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Home at last: Pets who were lost—then found

Home at last: Pets who were lost—then found

9 min read

Heartwarming true stories of pets who went missing and were lost but eventually found their way home

Trial by fire

Sedze the dog
Few senior dogs are as energetic as 13-year-old Sedze, a white and beige Shih Tzu whose name means “my heart” in the Dogrib language, spoken by the Tlicho First Nation. Aptly so, as Sedze has been a beloved member of the Yellowknife-based Cumming family since she was eight weeks old. Despite being in her golden years, Sedze can still keep up with Axel, the family’s nine-year-old German shepherd, on long walks. “Our vet always comments on what good shape she’s in,” says her owner, Louise Cumming, a collections officer for Housing Northwest Territories. “She’s a real trooper kind of a dog.”
In August 2023, the little Shih Tzu’s resilient spirit went through a real-life trial by fire. On August 13, Louise and her husband, Shannon, were shopping for non-perishables and packing up their camping gear in anticipation of an evacuation order. A massive wildfire 22 miles west of the city was getting dangerously close and officials were monitoring its path.
Over the previous three months, Canada had been dealing with its worst wildfire season on record. In all, more than 6,600 wildfires were recorded in the country in 2023— 1,000 more than the ten-year average.
On August 16, the evacuation order came and Yellowknife’s 20,000 residents were instructed to leave the city. At 9:15pm, Louise, along with her husband, daughter-in-law and her daughter-in-law’s best friend, hopped into two cars and a truck with their pets: Sedze, Axel, a husky named Rhea, a cat named Copernicus and a chihuahua named Choco. Along with their clothes, phones and laptops, they made their way onto the Mackenzie Highway, heading south toward Alberta (Louise’s son, who worked at a diamond mine in the North Slave Region, was to rendezvous with the group later).
Their destination was an evacuation centre in High Level, a town about seven hours away in northern Alberta, but heavy traffic slowed them down and thick smoke made it hard to see. “The drive seemed to take forever...but once we finally got through the fire, the relief was amazing,” says Louise.
"It was the greatest feeling when she was sled-dogging it toward us"
After driving all night, the exhausted group set up camp near the Deh Cho bridge—137 miles from the Alberta border—to sleep for two hours before hitting the road again at 8am. But 20 minutes into the second half of their journey, one of Louise’s worst nightmares came to life: the group realised that Sedze was not in any of their vehicles. She was missing.
The group sped back to their campsite, believing they may have accidentally left Sedze there. But there was no sign of her. They flagged down passersby, desperately asking if anyone had seen a small Shih Tzu, to no avail.
Though Louise tried to stay positive, deep down she feared the worst: either a wild animal had killed Sedze or she had drowned in the nearby Mackenzie River. After searching for 30 minutes, Louise and the others continued the journey south, heartbroken but still holding out hope for a miracle.
Later that evening, the group finally arrived in High Level. Louise called her daughter, Jilaine, who lives in Calgary, and broke the news. Ten minutes after they hung up, Jilaine called back with a shocking update.
A man named Ryan Snyder had posted about a dog he found wandering out of the bush near the Deh Cho bridge on the Facebook group Yellowknife Lost/Found Pets. The dog looked exactly like Sedze!
Louise quickly got on the phone with Ryan and confirmed Sedze’s identity with a description of a faux pink flower attached to her collar. Sedze was alive and well. And as it turns out, Ryan had also evacuated to High Level: while speaking to each other on the phone, they discovered that they were standing on opposite sides of the same baseball field.
“It was the greatest feeling when he brought her over on her leash and she was sled-dogging it toward us,” she says. Today, Louise still marvels at their luck that Ryan found Sedze and reunited her with her family.
Three weeks later, on September 6, the order was lifted and the group returned to their homes in Yellowknife. “If my house had burned to the ground, I could have replaced it,” Louise says. “But you can’t replace your family.”

