“He was shaking from his nose to his tail and looked like a skeleton with skin clinging to it,” says Samantha Gandozzi. “He was an emotional and physical mess when I saw him.”
The young Bluetick Coonhound—going by the Canadian name of “Hank” (Xiao Da in Chinese)—vanished April 30 from the Lytton Pines Motel on the Trans-Canada Highway at Lytton.
His owners, on their way from Vancouver to Dease Lake, had spent the night at the motel and were scheduled to continue on to Dease Lake early in the morning.
Then Hank vanished. Nobody seems to know how or why he disappeared.
After a half-day of searching, his distraught owners pinned a Reward Poster on downtown bulletin boards with his photo and a reward for $1,000. Reluctantly, they then headed north to their destination, more than 17 hours away.
For two more nights one of their friends, travelling with them in his own vehicle, stayed at the motel, driving all the streets in town and the surrounding area hoping to catch a glimpse of a forlorn Hank.
Cheri Van Dyke, the proprietor at the Lytton Pines Motel from where he vanished, immediately alerted staff at the Kumsheen Rafting Resort six kilometres further north of the motel along the Trans-Canada.
“Sometimes dogs intuitively follow the route that the owners took,” she says. “Kumsheen was in the right direction.”
No one in town spotted Hank, but everyone had both eyes open. It’s not every day someone offers a $1,000 reward for a dog in Lytton.
Cheri, her sister Martha, and her 83-year-old father Francis Van Dyke searched for Hank every day.
“I spotted him four days after his owners left,” says Martha. “He was on the highway about a kilometre from the Kumsheen Resort. By the time I turned my vehicle around on the highway he was gone again. I cried for awhile because I love animals.”
Exactly 14 days after Hank first went missing, Gandozzi spotted the back of a strange dog running past the window of her suite at the Kumsheen Resort. By the time she opened the door it had vanished. She got in her car and drove around the resort searching for the hound, but spotted nothing.
That weekend at Kumsheen, a wedding party at the resort brought along two dogs as part of their wedding festivities. Owned by the groom (the bride and groom are both veterinarians in Vancouver), the dogs were kept in cages except when participating in the ceremonies.
Early the next morning, a friend of the groom went to the Kumsheen office and noticed a nervous, shivering, skinny dog at the front door. It had Vancouver identification tags around its neck and was obviously extremely distressed.
Very familiar with pets, he coaxed the dog into one of the dog cages and inquired into who was neglecting and missing a pet.
The Kumsheen manager was in the office and immediately phoned Cheri at the Lytton Pines. A short time later she happily confirmed, “Yes, it’s Hank!”
After receiving strict nourishment instructions from the veterinarians—“Feed him small amounts of food, three times a day for three or four days until he recovers his energy”—Cheri headed back to the motel with Hank to phone the owners.
Using the numbers on the lost dog poster, she phoned, but neither number connected, so she e-mailed instead. Expecting Hank’s owners to immediately depart Dease Lake for Lytton, she was surprised when the phone rang a few hours later and a voice speaking in broken English said, “It too far to Lytton but we come soon.”
“Soon” turned out to be May 26.
In the meantime, Hank had bonded with Cheri, Martha, and Francis.
“He’s like our family pet now. I’ll miss him,” Cheri says with sadness in her voice.
When the award money arrived, Cheri delivered it to Kumsheen where Hank was “found”. Half the award was immediately given back to Cheri for her part in Hank’s discovery and recovery, and the other half was donated to Friends of the Animals, an animal shelter located at Spences Bridge.
Most importantly, Hank the lucky coonhound and his owners were united again.