Now he's known all over the world and as a result out little charity got a few mentions too so it all helps. We do these search jobs on a voluntary basis and story's like Coopers just proved to us how important it is to beep battling, to remain positive and never give up.

Molly is going to keep Cooper company in his new home (Nigel Fleming)


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