TEN members of North Shore Rescue and other volunteers spent hours searching Mount Seymour Thursday and Friday, hoping to nab a lost Bernese mountain dog that's been missing on the mountain for more than 10 days.
Ground searchers and a helicopter were out looking for the pet, named Ohly, after he was spotted in a dangerous alpine area known as Suicide Gully. Ohly had been missing since Nov. 25, when he ran away from a friend of the owners who took the pup up the mountain to play in the snow with another dog.
Owners Steve and Alyssa Goad, friends and other volunteers spent a week scouring the lower part of the mountain where Ohly was last seen.
North Shore Rescue got involved after the dog was spotted, in an effort to prevent other searchers from going into the gully to find him. Jones said that was a particular concern after the story of Ohly's plight began spreading on Facebook.
After being spotted by ski patrol, and sighted by owner Steve Goad on Thursday, "the dog just zoomed down some very steep slopes," said Jones.
Jones said that was a concern for the rescue team, because the area is one where skiers and snowboarders have frequently become trapped in deep snow. It's also prone to avalanches.
"We would be remiss if we didn't help them," said Jones. "It's not a place we want people to go."
On Thursday, rescuers spotted Ohly's tracks in the snow by helicopter. A nine-person team equipped with ice axes and emergency gear descended in the gully on foot and began following the tracks.
But progress was slow, because the dog kept running away. At one point, a cat-and-mouse game played out between the dog and his would-be rescuers, with the searchers hiding behind trees in the dark, hoping to surprise the pooch.
"It came right back up the trail at us," said Jones. "We could hear the panting."
Jones said the dog came within five feet of him before getting spooked and taking off again and hiding.
Searchers were regrouping Friday afternoon and coming up with other possible plans to lure Ohly to safety. One volunteer hiked up the mountain with a camp stove to cook bacon. Jones said searchers were also considering using throw nets to trap the dog.
Alyssa Goad said she thinks Ohly's essentially gone feral, because of the trauma of being lost in the snow.
Before he took off on Mount Seymour, "He's never spent a night outside in his life," she said. Goad said she was taking heart from rescuers' descriptions of Ohly, indicating that the dog wasn't starving and appeared to be uninjured.
Jones said the situation is a difficult one for searchers.
"It's very capable of coming out on its own," he said. He added it may be a question of waiting until the dog is more tired and hungry before rescuers can grab him.
Alyssa Goad said the past two weeks have been very emotional for her family, which includes two young daughters eager to have their pet back home.
"We're exhausted and also overwhelmed by all the support," she said.
Another pair of distraught dog owners hasn't been so lucky yet. Their purebred bloodhound, Ellie May, got spooked by a falling branch while up on the Powerline Trail by Grouse Mountain Dec. 3
"She was off leash for just a few minutes," said North Vancouver owner Liz Gurszki. "A tree snapped and she ran."
Gurszki said she and her husband have spent days scouring the area and putting up posters, hoping to find a trace of the four-year-old rescue dog, but so far haven't spotted her.
Gurszki said she's hoping nearby neighbours will keep an eye out for Ellie May, who may be hiding under a deck or in the bushes.
"Dogs have been found weeks later," she said. "It's amazing what they can survive.
"The odds aren't in our favour. But we're still hoping."