Bertie is a fluffy, snugly, lovable pooch who adores attention and hates to be alone.
He’s just 10 months old and is a small dog – he’s a Coton de Tulear (similar to a Maltese) – who normally weighs about 11 pounds.
But his family has now dubbed him “Bertie the Wonder Dog” after the little guy survived 11 days on Abbotsford’s Sumas Mountain – an area roamed by coyotes and which has had numerous cougar and bobcat sightings over the years.
Owner Alix Gray and her husband (who doesn’t want his name published due to his line of work) are still amazed that Bertie was located safe and sound on Tuesday afternoon.
“We are still in awe of our little survivor,” Gray said.
Bertie’s adventure began on Friday, Jan. 18, when he was off-leash with his dog walker – Gray and her husband were at work for the day – along a trail in Sumas Mountain Regional Park.
Bertie became separated and, when the dog walker noticed he was gone, she spent a long while trying to locate him before calling Gray, who rushed to the scene.
Gray spotted Bertie in the distance, in a forested area, and blew her whistle and called him, but he ran away.
She notified her husband, who also showed up, and the trio – along with Gray’s sister – spent hours trying to locate Bertie, to no avail.
They left the scene when darkness fell and the parking lot gates were closed, but Gray’s husband returned later to spend the night in his vehicle. He called for Bertie and listened for sounds, hoping that the pooch would turn up, but there were no sightings of him.
That weekend, the couple’s two kids stayed with their grandparents, while the pair again staked out the area and spent the night in their vehicle.
At one point, Gray came across a website for Petsearchers Canada, which is described as a “pet detective and bloodhound tracking service committed to the task of reuniting lost and stolen pets with their families.”
Gray contacted the Surrey-based company and spoke with owner Al MacLellan, who told her that even if they spotted Bertie, he would likely continue to run away from them because he was in survival mode.
MacLellan suggested they not go looking for Bertie, but wait for Bertie to instead come to them. He reassured them that a dog could survive the conditions, and as long there was no evidence to the contrary, they shouldn’t give up hope.
He set up multiple cameras in the area and four live traps that would enclose Bertie if he grabbed at the rigged-up piece of meat inside. MacLellan also displayed numerous highly visible “missing pet” posters around the traps and in the general area.
Meanwhile, word about Bertie’s disappearance was making the rounds on social media after the couple posted about it on a Facebook page for their neighbourhood, and the post, which included their cellphone numbers, was shared multiple times.
Over the next several days, numerous people came out to help the couple in the search for Bertie, while others sent them encouraging messages and phone calls.
Gray’s husband continued to stay at the site most nights and was joined, or replaced by, family members and friends.
Bertie didn’t appear for any of them, but he was spotted on Jan. 23 around noon by a jogger on an access road to the Squid Line trail and the following day around 2 p.m. by a driver on the main road going up the mountain.
Bertie also showed up in one video clip – also during the day – as he was walking along the road. The footage also captured coyotes at various times, but this information was not shared with the couple until after Bertie was caught.
A troubling setback occurred on Monday (Jan. 28), when vandals ripped up all the posters and threw the four traps down a ravine.
Gray said this was the point when they started to lose hope, but MacLellan encouraged them to keep going.
Her husband climbed down the ravine and retrieved the broken traps. He and his dad fixed one of them, using an arm of a pair of sunglasses, and set it up with some fresh meat.
On Tuesday afternoon, Gray received a phone call from a Shaw cable worker who was driving in the area.
He told her that Bertie was in a trap on the service road. Gray couldn’t believe it, and asked the man if he could stay with Bertie until she got there. She then phoned her husband, and they drove to the scene separately, each arriving to find a group of people surrounding Bertie’s cage.
Three women who had heard about Bertie had gone to the area to help look for him, and discovered that he had already been trapped.
Gray’s husband arrived first, and she was next. Bertie began whining and jumping when he spotted the couple, and it was an emotional scene.
“I was in shock. My husband was in shock. We both started crying immediately,” Gray said.
Bertie was thin and scruffy but otherwise seemed in good health. A trip to the vet’s that night confirmed he had lost about two pounds, and he is now taking medication for his kidneys and liver, but he should make a full recovery.
Gray describes Bertie as the “sweetest, kindest” dog they have ever had and who has a “gentle soul.” She said they went to such measures to get him back because he is an integral part of their family.
“We knew he was there and we would not – and could not – leave him out there without doing absolutely everything we could to try to help him come home,” she said.
“He is more than a dog to us – he is absolutely a family member.”
The couple also said they are grateful for the knowledge of MacLellan and are overwhelmed by the support from the community – from people who came out to help search for Bertie to the messages and phone calls they received.
“We have never felt more connected to our community and our friends and our family, and our lost dog has become a found faith in the kindness and goodness of people,” Gray said.