After being lost for five months, Henry the dog is back home with his Penticton owners thanks to Sicamous’ K9-1-1 Animal Rescue.
Henry lived with Duffy Baker and Koa Hughes in Penticton for four years before being transitioned to a home in the Ashton Creek area that had acreage for him to run. After about a week, fireworks set off near the property spooked Henry and he bolted, running up the nearby logging road to Hunters Range mountain. Henry’s caretaker in Ashton Creek contacted Baker, and the two spent about three weeks searching the area for the pup. Finding no signs, they didn’t think he could have survived, and they mourned the loss of Henry.
Meanwhile, Henry had been spotted towards Enderby, and was initially thought to be someone’s loose pet. When it became obvious Henry was searching for food and shelter, Sicamous’ K9-1-1 Animal Rescue got involved.
The rescue began posting security camera footage from the houses Henry visited on social media lost pet pages. After weeks, the team finally came across a post of a dog that had gone missing in Enderby that matched Henry’s description, including his black collar, and was eventually able to reach Baker and Hughes who confirmed Henry’s identity.
“Having to think, after you lose a dog, that he’s up in the mountains, you don’t think he’s ever coming home,” said Baker. “To wake up that morning and get the message that he’s alive and in a neighbourhood, not just in the woods, was a huge relief.”
Henry had been missing since July 4, and a plan to catch him was set in motion in early December.
A home on a beach where Henry, caught on camera, had a pattern of returning to search for food at night was the location where the rescue set a live trap. The first night, Henry explored inside the trap, and even lay down for three hours on the mat beside it, which had on it clothing that smelled like Baker and Hughes. Unfortunately, the trap wasn’t set the first night so as not to spook Henry, and the dog didn’t come back.
Baker travelled to Sicamous to help get Henry, but since the dog didn’t return to the trap that evening, Debbie Fortin, who runs K9-1-1, came up with a new plan. Fortin knew where Henry napped during the day and had Baker walk along the beach below that area, hoping to lure Henry with Baker’s scent. Once Henry was spotted, Baker tried to get close to him and lay down, trying to be submissive toward the dog. Henry approached but didn’t get very close, giving only a feral bark and running back up the hill to the road above the beach.
Baker then got in his car and decided to search for Henry.
“I was in the car thinking to myself, ‘I’m going to wreck this, did I just ruin everything?’” said Baker. But a gut feeling told him to drive around, and he did find Henry in a different place in the neighbourhood he’d been living in.
Henry seemed to recognize Baker’s car as Baker drove slowly, but the dog walked in the opposite direction. Baker, on the phone with Hughes and at her suggestion, turned the car to go in the same direction as Henry, tossing pieces of worn clothing gently out the window, and Henry followed. When Baker put his hand out the window, Henry circled the car, sniffed his hand, hesitated with his paw on the step into the vehicle, and finally jumped in the car.
“I was crying, I was holding him, he was licking my face, it was just really good,” said Baker. “There was something missing in our family, and it was him.”
Often dogs that have lived in the wild for that long will transition into a feral status and never return to domestic behaviour, Fortin said. Henry is doing really well, however, only showing signs of anxiety and recovering from being slightly underweight.
“He hasn’t skipped a beat. He’s still the same old Henry,” Baker said.