A Calgary couple has just gone though a long and stressful search after their dog disappeared on a canoe trip. But things started looking up when they called in a veteran tracker.

Gus, a two-and-a-half year-old boxer, was part of a group preparing to set off on a canoe trip, when he heard a loud truck going by and bolted off into the bush.

“Within a few minutes, we knew that it was going to be difficult to find him,” said owner Dan MacLeod.

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As MacLeod and others on the canoe trip searched through the trees and farmers’ fields along the Red Deer River in central Alberta, they worried that Gus might be gone for good.

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“(There was) 40-degree heat, (a) thunderstorm,” said owner Lacey Beierbach. “That was scary.”

The couple, joined by family members and friends, searched for hours during both the day and at night.

“(There were) coyotes howling in all different directions late at night,” MacLeod said. “And you know your dog’s out there missing.”

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After three days of searching, MacLeod and Beierbach decided to call in a veteran dog tracker. They hired Darlene Burt, who is based out of Strathmore, Alta.

“She’s someone who has dedicated the last 10 years of her life to looking for missing dogs,” MacLeod said.

Burt took charge of the search party, giving tips on what they should be doing.

“(We put) up big posters (along roadways),” Beierbach said. “(Burt) said up to 70 per cent of people find the dog just through posters and social media.”

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They became encouraged after finding pawprints that matched those of Gus.

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“We set up a trail camera and he was just sniffing the tent (set up with items with familiar scents),” MacLeod said. “That’s how we had proof of life after the first six days that he was missing.”

On the eighth day of searching, someone called in a sighting.

Burt went to retrieve Gus, and the dog was reunited with his owners.

“When we found him, it was just euphoria,” MacLeod said.

The time spent wandering on his own had left its mark on Gus.

“He lost a lot of weight. (He was) very skinny, lots of mosquito bites, bug bites — but I was surprised, it was same old Gus,” Beierbach said. “Wagging his little stumpy tail — it was amazing.”

Gus will be on a leash the next time they head out on an adventure.

And MacLeod said he and Beierbach have learned another lesson from the search.

“It’s something that definitely brings everyone together, when there’s a loved one missing,” he said.


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