It may have been long drive but it had been a satisfying trip all round.
The 180km until Bega seemed like nothing compared to the 500km Shaun Matthyssen and his dog Lou had already clicked over that day.
Mr Matthyssen was on his way home from Geelong after a week of competing at Cricket Australia’s National Cricket Inclusion Championship. It was his first time representing NSW in the Deaf Cricket team and he was keen to get home and tell the news of the Blues’ wins and losses.
The NSW Blues had made the semi finals but lost to WA.
Travelling along the Princes Hwy a couple of kilometres outside of Genoa, Mr Matthyssen’s Mazda BT-50 took a sudden sharp bend, Shaun lost control and the car rolled a few times before coming to a stop.
On impact Mr Matthyssen lost both of his hearing aids, but that’s not all he lost.
“I have no idea how many times the car rolled but when it stopped it was smoking and I was dizzy and in pain.
“I looked to see where Lou was and I saw him looking scared, he jumped straight out of the windows. He was so terrified he just bolted down the highway.”
Mr Matthyssen said he called and called for his dog but it was all in vain.
“I tried to call him but he was so frightened – he was gone, I didn’t know where he went.”
A couple of passers-by who stopped at the scene said they had seen the nervous dog but were unable to catch him.
Lou was nowhere in sight and Mr Matthyssen was swiftly rushed off to Bega via ambulance.
With Lou lost, wandering somewhere around the scrubby highway bushland of Genoa and Mr Matthyssen on the mend a couple of hundred kilometres away in hospital, the distance between the two towns now seemed immense.
Mr Matthyssen wasn’t sure he would ever see his best mate again but that didn’t mean he gave up hope.
“I wasn’t able to drive and the car was a write off. I wasn’t sure how I could get to Genoa to search for Lou,” Mr Matthyssen said.
“As soon as I got out of hospital on Monday I posted on Mallacoota Community Group Facebook page telling people about the accident and asking them to keep an eye out for Lou.”
The Facebook post took off like wildfire and it seemed all eyes were out. The post was shared more than 2000 times.
In the week that followed Mallacoota and Genoa residents left out food, searched for the lost dog on their properties and called out for Lou in surrounding bushland.
The word spread and concerned Facebookers from all over offered messages of support and advice .
“If it’s [the dog] in bushland, put an item of Shaun’s worn clothing a few metres in. It will come out of hiding and are often found the next day sitting or sleeping on it. Needs to be something he has worn a few days. The smell drifts for miles,” one posted.
Even though Lou’s disappearance had captured the attention of many he was still nowhere to be seen. After a week and no sightings it seemed like all hope was lost.
“I thought he would have been found quicker than that and the days began to seem like months,” Mr Matthyssen said.
However on February 4, exactly eight days after the accident, a message appeared on the Facebook post. Genoa resident Lars Vandersant wrote, “We’ve found – please call.”
Mr Vandersant was called by a neighbour after an unknown dog had entered her lounge room through the doggy door.
“The neighbour thought the dog was one of my dogs so she called me up,” he said.
“But by the time I got there the dog taken had off. I found him later wandering around near the pub. He was right down to his ribs all skin and bones, but he was really friendly.”
Absolutely thrilled when he read the message Mr Matthyssen said he couldn’t believe his luck.
“I had no idea Lou would still be alive by then and I was amazed he was still in Genoa.”
There was one problem. The tyranny of distance. Suddenly the stretch of the Princes Hwy between Genoa and Bega once again seemed like a long drive especially with out a car.
But as luck would have it, the Princes Hwy is a road well travelled. And as it turned out, a couple from Mallacoota who had been following the Facebook post were travelling to Canberra the next day. They offered to drop Lou off to Mr Matthyssen on their way.
Now in the garden at his Bega house tucked away a short distance from the highway, Mr Matthyssen bowls a tennis ball to Lou. The reunited pair have plenty to catch up on and there are still more journeys to be had on the road ahead. Including a cricket game next year.