After a journey of over 1,200 kilometres, a missing dog from Brooks, Alberta was found in Steinbach. Vader was reported missing on September 27 by his owner Jim Third.
Animal control officer Karen Smith with Rural Animal Management Services says she was notified of a stray dog at A.D. Penner Park in Steinbach Thursday morning and started the process of trying to trap him.
"We responded like we do to all calls to check the situation out," Smith explains. "I went back with a trap to try and trap him but he was not having any of that. Candace [Hamm] then, the next morning, on Friday morning, had gotten a sighting off of Facebook and started following him. She called me to let me know where he was and we followed him for awhile until we lost him."
Smith notes it was at that point another team came out from Winnipeg to help.
Kristy Greening is an independent dog trapper. Greening says when she heard about the stray dog it had already been suggested it might be Vader, but to her the dog needed help and that was the first priority.
"The animal control had gone out and she had set a trap but there were so many people that wanted to try and help this dog that the area was flooded with people and, unfortunately, he got scared away."
Greening says she arrived in Steinbach and worked together with Smith.
"We went out Friday morning to see if we could help. He had kind of been all over town at that point and sightings kind of dropped off. A few hours later we got a sighting, he was lying in a driveway. We headed over there and we got the trap set and he wandered in."
Greening notes they brought the dog back to the kennel, cleaned him up, and looked him over well.
"We realized it was almost certainly Vader because he was a fixed male, did not have a tattoo, did not have a chip, and he had some unique spots on his tongue. So, we called his owner and his owner was convinced that it was him based on the pictures."
Smith adds she was convinced enough of the dog's identify to send him out to Alberta.
"Preferably we would really like a tattoo or a microchip. Tattoos are given when they're spayed or neutered, generally. This dog was neutered but did not have a tattoo, that in itself is kind of rare. What was really specific to this dog was the markings on his tongue."
Greening says she has heard of dogs traveling 400 kilometres away from home, but this case is a first for them. She notes when a dog wanders away they go into fight or flight mode which can make trapping them much more difficult.
"There's confident and friendly dogs that get out and they usually approach the first person they see. The timid and shy dogs, they're timid and shy to begin with and once they get out in the big world, they become a different dog, they don't even recognize their owners at that point," she explains. "They hit flight mode and eventually they go into survival mode and they run from everybody. So, our job becomes very difficult because they typically go into hiding and they come out when nobody is around. So, we have to get signs in place and do some flyers and narrow down the area where the dog is staying, then we can set some feeding stations. Once the dog finds the feeding stations we can introduce the trap and that sometimes is the safest way to secure these dogs."
She notes taking an entire day to trap a dog may seem like a long time, however, it's relatively quick.
"We had a dog that was living in a junk yard for 34 days. We never had a single sighting, but we believed he was there. So, we had feeding stations set and we had many other animals eating from it like a fox, birds, you name it. We caught him 34 days later. He was just skin and bones. He was 11 years old and to bring him back home to his family, he lived another three years."
Vader will be reunited with his family in Brooks, Alberta by Friday.