For more than six days, Mick LeCocguen thought his best mate was gone.
Times had already been tough for the ACT Parks and Conservation Service firefighter, who has been battling blood cancer.
Now in remission, he was due to head to Queensland for a holiday. Then Jess, his blue heeler companion of nine years, vanished on September 14.
Mr LeCocguen initially thought his dog had been stolen, but as he tried to track her down, a remarkable story of survival unfolded instead.
"She never made a sound until this afternoon," a relieved Mr LeCocguen said on Friday afternoon.
"She just let out one bark, then two barks and I thought, 'What the hell, she's here somewhere'.
"When she barked again I flew out of the shed and waited.
"She was underneath the road in a bloody culvert."
The Tidbinbilla man said Jess must have chased a rabbit or a wombat into the culvert and then been unable to free herself.
Incredibly, despite spending nearly six-and-a-half days in the culvert, Jess was in good spirits when Mr LeCocguen found and freed her.
"She's a bit bloody shaggy on the legs, and she's rubbed raw in a couple of places from the gravel, but she's drinking and she looks pretty happy," he said.
"It's just unreal."
Crucially, Mr LeCocguen delayed his trip to Queensland, meaning he was home to find Jess when he would otherwise have left on holiday the day before she turned up.
Now reunited with his four-legged friend, Mr LeCocguen is ready to take his well-earned holiday.
"My word I am [taking Jess to Queensland]," he said.
"She needs a good bath and then she'll be right.
"She's my best mate. Everywhere I go, she's there. She's always behind me. She's faithful as."
Mr LeCocguen's trip comes shortly before the start of Canberra's bushfire season, which is due to commence on October 1.
He plans to take a break from the frontlines this year, but he knows the power of bushfires all too well, having spent about 25 years fighting them.
Canberra's devastating 2003 fires even cost Mr LeCocguen his former home at Pierces Creek Settlement.
He said you couldn't compare the feeling of fighting fires to fighting serious health battles.
"Firefighting, you don't think about getting scared," Mr LeCocguen said.
"You can't, because you have to have your mind on the job all the time and it happens very quickly.
"The battle I've had with this bloody health issue has been really, really hard.
"It knocks you. It really does. Not so much mentally, because I've got a really strong man's attitude, but physically. I was determined, and I still am, that it will not get me down."
A distinctly Aussie bloke, Mr LeCocguen has a simple and positive outlook that he's managed to maintain through the tough times.
"We're not gonna last for-bloody-ever," he said.
"If you're worried about dying, it's going to be a pretty bad bloody life, isn't it?
"You've just got to get on with it. Live life."
Now Mr LeCocguen is ready to live life again with his best mate back by his side.