Ryan Toporowski hadn’t seen his Staffordshire Terrier Delilah for a month. She had been lost, hungry, thirsty, cold, bewildered and scared. On Wednesday afternoon, man and dog stood just feet from each other, but something was wrong. Her solid build had withered away to an emaciated state. Worst of all, she seemed afraid of him. When he knelt beside her she growled, howled and turned her back to him – the same dog who never stopped playing and always had a toy in her mouth.
He backed away, not wanting to cause her more trauma. And then he made a phone call, of sorts.
“I moved away and tossed my cell phone down for her,” said Toporowski. “She sniffed it, looked up at me and then she came running, got under my legs and curled up in a ball. She knew she was home.”
Toporowski, head coach of the Campbell River Storm junior hockey team, and his partner Ashley Barney had enlisted the help of professional dog searchers in the month-long search for Delilah. Then Ryan received a phone call on Wednesday afternoon from a resident in the 2500 block of Gold River Highway.
The mailman had alerted the resident that there was a “scary dog” out on his deck. The resident went to investigate and immediately recognized her as Delilah due to the pink collar she had been described as wearing when she went missing, which had been in the Dec. 5 front page story in the Courier-Islander.
The rescued dog had only been with her new owners for a month and a half before she was lost. She was described as very timid and afraid of people she didn’t know. She had not been socialized well in her past life and Barney had said they were working on it at the time she went missing and had seen some good results. But she feared that after being lost for so long, Delilah may have gone into a “wild state.”
Toporowski says she has lost a third of her body weight, going from 75 to 50 pounds. “The vet says her vitals are okay, but she is dehydrated and malnourished and of course her temperature is down,” he said. “She is on an intravenous and she is coherent.”
Delilah will be at the veterinary hospital while they run some tests and check her kidney function.
Delilah’s situation had gone viral locally, and resulted in many spontaneous searches, reports of sightings as well as many theories of where she might be. Hundreds of people were watching out for her, and posters were distributed by worried dog lovers who have never met Delilah,
The Facebook page on Delilah was taken down Wednesday morning, just hours before she was found. Toporowski, on the advice of the professional dog searchers, had asked people to stop searching in the area she was lost because it may have been driving her further into the bush.
There had been numerous sightings of her since she slipped her walking collar and ran away from her dog walker on Nov. 21, including near the estuary behind the Brick, being walked by someone in Campbellton, wandering by Rona, Twillingate and Colorado roads. But the place she has been reported to have been seen most often was up by the old gun range on Argonaut Road.
Many people had started to worry that things were not going to end well for Delilah because she had been gone for so long. But other lost dog stories kept local hopes up.
Last Saturday, Cody, a four-year-old flat coat retriever was found after being lost in the North Shore wilderness since last May. He had wandered off during a walk and after months of searching, the owners enlisted the help of Petsearchers Canada, who used motion detectors, baits, traps, and finally pinpointed his location, catching him with a net. He was reported to be thinner, stinky and matted, but he is back with his loving family.
A six-year-old Lab mix survived nine months lost in the wilderness in Nevada and endured rugged terrain, freezing weather, all with a lame foot and even survived being shot by a BB gun. He had jumped out of a camper unseen during a pit stop on a road trip.
Toporowski said he was very appreciative of the support and assistance provided by the public.