Several years ago, a Bernese Mountain Dog became a local news story. The dog, named Ohly, had bolted from a parking lot of a skihill on a North Vancouver mountain. His disappearance was posted on Facebook, and soon searchers fanned out over the entire area searching for him. People hiked the mountainside, posted flyers, even cooked bacon in the area, hoping the smell would enchant him and draw him out of hiding. There were sightings now and then, but he was in flight mode, and wouldn’t come to anyone. Ohly is nervous of men that he doesn’t know anyway, so that didn’t help matters. Over the course of two weeks, he made his way into a remote and extremely treacherous area of the mountain, known as Suicide Gully. Out of concern for the searchers who might wander into the same high-risk area, the North Vancouver Search & Rescue team were deployed, and after some aerial searching, they spotted Ohly, and prepared a plan to go in and get him. Thousands of followers were tracking progress on Facebook, and Ohly’s owners created a crowdfunding campaign to cover the costs incurred by the rescue team. Many of us donated what we could, and quickly covered the costs, plus some extra which was put into a fund for the next potential dog rescue required on the mountain.
Finally, two weeks after he first went missing, Ohly’s owner was airlifted in and when Ohly came to him (after a bit of convincing), he was strapped to a harness and lifted to safety. Sweet Ohly was a local celebrity, and aside from losing weight, he survived his ordeal unscathed.
Three years later (to the day!), Ohly was in his new house with a relative, and he bolted out the door. It was late November, and the family had just moved to the house from a nearby neighbourhood. We saw a posting on Facebook that Ohly was on the run again, and that evening I took Bea out for a long walk in the area with a reported sighting. For a week we went out every day, sometimes several times, along with several other searchers. There were a few days we had searched for an hour or two during the day, and I just couldn’t take Bea on an evening walk in our neighbourhood—instead, we would jump in the car and head back to the area where poor Ohly was roaming the streets. My father had passed away earlier in the year, and one of the days we spent searching was his birthday—he was an animal lover, and it seemed an appropriate way to spend the first birthday without him. The whole ordeal was a little strange for me, because from the first day I thought okay, Bea and I will find this guy. I had a whole plan: I carried an extra leash and a large pack of smelly treats, and when we saw him, I figured I would scatter treats and let Bea out to the end of her leash to eat them, hoping that would catch his attention. The two dogs were from the same breeder and had met before (and we realized afterwards that they are actually niece and uncle), so I thought that may make him more likely to approach as well. I was prepared to lay flat on the ground if it helped, anything to get that boy close. We searched and we searched, but no dice.
Finally, a week after he had first escaped, it was pouring rain and Bea was wiped out from a long Ohly search early in the day. I wanted to go back and check at a park where he had been spotted, and my sister Sienna said she wanted to come along. We spent about an hour watching and waiting, and a few times I walked down into the dark, rainy park with a flashlight, hoping for a flash of eyes. It was a miserable night and Sienna reasoned he was probably hunkered down someplace waiting out the storm, but we couldn’t make ourselves leave. We were hungry, so I said okay, let’s go get some food and eat it while watching the park, and if there was no sign, we’d think about calling it a night. We turned onto the major road that ran through the area, and almost immediately, I spotted him crossing, just ahead. I pulled over to let nearby cars past, then pulled a Dukes of Hazzard move, zipping the wrong way up a traffic diversion—there was no way I was losing that dog! We got close to him and rolled down the windows, and I called his name in my highest-pitched voice (remembering he’s fearful of men). He turned and looked at us and slowed to a trot, but kept going. Sienna bailed out with the bag of treats and a leash to track him on foot, and I kept driving down the wrong side of the street with my head out the window, squinting in the rain and trying to keep track of a black dog in the black night. I stopped for a moment to call his owners, telling them our location. We followed him down an industrial street, in and out of parking lots, pulling into driveways where we could to cut him off. At one point, Sienna was climbing what she thought was a grassy hill in pursuit, but of course it was pitch black. She slipped and reached out with both hands, expecting to be able to grab the ground and pull herself up, but it turned out it was a recently landscaped garden area, and she got two handfuls of mud and slowly slid backwards down the hill! The next day I’m sure people thought a bear had ambled through their new outdoor space.
At one point we managed to get Ohly to turn around, by pulling slowly in front of him, and we saw there was another car creeping slowly behind us, and we knew it was Ohly’s dad. We nudged him in that direction, and sure enough he crossed in front of Steve’s vehicle, and turned into a parking area and found himself fenced in. Steve pulled in behind him and called him, and after a moment he ran over and hopped in the car. It was SO fantastic, Steve came over and we all were grinning ear to ear, with tears in our eyes. The intrepid wanderer was headed home, again! This is a photo of Ohly and his best pal, half an hour later. WHEW!!
It was such a strange ordeal, because I knew I would find him, I was absolutely determined. And I kept being surprised every time Bea and I would have to head home, empty-handed. As we drove home that final night, Sienna told me that she had a feeling from the very beginning that I was going to find him too—she was surprised every time I would check in with no news. So weird, and meant to be.
Needless to say, I was absolutely thrilled to draw this adorable guy. He and Bea have very similar faces. Ohly and Bea’s mama were brother and sister, so it makes good sense. They share their smile, snoot freckles, and a baked-in, to-the-bone goofiness.
You can see more photos of Ohly and more details of his ordeal on the Find Ohly Facebook page (now, thankfully, named Found Ohly). If you’re curious to hear the tale from my sister Sienna’s point of view, head over to Ruffmore Academy for her story!