Inuvik Journal

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Lost and Found

Hi all:

Early this morning I packed up the jeep and the dog and went down the Dempster about 50 kilometres to do some target shooting. A typical Sunday morning really. As we drove down the highway, I sipped on coffee from my thermos and listened to CBC radio while Ripley sat next to me and watched the world go by.

It was a nice morning - calm and about minus 15 degrees, the sun was just coming up as I drove down the highway.

Once I got to my usual target practice spot, I let the dog out to run around while I set up my target and loaded the rifle. I fired two or three shots, and checked to make sure the dog was out of the way before I fired any more. He was no where to be seen! I looked around until I spotted his trail. Apparently he had bolted up the little side road I was on, across the highway and into the bush on the east side of the Dempster. The dog completely ignored my calls. He was gone.

I unloaded and stowed the rifle and started in following his tracks. Before too long I realized that I was not in a good situation. I had hiked about four kilometres into the bush (in about 50 centimetres of snow) without any gear or supplies. My calls to the dog must have fell on deaf ears because he was no where to be found. I decided to end the search and returned to the jeep on the highway.

I made the drive back to town trying to figure out the best way to search for the dog, but given the geography and the conditions, the only real way was to do what I had been doing - follow his trail. The one thing that worried me is that at about the three kilometre mark I picked up the trail of what was proably a Lynx. It looked like the Lynx was tailing the dog - probably looking for an easy meal - but it's impossible to say for sure. The Lynx trail was fresh, but it could have been laid before the dog was in the area - who knows.

Once I returned home - I got some gear together and recruited a second searcher - Lorie. We let a neighbor know where we were going and why - just for that margin of safety in case we got lost too. We set off down the highway this time armed with a copuple of GPS's, appropriate clothing, and some high energy snack foods.

Once we reached the spot where Ripley bolted, we headed into the bush. It was hard going and it was chilly too. Before long both of us were huffing and puffing, and frost began to form on all our clothing. Ripley had been out in this for well over two hours at this point and I wasn't sure if he could survive the cold, and possibly being hunted by a wild cat. He was a house dog, entirely oblivious to the dangers of being in the bush, alone, in Canada's arctic.

Lorie started to get really tired (in truth I was too - the going was very difficult), so I agreed to go on ahead, but only on condition that she kept calling for the dog. That way I would always hear where she was, and I could cover a little more ground. After another half hour, she was starting to lag behind too much for comfort, so I held up for a while until I could hear her calls again. I used the time to look at the trail I was following, and after some examination, I concluded that the dog was getting tired - the footfalls were closer together and the snow was increasingly more disturbed - it was obvious that he was dragging himself through the bush rather than just running along. I kind of figured that he might be just up ahead, resting. We had come over six kilometres, and I wasn't sure how much further it was safe to go. We still had the trek back out of the bush to consider and the daylight doesn't last to long this time of year. And this bush was dense growth of willows and alders - a real nightmare for walking.

I hadn't heard from Lorie in some time, so I started calling out to her. Finally I got a faint reply in the distance. I couldn't make out what she was saying, so I backtracked a little until I could hear her more clearly. What she was saying was, "I GOT HIM!".

The dog had apparenlty looped back to answer her calls and he had found her. He was none the worse for wear - except maybe a little cold. We had a quick reunion and a small snack, but we were all more than a little tired, so we started the trek back out to the highway. A couple of hours later we were all back home safe and sound. I had walked about 20 kilometres, Lorie had walked about 12, and as for Ripley, well he's curled up and sleeping, he doesn't have much to say about the experience.

I guess you have to find the positive in everything. In this case I didn't get much target shooting done, but at least I got lots of exercise and a decent story for the blog. It's a better story than my first experience curling Friday night. I guess I'll do that one another time.



  • Hey, it is good to see you back on here. Really missed the things you have to say. Hope to see you both when you are here in NL.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:35 PM  

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