Blair Coutts and Shelley Perry recently packed up their dog kennel to put into storage.
Their family dog, a four-year old Lab mix named Everest, had been missing since March 18 from their Lennox Island home. They assumed the dog wasn't coming back.
But things took a turn for the best this past Tuesday.
Fishermen in the area caught more than lobster on setting day. They texted Coutts to tell him they were sure they had seen his dog near Hog Island, a journey of two kilometres or so.
"I couldn't believe it," said Coutts, of Lennox Island First Nation. "I didn't believe it at first. Really, we thought maybe something bad would have happened to her in those six weeks. Like, that's a pretty long stretch of time. We had some very cold nights."
The family doesn't own a boat, but Perry said she was able to borrow one from a friend. On Tuesday, some of the family headed to the large sandbar near Hog Island to search.
Paw prints in the sand were the first clue.
"I kept following them," Perry said. "I kind of just stopped and I looked around and I saw a stick sticking out of a little hill and there was something by the stick. And I couldn't really tell if it was moving."
Perry started to walk toward the stick. She found more paw prints. As she crested a small hill, there was Everest.
"She was very scared, kind of skittish," Perry said.
So Perry sat on the ground.
"She slowly started making her way toward me. And then when she came to me, she was just over the moon. She was jumping on me and rolling all around when she realized it was us."
It wasn't hard to convince the dog to hop on the boat and head home, Perry said.
"She turned into a completely different dog, really," she said. "It's like she knew exactly where she was going, she knew she was going home. She was running ahead of us. She couldn't even see the boat yet, but she was running to shore ahead of us."
The dog had gone missing in the past, running off with other dogs, but had never gone this far, Perry said.
Everest was skinny when she was found. There was a scratch on her nose and her collar was tattered. Coutts said that was likely from tussles with wildlife when Everest was on the lam.
The couple believe the dog made its way toward Hog Island over the ice in March and got stranded. Everest isn't a strong swimmer.
Neither Perry nor Coutts have any idea how the dog managed to survive so long.
"Pure luck, I guess," Coutts said.
"She's about four years old, almost five," Perry said. "I have no idea how she survived to be honest. I have no idea what she ate over there.
"I figured she had lots of water. We had a lot of rain and there are a lot of little pond areas that would collect water."
Perry and Coutts said the dog has a bit of separation anxiety and is staying close to home. But they say Everest is happy and safe.
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