Dog lost for six days in northern Alberta wilderness returns home for Christmas

·2 min read

After losing his dog to the cold northern Alberta wilderness for nearly a week, Rob Brassard called it a Christmas miracle when his young dog came home on Dec. 25.

Winston, a one-year-old Shar-Pei, escaped when Brassard briefly left his back gate open on Friday, Dec. 18 in the evening. Both of Brassard's dogs — Winston and the Shar-Pei's bonded brother — took off. Brassard's son found Winston's brother within 15 minutes, but Winston himself was nowhere to be found.

After taking to Facebook to share his story, some helping hands from the community came out to search for Winston Friday night. Brassard said he stayed out until 1:30 a.m. looking for Winston, and continued the search for the next two days to no avail. He heard about random sightings of Winston through the next week, but nothing concrete until Christmas Eve.

Around 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve, six days after Winston went missing, a friend saw the dog running down a road. Brassard followed the tip and found his dog about 150 yards out on Cold Lake. When his dog didn't respond to his calls, Brassard figured he must be on thin ice.

Sure enough, as soon as Winston did move, he fell through the ice.

Cold Lake Fire Rescue was called to the scene, and retrieved Winston from the ice after the dog spent 15 to 20 minutes in the icy water.

"It was probably the best Christmas present ever. It's kind of a sick feeling when you watch him fall through the ice," Brassard said about his dog being saved.

"[Shar-Peis] are certainly not meant to be an outdoor dog all year round, that's for sure. And to stay out a week in the cold, it's surprising he survived and did well on his own."

Supplied by Rob Brassard
Supplied by Rob Brassard

Winston was rushed to the Cold Lake Veterinary Clinic where he was given an IV and warmed up. On Christmas morning, Brassard got a call from the vet, saying his dog was in good shape and could come home.

"Getting him home on Christmas morning is certainly a Christmas miracle in a lot of ways," Brassard said.

Now that Winston is home, he's recovering well even though he's still sore and lost nearly half his weight, going from around 60 lbs to 37 when he returned.

Supplied by Rob Brassard
Supplied by Rob Brassard

What really struck Brassard about the search for Winston is how many people offered to help him after reading his posts on Facebook. On the last day of the search for Winston, when he was out on the ice, Brassard said there were around a dozen people there to help him.

"It was certainly nice to see the people in the community come together," Brassard said. "It made Christmas a lot more enjoyable having him home and with everyone's support."