OHLY, the elusive Bernese Mountain Dog, is safely back home after spending almost two weeks running loose on the North Shore backcountry and worrying his owners sick.
Following an intensive effort by North Shore Rescue volunteers on foot and in the air, Ohly was picked up from the Suicide Gully area on Mount Seymour and brought back to a celebrating crowd Saturday afternoon.
"It's fantastic. There are no words to really explain it. It's awesome to have him home. He's doing really good," said Alyssa Goad, Ohly's owner.
Ohly took off from the Mt. Seymour parking lot Nov. 25 when a friend of the Goads was taking him for a walk. His disappearance drew huge public interest and media attention during the rescue effort that followed.
Ohly didn't respond to bait left out for him Friday, so volunteers followed his tracks to the edge of Suicide Bluff, just below the alpine trail on Mount Seymour. There began the struggle to corral the lost pooch, who appeared to have reverted to a feral state and had no intentions of being caught.
"(He) was in such good shape, (he) was just playing with our guys for five hours - some of the fittest guys on our team. It was exhausting," said Tim Jones, NSR team leader. "It was very close to the point where we thought we weren't going to be able to catch it and do it safely. We didn't want to run the dog off a cliff, and we didn't want to run our guys off a cliff."
When the team's assistance was requested on an unrelated emergency just before 1 p.m., the rescuers made one last attempt and successfully gang-tackled the dog.
While it was a challenging rescue, it wasn't necessarily being done for Ohly's sake, Jones said. A groundswell of worried dog lovers on social media were clamouring for Ohly to be rescued, and NSR responded to keep impassioned but ill-prepared amateur rescuers out of the dangerous area.
"That's why it's called Suicide Gully, it's heinous terrain," said Jones. "As a public safety issue, because the social media was so intense, we knew that people would try to effect a rescue on their own - and ill-prepared. We would have had a different problem; we would have gone for a body recovery."
Concerned donors put up thousands of dollars to help offset the cost Ohly was running up for the team, which normally limits its efforts to humans in peril, but the amount raised is probably more than the total bill, Jones said. Anything extra will likely be set aside for the next time they are sent in search of a missing canine.
Back in his Burnaby home, two-and-half-year-old Ohly is now being showered with extra love and treats, Goad said, and the family has emerged with a few lessons learned: Ohly isn't likely to be out of his owners' sight anymore, and they now know there is a surprising amount of help at hand when a beloved dog is in danger.
"Community does exist in a big city," she said. Big thanks are owed to North Shore Rescue, Talon Helicopters, the hundreds of volunteers, supporters and donors, and the media, Goad added.
"There are so many people to thank," she said.