A PAIR of dogs have survived ‘by the skin of their teeth’ after going missing for four weeks on a rain-lashed fell.

Four-year-old Patterdale Terrier sisters Molly and Jess defied the odds to survive one of the wettest months the area has ever seen, after going missing on Whitbarrow Scar, near Witherslack.

Owners Michael and Yvonne Sunderland, who said they were ‘ecstatic’ to have their pets back, admitted they had feared the worst after desperate searches of the area proved fruitless.

“We’ve had posters up, we’ve ‘phoned vets and Michael went up there every day for eight days after they went missing – but there wasn’t trace of them,” said Yvonne.

“Then we got a ‘phone call saying Jess had been found and then a bit later they said Molly turned up as well. I’ve been grinning from ear to ear ever since!”

The dogs, which were abandoned on the streets of north Manchester as puppies, were hungry, thirsty and suffering cuts and bruises when they were found by a Forestry Commission ranger just yards from where they went missing.

Molly also had an injury to her throat – believed to have been sustained while protecting her sister.

The ranger contacted the Gazette after seeing an appeal for information, and a member of staff broke the news to the Heysham couple.

“We’d given up,” said Yvonne. “Or at least I’d packed their bowls away because it was too sad seeing them – but they’re back. It’s just amazing.”

Before the dogs were found last Friday, they had not been seen since January 16. Two dogs were heard near to Little Moss Farm, in the Lyth Valley, on January 17, although there were no sightings.

The area has seen 43 consecutive days of rain, wind speeds of up to 73mph and, at one point, a minus nine wind chill.

So far in 2014 279.2mm of rain has been recorded – equivalent to 10 inches in just six weeks.

Vet Gerard Winnard, of Westmorland Veterinary Group, said the dogs would have suffered on the fell.

“It’s not like being pampered at home where you have your food put down and you go for a walk and get towelled,” he said.

“It’s much tougher and they’ll have been much more at risk of disease.”

He said that Patterdale Terriers were ‘hardy’ animals and could have scavenged for food, such as rabbits or mice.

He also said they would have had few predators to contend with, and it would have been a ‘foolish’ fox that tried to attack them.

But the average lifespan of a wild dog was about half that of a domestic dog.

“That tells you how difficult it will have been for them,” he said.

“The weather’s been awful and they’ve done well to survive. They’ve pulled through by the skin of their teeth really.”

Mr and Mrs Sunderland adopted the dogs from Animal Care in Lancaster shortly after they were abandoned in Rochdale.

Molly has always been ‘protective’ of her sister – and Yvonne believes it was that instinct that might have led to her sustaining the throat injury.

On Saturday, Yvonne had to leave for a holiday in Italy – but said she would ‘Skype’ and ‘Facetime’ the dogs while she was away.