He managed to fight his way out of his car after being hijacked last week.
But only on his way to the police station did Melvin Luke, of Port Elizabeth, realise he had forgotten about his old and sickly dog, Choppies, on the back seat with the criminals.
But yesterday, Luke spent his 57th birthday with his best friend by his side, as his tireless search and prayers for Choppies bore fruit.
The Jack Russell, 15, was reunited with his owner five days after a terrifying ordeal.
“It was like losing a child. It felt terrible. All I could think of was Choppies alive or dead? And if alive, is he safe? Is he scared?
“But I got to spend my birthday with him, and I could not be happier.”
Luke was driving to a friend’s house in Sydenham on Friday night.
He made a quick stop in Swartkops Road shortly after 8pm, when two men attacked and hijacked him.
“I was standing next to the car when I saw a man running at me.
“Before I could do or say anything I was hit from behind.
“I tried to fight the two men off, but it was dark and I could not see if they had weapons,” Luke said.
“They forced me back into the car and drove off.”
In the front passenger seat, Luke still tried to fight the men, but one was behind him and had a piece of rope tied around Luke’s neck, while the other was driving.
“They drove to Central, and in Russell Road they stopped the car.
“I do not know what they were going to do there, but I fought my way out of the car and just ran,” he said.
Without his wallet or cellphone, he decided to walk to the Mount Road police station to report the incident.
On his way there, he remembered that Choppies was still in the car.
“I felt sick. I did not care about the car or my phone or my wallet. All I cared about was my little dog.”
Besides praying for Choppies’s safe return, Luke could do little until the police notified him on Sunday that his car had been found in Missionvale.
Over the next three days, he spent hours canvassing the township.
“I started sending out e-mails and contacting anyone I thought could help us find the dog,” he said.
“We went to Missionvale on Monday. There someone told us they had seen a Jack Russell at NMMU’s Missionvale Campus. “It was not much, but at least we had a starting point.
“Over the next two days I had less and less hope of finding him, or even that he was still alive,” he said.
Choppies has a liver condition that requires daily medication, which added to Luke’s fears.
But yesterday his constant prayers were answered.
At a spaza shop in Missionvale, a man said he had seen a dog matching Choppies’s description at a taxi stopin Kleinskool. “There, among the taxis and people, Choppies was standing,” Luke said.
“He could hardly walk. He was tired and confused, and covered in ticks.”
But after a bowl of food, a bath, some medicine and a nap on his favourite cushion at home, Choppies was his old self in no time.
“My boy is back home where he belongs,” Luke said, grinning.