Spooky the stowaway

Chylisse Marchand, her daughters and Spooky the cat with truck driver Jack Shao
Like many other families in the summer of 2020, Chylisse Marchand and her school-aged daughters, Shay and Alli, spent their days at home. Chylisse’s driver’s licence had been suspended after she suffered a seizure, so regardless of the pandemic, they wouldn’t have been able to venture far from their home in the small town of Redvers, Saskatchewan. One of their pets, however, wasn’t tied down by the circumstances, and managed to take an international journey.
Spooky, one of the family’s black cats, has an independent personality. He and his brother, Licorice, had joined the family as kittens in 2013. The cats lived indoors during the frigid Saskatchewan winters. “But the moment spring hit, they loved going outside,” Chylisse says.
Initially, Chylisse wasn’t terribly concerned when Spooky didn’t return from an evening jaunt on July 22. “I thought he would turn up in one of our sheds,” she recalls. “That said, we do live close to the highway, so I was a bit nervous that maybe he’d been hit by a vehicle.”
As it turned out, Spooky had climbed into the engine bay of a parked articulated lorry. When the truck departed, Spooky became a stowaway. Somehow, he remained unharmed in that cramped space full of wires and hoses while the vehicle drove 143 miles southwest to Tioga, North Dakota, then northeast to Manitoba, then back down to North Dakota again.
The following night, July 23, the truck’s driver opened the bonnet to perform a routine maintenance check. A pair of glowing eyes stared up, startling him. His unexpected passenger was wearing a rabies vaccination tag that listed the phone number for a veterinary practice in Redvers, Saskatchewan, called Head for the Hills.
"Spooky had crossed the American border when it was closed to nearly everyone else "
meanwhile, there were lots of tears in Chylisse’s home. “My daughters were freaking out,” she says. “Spooky meant the world to us.” He had been missing for about 24 hours when the kids went to bed on July 23. It was late that evening when Chylisse received a call from Spooky’s vet, who told her the missing cat had been found in North Dakota by a trucker named Jack Shao. The vet gave Chylisse Jack’s phone number; she called him immediately.
“He sounded flustered,” she recalls. “He’s an awesome guy, but he’s not a cat person and he didn’t know what to do with this animal.”
Fortunately, Jack’s route would take him back through Redvers the next day. To keep Spooky safe and calm on the trip back home, Jack placed him inside a box with a small opening for airflow.
On July 24, a friend gave Chylisse, Shay and Alli a lift to the local Co-op, where Jack had agreed to meet them. “As the truck pulled up, my girls were beaming,” Chylisse says. “As for me, I just wanted to hug him.”
Besides feeling grateful for a stranger’s kindness, Chylisse was amused that Spooky had crossed the American border at a time when it was closed to everyone except essential traffic. “And the fact that he held out for so long under the truck is unbelievable,” she adds.
As an artist, Chylisse had a collection of her own original artworks, so she gave Jack a print of an old red truck as a symbol of her gratitude to him.
Upon returning home, Spooky was a little skittish at first, but soon his usual temperament resurfaced. Nowadays, Spooky and Licorice don’t tend to wander far from home. “I don’t know if Spooky learned from his experience or if it’s because the cats are getting old,” she says. “They stay close to the deck and take in the prairie sunset.”

Police pup 

Rosie the border collie
Bang! Somewhere, hidden from view in leafy Southfields Park, Loughborough, someone set off fireworks. After hearing the loud noise, ten-year-old border collie Rosie, who was running around off-leash, ran back towards her owner, Steve Harper.
It was late in the afternoon on Friday, November 4, 2022, and there would be even more fireworks on Saturday for Guy Fawkes Night. “Kids let off bangers for about a week before and a week after,” says Steve’s wife, Julie, who was at home while Steve, Rosie and their English pointer, Laser, were at the park near their home.
Bang! Another round of fireworks. Rosie always cowers during thunderstorms (and, strangely, upon hearing the ominous theme music to the BBC TV game show Mastermind, Julie says). For safety reasons, the family had trained Rosie to return to them when she was frightened in public situations.
When the Harpers adopted Rosie from a rescue shelter in 2014, they were told that they were Rosie’s third owners but learned little else about her past. Julie had seen a picture of the black-and-white dog posted on social media by a shelter, looking skinny and staring into the camera.
After seeing the picture, Julie told herself that Laser, just one year old at the time, was lonely. “I persuaded my husband that Laser needed a sister,” she says. Julie and Steve raised five boys and she admits that, as an empty nester, she loves having “something to baby.”
The couple and Laser piled into the car and made a seven-hour round trip to pick up Rosie from the shelter in seaside Woolacombe.
"The voice on the phone asked if she was the owner of a black-and-white dog. 'She’s just turned herself in' "
Rosie was easily startled by loud sounds and was nervous around men when she first arrived, but soon fell in love with the Harpers’ sons and bonded with Steve. Julie calls Rosie “absolutely adorable,” with a fondness for chasing squirrels, and her balls and toys.
But Rosie’s fear of loud noises never went away. After the second bang on that Friday afternoon, she took off and quickly disappeared from sight. Steve knew looking for her and dealing with Laser at the same time would be impossible, so he called Julie to tell her what had happened. He planned to make the 15-minute walk home to drop off the younger dog and come right back to search for Rosie.
At home, Julie hung up and had less than five minutes to begin worrying when her phone rang again. The voice on the other end asked if she was the owner of a black-and-white dog. “She’s just turned herself in,” they said.
Rosie walked into a police station
The caller was only half kidding. The Loughborough Police Station is on the other side of a hedge at the edge of the park. Rosie had likely dashed under the hedge and walked through the automatic sliding doors of the police station.
Closed-circuit television showed Rosie walking into the waiting room, nosing around for a few seconds, and politely seating herself at the end of a row of chairs. A few minutes later, staff emerged, gave her some water and a few cuddles, and called Julie, whose phone number was on Rosie’s collar.
Julie thinks she knows why Rosie knew just where to settle: the waiting room chairs at the police station closely resemble those at the local vet. “I presume she saw the chairs and thought, Oh, this is what I do. I sit and wait.”
When Steve returned with Laser, Julie told him the news and he headed back out to fetch Rosie from the station. The dog was overjoyed to see him. And when the two finally arrived home, safe and sound, Julie says Rosie got “lots of cuddles and a few biscuits.” 
Banner photo by: Jaime Hogge
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