A woman in British Columbia owes her life to three dogs.
Last month, 56-year old dog walker Annette Poitras went hiking with her pack – a collie named Chloe, a boxer named Roxy and Bubba, a puggle – in the backcountry of British Columbia’s Eagle Mountain. She was dressed for the weather, but never expected to not make it home that evening.
Reports say that Poitras fell somewhere in the mountains, losing her cellphone. As darkness approached, along with a torrential rainstorm, the dogs huddled around her. Not only did they have no food or water, but they had limited shelter, with no way of calling for help.
When she did not return, her very concerned husband, Marcel, contacted Coquitlam Search and Rescue (SAR). They called out their team and set up a command center on Westwood Plateau.
The area around the plateau is very rugged, and covered with multiple trails. Beginning the search in oncoming darkness, the SAR team first employed a technique known as a “sound sweep” – using whistles to make noise to attract missing hikers and the animals with them. They also worked with a search dog from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The first 24 hours of the search were unsuccessful, so at daylight, on day 2, the SAR teams increased their manpower. Unfortunately, the storm also increased in ferocity at the same time, making it difficult to hear the whistles. Approximately 100 searchers were combing the mountains on foot and in the air. As night fell on the second day, with the steep climb and accompanying hazards, the search was postponed until sunrise.
On day three, they added an additional helicopter and two more SAR dogs. Finally, at almost noon, Ms. Poitras and her three dogs were located by a team of five volunteers.
She, and the dogs, had no broken bones. They were transported to the hospital for treatment. She explained that not only did the dogs refuse to leave her side, providing comfort and keeping her warm for all that time, but she also learned a survival tip from them. Her husband said,
“She happened to notice one of the dogs was digging a hole to sleep in. The spongy undergrowth soaked up a lot of water, so she started sweeping away the brush, got down in the dirt and made herself a little well to sleep in. She learned that from the dogs.”
She knew people were looking for them because she saw the choppers flying overhead, but had no way to contact them. When the second day drew to a close without being found, she thought,
“I’m spending another night out here…”
The ones who found her on day three did so by using the sound sweep. Annette called out to them when she heard the whistles, and the dogs began barking as well. The teams, and all the volunteers, who left their own jobs to join the search, could not have been happier, and they thank the community for supporting them. To learn more about Coquitlam SAR, click here!
And check out this segment from ShelterMe.tv, “Find Me“, and learn how shelter dogs are trained to become SAR dogs!