Policeman reunited with his missing dog: ‘I couldn’t stop crying’

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PHOTO: Supplied
PHOTO: Supplied

It was like losing a child, he says – but luckily this K9 unit police officer and his dog got their happy ending.

There were tears on Wednesday when a police officer from the K9 unit in Mthatha, in the Eastern Cape, was reunited with his dog, Olive. The dog had gone missing on Sunday night during a search-and-rescue mission for a missing man.

On Wednesday afternoon, a clearly relieved Constable Songezile Katikati (42) told YOU that it had been the longest three days of his life.

He and Olive (7), a German shepherd, have been partners for the last six years as a search-and-rescue team. He left terrible when he couldn’t find her after she’d disappeared into the rugged, mountainous terrain where they’d been working.

“I couldn’t sleep that night,” he says. “Sho, sho, sho . . . The bond I have with that dog . . . Losing this one felt like losing a child to me.

“I couldn’t hold back the tears when we found her. All that kept me alive over the last few days was the support I’d received from my colleagues and the community.”

The support from his colleagues went as far as provincial and national levels. After she’d gone missing on Sunday, the SAPD issued a heart-wrenching please for the public to help look for Olive.

Katikati says he and Olive were called to a wooded area in Mahlubini, Sulenkama, at about 7pm on Sunday evening. A 55-year-old who’d gone to gather fire wood had gone missing on Friday already and the local community had been searching for him using their own dogs. It was suspected the man had gotten lost.

“Olive found the man still alive, but he was very dehydrated and could hardly help himself [to get up],” Katikati says.

But that’s when his nightmare began. On their way back to the police vehicle, the other dogs started chasing Olive. Olive, he says, is more scared of other dogs than of criminals.

“I asked them to please keep the other dogs away from her. She’s very afraid of other dogs.” But it was too late – Olive had run away.

Katikati was heartbroken, he says. “Olive is my best friend and companion. He’s humble and he cannot harm anyone as he’s trained in rescuing drowned people, seeking missing people and seeking evidence on other crime scenes.

“I plead with anyone who sees him to not harm him but rather keep him and report to the police,” he said in the SAPD’s Facebook post about the matter.

In the same posting, Brigadier Nomawethu Makonza, acting cluster commander, also says Olive is a member of the SAPD who’s never disappointed them.

“When we send Constable Katikati and Olive to rescue someone we relax and stay assured that they’ll bring that missing person back to his/her family. It is therefore disturbing news to our cluster and other clusters to hear that she’s missing. Our members have since been out there searching for her.”

Captain Dineo Koena, local police spokesperson, confirmed that Olive had been found. “Olive was found in the same area where the missing man was found.”

Katikati says he suspects Olive knew he’d come looking for her there. “Olive was dehydrated but otherwise okay.”

Will he be spoiling Olive with biltong now and letting her sleep on the bed? He laughs. “We immediately gave her tinned food and water when we found her on the mountain. I’m going to make sure Olive is comfortable from now on – I had a big fright.”

In 2014, 2015 and 2016 Olive and Katikati received the police’s honours for “best rescue dog”. He hopes they’ll be together for years to come and save many more people.

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