Back in front of the fire - Juno home again after six days missing

It started with the beginning of another search for Juno wi her owner Ian Danks, then a phone call c

Juno, the search and rescue dog. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Curled up in front of a roaring fire, normality has resumed for Juno the search dog.

Yet for much of the last week, she was lost and alone 20 miles from home in Fritton Woods.

After going missing during a routine training exercise with Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue (NorLSAR) on Tuesday, December 21, volunteers, along with drone and boat teams, quickly descended on the woods to help with the search.

Juno's plight captured hearts outside of Norfolk's borders, with volunteers from across the country joining in.

Despite the odds, the much-loved dog was reunited with her owner Ian Danks after days of searching on Monday.

It started with the beginning of another search for Juno wi her owner Ian Danks, then a phone call c

Juno reunited with her owner Ian Danks - Credit: Sonya Duncan

"The six or seven days she was missing were incredibly awful and emotional," Mr Danks said on Tuesday.

"We tried to make the best of Christmas because we had arranged for our families to come together because we couldn't do it last year.

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"We put on a brave face for our families, but Christmas Day wasn't the best.

"My wife had hidden Juno's present away so it wasn't the only one left under the tree, which would have been heartbreaking, so we'll have to dig it out and give her it.

"She is currently being fed small bits of turkey to make up for Christmas."

After being checked over at the vets, Juno was given an almost clean bill of health, despite losing weight and having sore feet.

Mr Danks, from Caistor St Edmund, said: "She is fine. She's been eating a lot and is very hungry, but her health is totally fine.

"She's on medication for her sore feet and we're feeding her little bits every couple of hours instead of large amounts normally.

"But it has been really, really good to have her home.

"All of the little things that we missed while she was away are back, from her trotting around the house to being in front of the fire, and we're back to normality."

Mr Danks said he refused to believe Juno had been found when he got the call the family had been desperately hoping for.

It started with the beginning of another search for Juno wi her owner Ian Danks, then a phone call c

Juno reunited with her owner Ian Danks - Credit: Sonya Duncan

He said: "When I first got the call to say she'd been found I didn't believe it. I thought it was a mistake because she had been missing for so long.

"Even when I got the second and third call I thought it must have been another dog and I didn't want to believe it until I saw her with my own eyes, coming round the corner with a member of the team."

Dozens of volunteers from a number of organisations were involved in the search for Juno, with 85 people from seven groups at the scene on Monday.

Mr Danks said: "We had been out searching every day and all of the teams came together to help.

"My wife was running all of the social media about the search and we didn't rest for the whole time she was away.

"There was always something to do."

Mr Danks now hopes to use the momentum gained to support the charity's efforts.

He said: "I think this has put a bit more energy into our fundraising now we have a bit of the media spotlight.

"Juno and I will be out and about doing events raising awareness, so people can come and meet us, and if any organisations or businesses want us to come and say hello, I would love to do that and raise the profile of NorLSAR."

Juno is a German Shorthaired Pointer and has been involved in search operations across East Anglia since qualifying as a search dog in 2019. 

She has been on operational call-outs in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. She has assisted in the recovery of a number of high-risk missing people and has helped return them to their families.

To donate to NorLSAR, or to find out more about the charity, visit: www.norlsar.org.uk

The scale of the search

The search for Juno caught the attention of the nation.

It was led both on the ground and online - a post on social media by NorLSAR was shared more than 7,500 times and reached more than 500,000 people.

In total, it involved 65 searchers and 20 support members from various groups, including the Norfolk and Suffolk 4x4 Response and Suffolk Lowland Search and Rescue.

But the help stretched beyond the county's borders - British Red Cross, Kent Search and Rescue, Search Dogs Buckinghamshire and Cambridgeshire Search and Rescue teams were also involved.

Rescuers had said their hopes of finding Juno alive and well weren't high, and even as the initial calls came in with sightings of her, some weren't convinced.

They included owner Mr Danks, who said despite a third and fourth call he was still sceptical it would be Juno.

But after days of searching, eventually she was spotted by a drone team, with others then quickly deployed to her location, before a boat team was guided in to pick her up.

Once on board, she was taken to a slipway where she was met by an ecstatic - and emotional - Mr Danks.

The Norfolk charity works across both urban and rural landscapes, and helps in response to search and rescue requests from police.