Seth Shuster never really believed his dog went missing. Tanner, the escape artist of his two eight year old golden retrievers, could almost always be found within a few hours hanging out at the Dustys patio, looking for food and company.
The latest escape happened while Shuster was away for the weekend, and his roommates in Bayshores let the dog out of their sight. Shuster made some calls and sure enough his dog was spotted at Dustys on Friday night, and there were reports of him around the Creekside area on Saturday. Then on Sunday the dog vanished.
Shuster knew something was wrong right away, and by Monday had posted 50 flyers around town, and contacted the RCMP, WAG and the media. Some suggested that Tanner might have had a run-in with coyotes or a cougar, but Shuster knew better.
"I know my dogs, and they dont go into the bush. All theyre into is getting a little attention and maybe getting fed," said Shuster. "They go where people are."
Even when he lived in the Kootenays, and his dogs were free to roam into the forest Shuster says they never left the house.
After two weeks of searching frantically, Shuster at last spotted Tanner on Canada Day while driving to Rainbow Park on Alta Lake Road. Tanner was on a collar and leash, and had been shaved, "but even driving by at 60 kilometres an hour I knew that was my dog."
Not knowing all the circumstances, Shuster pulled over and confronted the family walking Tanner. He confirmed that the dog was his by the identification tattoo on Tanners ear, and asked the family what was going on.
"This is where it gets weird," said Shuster.
The father pulled the leash off the dog immediately and said that Shuster could take him. He claimed they just found the dog and put him on a leash. Shuster got angry and pointed out that his explanation didnt explain the collar or the hair. The father and mother changed their story a few times, saying they found the dog a day ago, three days ago, but never explained why they didnt contact WAG or the police.
Shuster says the family, which included a young daughter, didnt speak English very well and it was hard to communicate.
According to Shuster, he called 911 when the father rode away on his bike down the Valley Trail, bringing his family with him. Shuster thought if the RCMP sent a car the police could intercept the family further down the trail. To his surprise, he says the RCMP dispatcher told him there was nothing they could do and couldnt prove that the family stole the dog.
"I knew that wasnt true, they could talk to the familys neighbours, check out their story, find out how long they had the dog the criminal code says that a dog is a possession, and if a dog is stolen I should have the right to charge the person," said Shuster.
"If I found a lost kid at a mall and fed him and took him to a barber Id be charged with kidnapping. Well these dogs are like my kids."
He says he plans to make a formal complaint to the RCMP about the dispatcher.
"This is a family member, not a chocolate bar from a grocery store, but you can bet if you shoplifted a chocolate bar the police would be there right away. I think its disgusting," he said.
Meanwhile, Shuster says finding his dog was the "Best Canada Day gift in the world. It was really the best day in my 30 years, I celebrated all day and all night.
"I never gave up, and I got him back."