Inner City Youth Alive group finds lost dog at Gem Lake

Story courtesy of the Selkirk Journal (by John Towns), www.selkirkjournal.com

Losing a pet is one of the most disheartening things for any animal owner, but when your dog runs off into the remote Manitoba forest, hours away from home, all you can do is hold out hope that somehow you’ll be reunited with your pet. Sometimes, that hope pays off.

Over the May long weekend, East Selkirk’s Dana Hoffman went on a camping and fishing trip with her boyfriend at Beresford Lake in Nopiming Provincial Park. Accompanying them was their one-and-a-half year-old border collie, Tina, who disappeared into the bush.

Two weeks and 15 kilometres away from where she was lost, Tina was found – a little worse for wear, but as of Monday she was safely back in the hands of her owners.

After Tina took off into the wilderness on the fishing trip, Hoffman and her boyfriend searched for the dog for about three hours, but to no avail. They decided to continue fishing in the same area, hoping that Tina had just wandered off to chase squirrels and would return, but there was no sign of the dog by the time bad weather started to set in and the pair were forced to return to camp.

“By then it looked like it was starting to get dark, and we knew that we had about a two-hour ride back down to where we were camping, so we thought we should head back,” Hoffman explained. “We wanted to make sure we got back to camp safely – we didn’t have any safety gear with us other than life jackets, and it had started to cloud over.”

According to Hoffman, they returned to their camp, alerting other campers and Manitoba Conservation officers to keep an eye out for the missing animal. No signs of Tina were found by the end of the weekend, however, and Hoffman was forced to return home to East Selkirk – some 200 kilometres from where Tina was lost.

“Everyone was saying that she would turn up, but I didn’t know, because she’s kind of skittish to begin with, so if something spooked her she could be gone in any direction,” said Hoffman. “We were hoping she would head back toward civilization and someone would find her.”

Hoffman says she then set about launching a campaign to alert people in the area about a missing black-and-white dog. Posters were put up in Manitoba Conservation offices around the area, as well as at some area businesses in Bissett. Hoffman says she even went as far as going on a Manitoba fishing website to post a notice for anglers heading out to the area to keep their eyes open for Tina.

“I left a bunch of notes in all the conservation offices, we left some notes in the fish cleaning stations, we told everyone around there. We even went into Bissett, which was about 40 kms out of our way, but we knew there was a big store there that a lot of people went in to,” explained Hoffman. “We were just hoping someone would spot her and give us a call.”

Almost two weeks had passed with no sightings of Tina when Hoffman got a phone call from an area river guide name Charlie Simard, who said he had spotted a dog that may have been Hoffman’s on an island in the middle of Gem Lake – 15 kms south of Beresford Lake where Tina had been lost. According to Hoffman, Simard had attempted to feed and catch the dog, but she was so skittish at that point that Simard couldn’t get anywhere near her.

Simard then told Hoffman of a Winnipeg-based group called Inner City Youth Alive who would have people in the area of Gem Lake over the next few weeks, and may be able to look out for Tina. Hoffman got in touch with the group, who agreed to keep an eye out for the dog.

After a day, the group called and said they had no luck in finding Tina, but said they would continue to look. Hoffman also decided to make the trip to Gem Lake to see if maybe the dog would respond to a familiar voice.

“I thought that if I went up there myself and tried calling for her maybe she would recognize my voice and come out from wherever she was,” said Hoffman, who along with her 11- and 14-year-old daughters packed up and headed for the lake. “We basically walked around the island for two or three hours, and found nothing. She wasn’t coming out.”

Hoffman was on her way back home to East Selkirk when one of the Inner City Youth Alive members saw what he thought was a duck or a loon in the middle of the lake. Only when he got closer did he realize it was, in fact, the dog. Hoffman theorizes that perhaps Tina heard her and her daughters calling and was swimming out to find them.

The Inner City Youth Alive group eventually lured Tina in with food before finally capturing her. They called Hoffman to let her know the good news.

“(Getting that phone call) was excellent,” said Hoffman. “It was such a relief that they got her.”

The group eventually brought Tina back to Hoffman on their way into Winnipeg on Monday night. Being reunited with the dog was an “awesome” moment, Hoffman said.

“As soon as she saw me, she started wagging her tail and they said that was the first time they’d seen her wag her tail since they’d gotten her,” she said. “We were so happy to get her back after two weeks alone in the bush.”

According to Hoffman, Tina was quite a bit slimmer than when she had seen her last, but apart from that and some wood ticks, she was no worse for wear and has been recovering well.

“(On Tuesday) she was just kind of hiding and sleeping a lot. But (by Wednesday) she was a lot better – she was lying on the couch and playing with me and our other puppy, and she’s doing pretty well,” said Hoffman. “We’re just so glad she’s back.”