CALGARY — The wife of a missing Calgary man whose boat was recovered off the coast of Florida says he may have been swept away while trying to rescue the family dog.
Michele Horne told CTV Calgary it's believed her husband, Fraser, dove in when the golden retriever named Toula fell into the water.
Fraser Horne, an avid boater, set sail on a trip on Friday and was reported missing after failing to return on Sunday.
His boat — running in neutral and with his wallet, keys and shoes onboard — was found near the Gulf Coast fishing village of Cortez a few hours later.
The dog was discovered by a Good Samaritan on a nearby island later that evening.
The U.S. coast guard launched an extensive search for the 64-year-old snowbird, but it failed to turn up anything and the coast guard has called off its efforts.
"We searched over 2,000 square miles for more than 46 hours to look for Mr. Horne and unfortunately we were unable to locate him," said petty officer Ashley Johnson.
The Hornes bought a place in Florida in 2015 to spend the winters.
"What is clear from the search patterns ... is that Toula, the retriever, fell into the water and that Fraser went to get her, to rescue her," Michele Horne told CTV from Florida.
"In rescuing her, there was a strong current that was shifting against him and the boat. From what the data shows, he probably was not able to go back to the boat."
Michele Horne said Toula is a strong swimmer and was in the water for about two hours.
"The waters are fairly warm here, around 70 to 75 degrees, (but) she was shivering. She had been there for a while. They put blankets on her. The biggest issue she had was taking in a lot of salt water and exhaustion," she said.
"I can't believe that this dog did what she did, swim as hard as she did ... We don't have kids. We love our dogs. They're our kids and he (Fraser) would've done anything for her, so I am so happy she's back with us."
Toula is in good health and is back at home, Horne said.
"She's on antibiotics. She's good. We had her on two, 30-minute walks today. She's eating. She's drinking.
"There's something she knows and we wish dogs could talk."
Michele's sister, Lisa, flew down to Florida from Edmonton when she heard the news.
"We are hoping we will find Fraser," she said. "We haven't really made plans of what we're going to do. The plan initially was that we'd like to stay here until he's found and we can bring him home."
Conservation officers and the county sheriff’s office will continue to search daily.
The Canadian Press