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We put Ravi’s dog bed and a bowl of water on the front porch. The outside light was left on and the gate open. We invited a miracle, but expected the worst.
Late on Wednesday, my parents’ beloved 12-year-old whippet went missing around West Footscray in Melbourne’s inner-west. Mum and dad were visiting from Adelaide with Ravi when he disappeared into the night.
Ravi resting on his bed after several nights out on the streets with owners Alastair and Rose Dow.Credit: Paul Jeffers
The help we received from the community to find him over the following days was overwhelming.
Ravi is not an adventurer. This skinny, fawn hound fears flies, hates loud noises and is terrified of trains. He was probably living out his worst nightmare.
We think Ravi escaped when our motorised fence opened briefly. Neighbours spotted him almost immediately, but he evaded capture. We quickly posted online asking for help to find him.
Ravi on the loose in the inner-west on Wednesday afternoon.Credit: Facebook
As my family searched the streets, reports on Facebook placed him close to the truck-filled Princes Highway, its six lanes of heavy traffic bordering our neighbourhood.
He was seen on the grassy verge of a service road, giving us hope he’d avoided the main thoroughfare. But it quickly became apparent that Ravi had already crossed it.
“I saw him [at] about 5.15pm,” reported James. “He … made it to the other side safely. Lots of cars stopped for him.”
I don’t use Facebook much these days and Twitter, now known as X, has well-documented problems. But the community effort to find Ravi reminded me of social media’s good side.
It was heartwarming to have so many strangers message to say they were out looking for Ravi, calling his name.
Someone named Chris searched for two hours through West Footscray up to the Melbourne Container Park, using a spotlight to peer into industrial blocks.
Mel, another person I hadn’t met, was driving up and down Sunshine Road. Another stranger, Tuan, had looked through three suburbs up to Braybrook.
Later on Wednesday evening, Ravi was spotted on the wrong side of another busy road near Tottenham Railway Station.“I couldn’t help because the dog was very scared,” reported Jeanette.
But by the time my parents got to the station, he was nowhere to be seen.
The trail went cold until Thursday morning, when we got a fresh report of a loose whippet in Sydenham on the outskirts of Melbourne.
If it was Ravi, he was now about 18 kilometres away. But the pieces fitted: photos showed resemblance and he was last seen heading in that direction. Perhaps he was heading home to Adelaide?
My parents and husband spent the day scouring Sydenham. A dozen residents joined in, having heard about the search.
“We started to feel as if everyone living near Rose Hedge Reserve knew about Ravi,” my mum recalled.
The whippet that was on the loose in Sydenham, captured on CCTV.Credit: Facebook
“People were stopping as they drove past. A man called Scott and his fiance searched for hours. It gave me a lot of heart.”
We thought it was only a matter of time before Ravi was found. A dog fitting his description was captured multiple times on someone’s CCTV.
Then came a devastating development. Mum caught sight of the dog we were tracking. It was not Ravi but another, much younger whippet that was also on the loose.
If it wasn’t Ravi, then where was he? His collar listed my mum’s mobile number and he was microchipped.The Lost Dogs Home knew he was missing. So did the local vets and councils.
His bed lay empty on the porch for another night. We feared it would remain that way. But thanks to the help of yet another stranger, this story has a happy ending.
At about 1pm on Friday afternoon, a man named Sam was walking his two-year-old border collie along a dirt track next to Kororoit Creek in Sunshine when he heard barking.
Following the noise, he spotted a little dog shaking, marooned on the other bank.
“The side of the creek that he was on is all industrial parks and dilapidated buildings … people don’t walk on that side, so I don’t even know how he got there,” Sam explained.
Sam had a choice to make if he wanted to help. He could go the long way, walking hundreds of metres, crossing some stepping stones and pushing his way through long grass.
Ravi and owner Alastair Dow (left) pictured with Sam and his dog Albort after Sam rescued Ravi in Sunshine.Credit: Rose Dow
Otherwise, he would have to wade into the polluted waterway.
“I tied my dog to the tree and felt out the water. I thought, it’s only knee-deep, I’ll just suck it up,” he said. “I was hoping Ravi wouldn’t run or get scared, but clearly he just wanted to be helped. He was straight into my arms.”
Sam told me later that he had never been gripped so tight as he had by my dad when the pair posed for a photo in the park soon after. When that photo landed in the family WhatsApp group captioned “found”, it felt like a miracle. I shed a little tear in The Age office.
In the end, we think Ravi travelled about seven kilometres, crossing at least four major roads and countless other small ones.
Other than being exhausted and hungry, the geriatric whippet is in remarkably good health. He is happy to be back with his family and loving being the centre of attention.
As he snored peacefully, Ravi had no idea that his unlikely homecoming was setting social media alight.
Ravi’s journey has illustrated the incredible kindness of strangers, and the power of physical and online communities.
It’s easy to forget how willing people are to lend a hand to their neighbours.
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