Meet Rippa, a dog with a truly remarkable tale of survival.
The eight-year-old went missing from her Bannerton home two weeks before Christmas last year after being spooked by a thunderstorm.
Owner Jade Benham thought her family would never see their beloved pet again.
“She jumped the fence, which is seven feet high, while I was at work,” Ms Benham said.
“Christmas came and went, and we had given up all hope that she would return.”
But almost three months later, on February 21, Rippa was found tied up out the front of the Robinvale Veterinary Clinic sporting a hole in the bottom of her jaw, later revealed as a shotgun wound.
Ms Benham, who had been contacted by Swan Hill Rural City Council’s Robinvale ranger Jenny Connell, described what she saw when reunited with Rippa.
“There was a fair bit of blood and we really didn’t know what had happened to her,” she said.
“Her bottom jaw and some of her teeth were hanging out; it looked like she had been kicked.”
The family took her to the Benetook Veterinary Clinic in Mildura where veterinarians uncovered shotgun pellets in Rippa’s chest.
“It blew half her jaw off and we thought we’d need to go to Melbourne for a specialist to treat her,” she said.
Thankfully, Rippa underwent surgery in Mildura where she was stitched up and prescribed a heavy dose of painkillers.
Rippa returned home on February 24 to the welcoming arms of Ms Benham’s three-year-old son Peyton.
“They were like best mates and he was asking me constantly about where she was,” Ms Benham said.
“He was so happy when we found her and Rippa was even more excited to see him; she was wagging her tail and licking his face.”
A mixture of Doberman, Bullmastiff, American Staghound and Australian Silky Terrier, the family adopted Rippa six years ago.
Although she has now recovered from most of her injuries, Rippa still has to go to the vets twice a week for check ups.
“She still has a hole in her jaw, but it doesn’t look like she’s in any pain now,” Ms Benham said.
“In just over just a week she has bounced back so much, but we still can’t exercise her at the moment and is being fed through an esophageal tube.
“She’s being very spoiled and living the good life sitting at home on the couch.”
Ms Benham said that if Rippa could talk, then she would have an incredible story to tell.
“Someone had obviously been looking after her, feeding her and giving her water, but it’s a shame that they didn’t take her to a vet to check the microchip,” she said.
“It was Lunar New Year just before she was found so she could have easily bolted again from whoever had been looking after her.
“There’s no way to really find out what happened to her unless someone comes forward.
“I’d love to thank the person who looked after her, but to whoever hurt her I want to ask them how they could have possibly done that to such an innocent creature.”
Rippa’s story was so incredible that Ms Benham shared it on both ABC radio and Neil Mitchell’s show.
“The ABC producers told me to set up a GoFundMe page because they knew people would be looking for a way to help,” she said.
“At the moment it’s over $1500 which is a massive help; we’re very grateful for everyone’s donations.
“I honestly can’t believe it, we’re so overwhelmed by these people and their generosity.”
To help with Rippa’s veterinary bills, head to www.gofundme.com/rippasrecovery