Dec. 12, 2012 at 3:10 PM ET
A runaway dog was reunited with his family this weekend after surviving in the snowy woods for two weeks and becoming a social media sensation.
Ohly, a two-and-a-half year-old Bernese Mountain Dog, escaped in the woods around Vancouver's Mt. Seymour last month while on a walk with a friend of his owners. “He bolted down the road,” owner Steve Goad told TODAY.com. “Our friend chased him for a couple of hours trying to catch up with him and find him, but the dog just went into the woods.”
The family wasn’t sure they’d find their pet but after a week people began to report spotting him in the woods. They then ramped up rescue efforts, even enlisting a blood hound to see if he could trace their dog’s scent, but to no avail.
Even when Goad finally caught sight of Ohly near the bottom of the mountain, after the dog had been missing for 10 days, he couldn't convince him to come home.
“He was so panicked, even my voice didn’t do anything,” Goad said. “We followed him and he ran away from us until he got to a point called 'Suicide Gully' which he went over, and we couldn’t get into.”
The family recruited the help of local search-and-rescue team North Shore Rescue, which sent a helicopter to confirm that Ohly was still in the area and dispatched a party to retrieve him. Though they spent over a day trying to entice him with food by frying bacon and got within five feet of him, rescuers still couldn't get ahold of the dog.
Meanwhile, the story of the search for Ohly had picked up steam on social media as word spread about the missing dog on a Facebook page created by the Goads. Animal lovers and those in the community flooded to the aid of the family, sending donations and offering their help in the search.
Ultimately the North Shore Rescue team decided the intense interest in finding Ohly was turning into a public safety hazard and worried that people were putting themselves at risk trying to find the dog, so they decided to send in another helicopter in a stealth operation team leader Tim Jones likened to 'getting Bin Laden.'
"The dog had gone wild. It had gone feral," Jones told TODAY.com, explaining that the area where Ohly escaped to was extremely treacherous. "It's called 'Suicide Gully' for a reason. It's heinous terrain and it's not terrain where you go in unprepared...It was the perfect storm of somebody getting killed trying to rescue this dog."
Jones helicoptered in a team that was finally able to corner Ohly and get him back, a moment Goad describes as "elation." The family was also overwhelmed by the support they received: over $10,000 in donations flowed into North Shore Rescue, which covered the cost of the helicopter and started a fund for future dog rescues.
"That complete strangers were willing to give up weeks of their time to help us out, it was incredible,” Goad said. The family is now returning the favor by helping to promote and support search efforts for another missing dog in the region named Ellie Mae.
As for Ohly, he's been back at home since Saturday and is doing well, though he was dehydrated and had lost roughly 25 pounds -- a quarter of his body weight -- when he was rescued.
“He’s doing well. He’s in good shape,” Goad said. “It’s just a wonderful feeling to have him back in the house and we’re going to keep him on a very short leash from now on!”
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