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Emaciated pet survives -20 C, no food in his search for South Shuswap home

Dog’s owner nearly gives up hope after more than two weeks of searching mountain
Bruce, a Mastiff mix living in Blind Bay, lost a lot of weight during his three weeks alone on Mt. Baldy, but a veterinarian told his family when he was found Dec. 9 that he’s Ok otherwise. (Photo contributed)

Bruce is back and his humans are beside themselves with joy.

Bruce is a much-loved, somewhat famous, three-year-old Mastiff mix breed.

His life in the South Shuswap’s Blind Bay has been good and fairly routine until about three weeks ago.

On Saturday, Nov. 19, Bruce’s owner Jodi Townend and a friend took their dogs for a walk. Her friend walks his own as well as other people’s dogs and they regularly hike with them up Mt. Baldy near Sorrento.

Along the way, Bruce and two other dogs took off and didn’t return.

Townend and her friend waited and waited, with no sign of the missing trio.

They decided to go home, pick up dog beds, food and water, and leave them at the base of the mountain, in hopes the dogs would come back and stay nearby.

Townend kept going back that night with no success. When she returned Sunday morning, it looked like all three beds had been slept in.

Then Askum, an older mastiff and one of the missing three, appeared out of the bush at the base of the mountain. He was alone.

Excited, Townend and her friend waited and then hiked, searching for the remaining two. Later that day a friend called to say there was blood by the dish and some of the food was gone.

When Townend arrived Monday morning, the second dog, Saba, must have heard her truck, because she was right there. But still no Bruce.

“I was praying, third day, third dog, but it never was,” she said. “We tried and tried.”

One day with the help of friends they went up and hiked the bush for six-and-a-half hours. She had already put her story on Facebook, so many people had been watching for Bruce. But there were no sightings; everyone was losing hope.

On Dec. 7, after nearly three weeks, Townend suddenly decided she had to go up to the mountain and make peace.

“I had to – ‘I have to just give it to God,’” she thought. “I have to get over this – it was tearing me apart. I let it go, I was going to move on.”

She went home and later went upstairs. There she discovered a message from a man who said he had been hiking Mt. Baldy and had seen her dog. As it turned out, he had recently lost his dog for three weeks and found her in Pritchard.

“He kept saying, ‘don’t give up, don’t give up hope.’”

Read more: Dog reunited with Penticton owners after being lost five months in the Shuswap

Read more: Big Christmas boxes in Salmon Arm await food, supplies for BC SPCA

The next day, Dec. 8, she had an excited call from a friend who lives near the bottom of the hill saying, ‘He’s here, he’s here.’ Her friend’s daughter even took photos of Bruce, proof he was alive. But they weren’t able to catch him.

Then Townend received a call that a dog was running across the bottom of Elson Road onto Highway 1. Traffic was stopped and drivers were honking. By the time she could get there, he was gone.

In the middle of the night someone messaged her. They had seen Bruce running behind the chiropractor’s office in Sorrento. She was thinking he could then head onto Blind Bay Road and find his way home.

At this point she was talking to him, telling him to go to somebody’s house he could trust.

In the morning – now Dec. 9 – she received a call from a friend of her oldest daughter, where Bruce had visited from time to time but not a lot.

‘He’s here, he’s in the house,’ she told Townend.

Townend and her family jumped into the car and were there just before 8 a.m.

“The reunion, I’ve never had anything like that happen, it was so beautiful.”

“He knew us right away, he was so excited.”

They immediately took him to the veterinarian who, aside from Bruce’s extreme weight loss, gave him a clean bill of health.

He had no frost bite, despite being a short-haired dog who was outside in near -20 C temperatures.

“How he survived, we have no idea… We’re thinking we should call him Bruce Almighty,” she smiled.

Bruce as a puppy when he first made his home in Blind Bay. (Photo contributed)
Bruce as a puppy when he first made his home in Blind Bay. (Photo contributed)

She emphasized how much she appreciates all the help from so many people.

Townend owns Divine Nail Design in Blind Bay and explained that her customers love him. Sometimes he looks in their purses for a treat.

Now he won’t get off the couch, she says.

“He’s got his spot on the couch and that’s where he’s staying. Today he’s had so many visitors, coming by and bringing him treats. It’s like we’ve had a new baby,” she laughed.

Townend said she’s sure her kids are sick of hearing her say that all they wanted for Christmas was to get Bruce back.

The whole experience has not been without benefit, however. She said she’s learned from it.

“My moral is, never give up. And ask for help when you need it.”
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Bruce, during better days, before he was lost for three weeks. (Photo contributed)

Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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