On Sunday February 22nd Janna and her sister Leanne were out walking in the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve with the dogs (our two B&T Coonhounds and Leanne’s Sheltie). The Reserve is a vast track of North Cascade Wilderness bounded to the South by North Vancouver and the District of North Vancouver, to the East, West, and North lie hundreds of kilometers of British Columbia wilderness). Alabama was having a perfect walk charging back to every whistle and call, living up to the perfect score Maureen had just awarded her in her recently completed Street Smarts Basic Obedience with K9 Kinship.
About 20 minutes from the parking lot at the junction of Homestead Trail and Fisherman's Trail. Alabama picked up the scent of a creature and charged up and over the ridge heading towards Rice Lake. Kentucky (our other Black and Tan Coonhound) went off to get Alabama. Kentucky could be heard telling Alabama to come. Alabama’s “yarp” kept fading further and further away then nothing could be heard. Kentucky’s “woos” followed for some time, then stopped. Soon Kentucky came back panting and frothing at the mouth. Janna and Leanne retraced the surrounding trails calling with hope falling. I got a call at home and dropped everything, made posters and headed up the mountain. We hung posters, talked to the Ranger and waited. When the park closed at dusk we had no choice but to leave Alabama in the dark on the mountain. Kentucky cried and we cried driving away.
Monday morning first thing we packed our gear, some food and headed back up to Seymour. We checked in with the Ranger who had sent e-mails to everyone who worked up there. He had gone out numerous times in the night and called for Alabama. He gave us permission to access restricted areas in the reserve and we headed out. Starting at the ridge were Alabama disappeared we too went up and over. Kentucky tracked, we followed, and noted that there were fresh deer droppings everywhere on the ridge. This was not good news. Squirrels and raccoons go up then Bama would stop, deer just keep going. Janna and I covered many kilometers of trail and bush. Kentucky is tracking trained through K9 Kinship and she gave no indication of picking up Alabama’s scent, though not for lack of trying. Kentucky was very focused: she air scented every valley. crevasse, creek bed and breeze, she surface checked every branch, twig and creek crossing the trail, dug down and into every recess in the snow ... she worked hard all day, six hours and 15 kms of hard terrain. The park closed and again we left with heavy hearts. More posters were printed that evening.
After another night with little sleep we were up early Tuesday morning. The plan was to start with postering and another visit to the Ranger and head towards Rice Lake then Riverside Drive, the most populated area and the one Km. stretch of the Ridge perimeter that we hadn’t covered the day before - even though Kentucky had indicated, on cresting the ridge, that that one km was the way to go, we’d made the decision to rule out the worse case scenario vast wilderness perimeter on the first and best weather day. Then the phone rang! Janna charged to get it. On the other end of the line was Alabama’s savior.
It seems Alabama crossed from the Seymour River to Lynn Creek and followed the trails in Lynn Canyon Park (most of which we have hiked, one segment at a time, with both her and Kentucky proceeding down well over 30 kms from where she was last seen. I can imagine her checking every Trail-head parking lot we have ever used. She showed up at Save On Foods across Brooksbank Avenue, at the Park N Tilford Mall. This would mean she’d gone down to Bridgeman off-leash dog park at the foot of Lynn Creek, no doubt she stopped at the foot bridge to check on the creatures that live underneath - one of her favourite casual scenting spots - and then used the safe under-the-highway under pass for dogs and pedestrians! Alabama’s savior, Tonia, was doing some shopping before work and she saw a shivering, scared dog who wouldn't come to a construction worker who was trying to get her. “Saint Tonia” had the presence of mind to open the door of her SUV (pupmobile) and slowly follow Alabama. Bama decided correctly that this nice lady with a Chuckit, dog treats, blankets and who looked remarkably like her foster mom in Louisiana was good people and tried to haul herself in. She was too weak to get up but by trying was ready to commit so Tonia hefted her in, toweled her, gave her a snack, wrapped her in blankets and called Janna from the number on Alabama's tag. We met at Tonia's work parking lot were Alabama gobbled down a breakfast of raw meat and went to sleep in the Jeep. She is tired, lost a bit of weight, her feet are swollen and her pads a bit torn but she will make a full recovery.
Tonia’s dog went missing and was returned a few years back and she felt it was good Karma to be able to return the good deed. She refused the reward we were prepared to offer for Alabama’s return saying it would be bad karma. We agree and in the sprit of keeping the good Karma flowing have donated the reward money in Tonia’s name to the AB&TC Rescue since they saved Alabama the first time.
Otter, Janna, Kentucky and Alabama
(We at Rescue hope that everyone who reads this story will make sure that their dog is wearing an ID tag.)