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‘The worst part is not knowing’: Aberdeenshire family continue three month search for missing dog Memphis

Lemon roan coloured working cocker spaniel Memphis has been missing since April.
Lemon roan coloured working cocker spaniel Memphis has been missing since April.

An Aberdeenshire family are hopeful to be reunited with their beloved dog after he went missing on a walk in April.

Gregor and Shanette Wilson were out for a family walk when their dog Memphis went missing from Coastal Park in Newtonhill, Aberdeenshire.

The lemon roan coloured working cocker spaniel is six-years-old and could be trusted off the lead.

Mr Wilson explained: “There’s a fenced area that goes right along the cliffs and there’s dense bushes around it, so he managed to find his way to one of these holes.

“We saw him go through the hole and we called him back. Normally, he would turn round immediately and do the recall but he went through and got stuck.

“I went over to help him get out of the bushes because you could hear him running around, and as I went over he took off to where my wife was standing further up on the other side of the fence.

“Then there was nothing, just silence, and it was like ‘well, where did he go?'”

Vanished into thin air

The owner recalls thinking that the family dog had vanished into thin air, or that the worst had happened and he had gone over the edge of a cliff.

They focused their search on that specific area around the cliffs with friends and locals from the village. Some went out on paddleboards and even local fishermen went out on boats to check the rocks at the bottom of the cliffs, but there was no sign of Memphis.

Mr Wilson said that while they were searching an area a member of the public had spotted him around 20 minutes after his disappearance a few streets away from them. However, the person did not realise the dog was lost and thought it had just come out of a garden.

Since he went missing on April 25, there has been numerous potential sightings of Memphis around Newtonhill and the Chapleton area.

Community have rallied round

The family have spent hours walking every day, morning and night, to find their beloved canine companion with no joy. They decided to utilise the power of social media to raise awareness so that anyone who is out walking can keep their eyes open for him.

The couple have put down scenting stations, clothes, food and wildlife cameras in an attempt to find him. They have even had volunteers with drones look in areas where there has been potential sightings.

The community of Newtonhill has rallied around the family and they have met many people in their village because of it.

Mr Wilson said: “We have met so many wonderful people in the village of Newtonhill. Despite having stayed here for 10 years we’re meeting new people who care very much about Memphis. People have really taken to helping the cause to try and find him.

“Everybody has been absolutely incredible, giving up their spare time to go look for him even when they’re on their own walks they’re always looking, always asking and always helping. Whenever we get a sighting people will drop what they’re doing and come to help us, it really has been amazing.”

Survival mode

Mr Wilson described Memphis as “an adult working cocker spaniel who is very strong, powerful, and healthy” who can walk for miles. He believes it is not beyond the realms of possibility that he could have travelled beyond Newtonhill and Chapleton by now, but because the potential sightings are in those areas they have focused their efforts there.

Missing dog Memphis is a large working cocker spaniel, described as “strong, powerful and healthy”. Supplied by Mr and Mrs Wilson.

They think Memphis will now be in survival mode, meaning he will not answer to calls or approach people.

The owner explained: “What the experts tell us is that dogs go into a survival mode, it can sometimes be instant when they get lost from their owner but sometimes it can take a week. But so much time has passed now that Memphis will definitely be in survival mode.

“Basically, a switch goes off in their head so they no longer consider themselves a pet and their main focus is survival through finding food, water and shelter. That’s all they care about.

“They would treat all humans and all other things as perceived threats and definitely would not approach anybody.”

“What we have to do is, if we were ever lucky enough to know where he was and narrow down the area, we have to get specialist help to trap him humanely with food stations. Once the dog comes back to us, he would smell our scent and that switch for survival mode in his head goes off again he would go back to being a pet.”

Memphis is a gundog and a working breed, meaning it is instilled in him to be able to look after himself. Mr Wilson described this as a “blessing and a curse” because it makes the task of finding him harder, but it makes them hopeful he is managing to look after himself.

Keep Memphis in mind

On their Facebook page, Memphis is Missing, the couple have a map and updated list of potential sightings. There has even been potential sightings of Memphis at TECA near Dyce and at a kennel out at Leask beside Ellon.

He was wearing a grey Harris Tweed collar with a name tag and contact number when he went missing, however, this may have fallen off by now. Memphis is microchipped and registered properly so if he is taken to a vet they will find his owners.

He has a white stripe on his forehead and is a distinctive and large cocker spaniel. The couple believe if they saw him, even from a distance, they would recognise him straight away.

Memphis has a distinctive white stripe down his forehead. Supplied by Mr and Mrs Wilson.

They are asking that people keep Memphis in mind while out walking in the wider area of Aberdeenshire.

It has not been four weeks since the last sighting which could mean he has moved to another area.

Mr Wilson said: “It can only be one of three things; one he’s still on the move, two he’s stuck or incapacitated, or three somebody’s taken him. Dog theft is a big thing so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that somebody has taken him as well.

“The worst part is not knowing, is he warm, is he cold, is he safe, is he hurt, is he scared, is he happy, does he have shelter? Is he okay? That is the number one thing.

“We’ve got a young family, the kids miss him terribly as do my wife and I. He’s one of the family, he’s just another member of the family.

“You think it will never happen to you, until it does.”

This article originally appeared on the Evening Express website. For more information, read about our new combined website.