A retriever named Cody who spent more than six months on the lam in the North Vancouver bush was back with his West Vancouver owners in time for Christmas thanks to the work of two dedicated doggie detectives.
Greg Liang, the son of the elderly owners, said it was a tearful reunion when his mother got to hold her precious pooch again.
Although the dog has lost about 40 per cent of his initial 54-pound weight, he's otherwise unharmed, said Liang.
"He's being treated pretty well right now," he said. "We seriously doubt he could have survived another month out there."
Catching Cody, however, was no mean feat, requiring a healthy dose of canine cunning.
It was back in May when Liang was walking Cody off leash in Bridgman Park that the rescue dog first went missing after being spooked by the noise of some equipment starting up.
"I was thinking 'Oh great, it's going to take me half an hour to find him'," recalls Liang. It ended up being significantly longer.
Friends and family searched for the dog and put up "hundreds and hundreds" of signs in the area.
Every few weeks, someone would phone to say they'd seen Cody. But neither Liang nor his parents ever had any luck.
In October, however, after receiving several calls in a few days, Liang decided to call in the big guns and hired PetSearchers, a Lower Mainland company run by Alex and Alesha MacLellan. The couple makes it their business to track down missing pets.
In Cody's case, it was an involved process.
First they set up cameras with motion detectors in the bush to track Cody's movements.
While the team will often use tracking dogs to find a pet, in Cody's case it wasn't an option. Because he had been in the vicinity so long, his scent was spread throughout the area.
Instead, the would-be dog nabbers started feeding Cody - "slabs of bacon, roast, chicken - you name it," said Alesha MacLellan. "He ate well."
Next up were a series of traps "kind of like what you seen in the cartoons," said MacLellan, "with the meat on the ground and the weight in the tree."
But Cody - who had returned to a feral state - wasn't biting on the idea of getting caught.
"He was smart like a coyote," said Liang. "He would never enter the trap."
Eventually the persistent pair outsmarted the dog by hiding out near Cody's usual watering hole on the Seymour River. There, they managed to surprise the dog and catch him by throwing two huge nets over him.
Liang won't divulge exactly how much it cost to hire professional pet searchers, but says the money was worth it to get Cody back. He adds he's thankful for all the volunteers who also helped search for Cody. "It kept us positive over the long period (Cody was missing.)"
Now the pooch is home, "He's not going off leash anymore," Liang added.
Cody is one of four dogs recently lost - and then found - in the North Shore wilderness.
North Shore Search and Rescue scooped Ohly, a Bernese mountain dog, after the dog headed into Suicide Gully on Cypress. And Ellie Mae, a bloodhound, was found after being lost near Grouse for 10 days.
A fourth dog, Griffin, who was used to help track Ellie Mae, went missing for five days before turning up in the yard that was home to a dog he had previously helped to train.