Burns Lake resident Brian Hanson has been taking his dogs for a walk near Mercury Road in Burns Lake for several years.
However, at noon on Sunday Dec. 11, 2016, the usual walk didn’t turn out well.
Charlie, his 10-year-old springer spaniel, took off chasing a grouse into the woods. Then Roxie, his six-month-old pit bull, also went into the woods and didn’t return.
Hanson, who’s in a wheelchair, spent hours waiting for Charlie and Roxie to come back from the woods, but they didn’t.
“I was there relentlessly calling,” he said. “It was devastating… these dogs are every reason I get up in the morning; they sleep in bed with me, they are my kids.”
Hanson posted on his personal Facebook page, asking that if anyone saw his dogs to contact him. His post was shared 234 times, motivating dozens of people in the community to help him with his search.
“At one point there were as many as 25 people out there looking for my dogs,” he said. “This is such a great town, it’s so supportive.”
Hanson didn’t go back home to sleep that night, and even though the temperature was close to -30 C, he stayed out in case his dogs would return.
“There was a guy who stayed with me until 1 a.m., Justin Gerow,” he said. “He brought his own dog and was calling my dogs out; it’s just amazing.”
Hanson and his labrador Buster – the only dog that didn’t run away that day – finally went home to eat and rest at 4 a.m., but they were back on Mercury Road just three hours later.
The search continued throughout the week.
“I had people from Prince George calling me, asking if there was anything they could do,” said Hanson.
Four days after the dogs went missing, on Thursday Dec. 15, , one of the dogs – Roxie – finally showed up. Local residents Chris Fisher and Darcy Anderson were driving down Babine Lake Road when they saw Roxie, approximately five kilometres from where she was reported missing.
Fisher said they were in “the right place at the right time” and that he was glad to help out because he knows Hanson personally.
“He’s a very good man who has been through a lot,” he said. “Brian is a super good friend with everyone in this community; people of Burns Lake respect him and this is what we do.”
Although Roxie had returned home safely, by the next day – Friday, Dec. 16 – Charlie was still missing.
It was then that Brandie Baker, owner of Bakers Acres Kennels, texted Hanson with words of encouragement. She said she had a feeling that Charlie would be on Mercury Road that day and that she expected to see Charlie for her grooming appointment the following week.
As luck would have it, that’s exactly what happened.
“Believe it or not I drove up [to Mercury Road], let my other dogs out, and Buster ran into the bush and came out with Charlie,” said Hanson.
Baker called the return of the dogs a “Christmas miracle.”
“I know how important these pups are to Brian and is truly a Christmas miracle to have them home,” she said. “The intense outpouring of love, compassion and heartbreak from this community brought us together on such a deep level.”
After five days of being in the woods facing near -30 C temperatures, Hanson said he was impressed with Charlie.
“For a dog that never leaves the bedroom or my side, she made it in the wilderness on her own,” he said. I” actually think she gained weight out there while the pit bull came home quite dehydrated.”
Hanson said Charlie made it to her appointment at Bakers Acres and that she received a well deserved “day in the spa.”
“This is a pretty amazing town and I definitely couldn’t have done it without everybody,” he added.