Constantia man lays urine trail to recover lost dog

Strider, a black cross-breed with a grey muzzle, is neutered and chipped. There have been several sightings of him since he went missing in December last year.

A Constantia man has resorted to using his urine to lay down a scent trail in the hope of recovering his lost dog.

Francois Smith-Symms’s rescue dog, Strider, went missing from his Ou Wingerd Road home in High Constantia in December last year.

Mr Smith-Symms has had Strider since February 2019. A Plumstead woman coaxed the “bag of bones” into her car and took the animal to the SPCA. The elderly black cross-breed with a grey muzzle slowly recovered, but the woman had dogs of her own and was unable to adopt the dog.

However, Strider found a home with Mr Smith-Symms, a restorer of historic buildings and furniture, and soon bounded back to good health.

But then the pandemic hit, Mr Smith-Symms’s business took strain and he got into an increasingly aggressive dispute with his landlord.

Mr Smith-Symms said he had been unable to find Strider on December 2, and soon afterwards, the landlord had locked him out of the property before he could retrieve his personal effects and the tools he needed for his next job. The landlord had also taken away another dog he had been caring for, a Great Dane called Ganesh, he said.

Mr Smith-Symms opened a theft case at Diep River police station. Station commander Lieutenant Colonel Ansley Jacobs said a person had been arrested, charged and presented to court on Wednesday February 10.

Meanwhile, Mr Smith-Symms is offering a reward for Strider’s return. He has posted on social media about Strider’s disappearance and alerted the Good Hope SPCA, The Emma Animal Rescue Society (TEARS) and the Domestic Animal Rescue Group (DARG). Several people had called, reporting sightings of the animal in Tokai, at the Blue Route Mall and on the Alphen Trail, he said.

Towards the end of December, the trail went cold, and Mr Smith-Symms decided on an unusual approach to warm it up. “A dog knows the scent of a man’s urine,” he said.

He collects his urine in a bottle and then spreads it where sightings of Strider have been reported. Mr Smith-Symms is trying to draw Strider to the Constantia cricket field.

“He is being led to his touchstone, where he first ran free and knew he belonged to a human that loved him,” Mr Smith-Symms said.

However, SPCA spokeswoman Belinda Abrahams said that while dogs had a powerful sense of smell, there was no veterinary evidence to support the notion that a dog would recognise the scent of its owner’s urine or be able to follow such a trail home.

“Our hearts do go out to Francois,” she said, “and we understand his need to explore every possible way to bring Strider back to him, but this method is unlikely to be successful.”

The SPCA was looking at how it could support Mr Smith-Symms in his pursuit of a criminal investigation, following Strider’s disappearance, she said.

“Our lost-and-found department is also on high alert, and we will be looking out for Strider whenever our vehicles are in the area of the most recent sighting.

“Our sincerest thanks go to each and every person currently involved in the search for Strider, those reporting sightings and those networking his story. We are keeping Francois and Strider in our thoughts and hoping for a happy reunification soon.”

According to Mr Smith-Symms, Strider is neutered and chipped but unapproachable by anyone other than his owner or the woman who rescued him.

The landlord, whose name is known to the Bulletin, did not answer his phone or respond to messages or emails.

Contact Francois Smith-Symms at 082 255 6991 or progroups@gmail.com