Nobody ever wants their dog to go missing, but if it's going to happen somewhere, you could do much worse than a place like Whistler.
That point struck a chord last week with 28-year-old Amanda Becker, who was overwhelmed by an outpouring of support from the community when her former sled dog, Brixton, returned home safely after going missing for eight days.
Unlike many other sled dogs, the husky-pointer mix doesn't have a penchant for running away, but was spooked last Wednesday, June 4, when Becker's boyfriend, Zane, fell off a joist while renovating the couple's new home in Nordic.
"(Zane) fell through the ceiling from the second floor to the first floor where the dog was sitting. The noise spooked him and he took off right through the front door," said Becker.
With Brixton on the lam, Becker took to Facebook to put the word out and received numerous reported sightings of her dog throughout the ordeal. The first came in on Wednesday night, with a woman saying she saw the dog running on West Side Road. Becker and her boyfriend spent the evening camped out in the area, but there was no sign of Brixton.
The following day, another woman called to say she saw the dog near Cougar Mountain Road at Wedgemount, so Becker headed to the area, and caught a glimpse of Brixton about 30 metres away, only to watch him bolt into the dark.
Then, Sue Eckersley, the head of non-profit Whistler Sled Dog Co. (WSDC), which folded last summer, joined the efforts and headed with Becker to the former site of the kennels where Brixton was housed as a sled dog, thinking he might return to his old home.
"The kennel has been torn down, so we slept on a tarp on a dog bed that night," Becker said, "I knew (Eckersley) previously from going through the interview process to get Brixton, but this was by all means a stranger to me.
"I owe her my firstborn."
But Eckersley wasn't the only stranger to lend a hand. Becker received dozens of calls and texts from people either inquiring about Brixton's whereabouts, or offering help in any way they could. Blaine Vernon-Jarvis of Whistler Dog Walkers brought coffee during one long night. Others passed around flyers, and some even approached Becker to see if she'd seen Brixton, not knowing it was her dog that was missing. Whistler Animals Galore shelter operations manager Angie Fulton pitched in, as did Kim Clarke of the WSDC, and local musher Jaime Hargreaves, who brought in kennels and hay to Wedgemount to simulate a comfortable den for the former sled dog's possible return.
Unsurprisingly, the local sled dog community also joined to search, with over half a dozen owners and their dogs taking to the Whistler Golf Club, where Brixton was seen on June 8.
Days later, after almost a week on the run, Becker spotted her dog again, this time in Kadenwood, but he took off before she was able to get close.
"We knew at that point that he was alive and healthy enough to run, which was my main concern if he was being hunted," she said.
Ironically enough, it wasn't one of the many vigilant Whistlerites who were responsible for the dog's return, but Brixton himself. At 2:30 a.m. on June 12, Becker received a message from a woman who said she saw him in Tamarisk.
"As we jumped out of bed and put on sweatpants to run out to grab him, my boyfriend saw Brixton in our driveway," said Becker.
"I just started speaking to him, pleading, not calling out for him anymore, saying, 'It's time, bud. Mom is exhausted, the neighbourhood is tired.' And he just slowly walked out of the darkness and sat in front of me."
Brixton seemed to have enjoyed himself on his week-long adventure, Becker said, as he had gained weight and appeared to be happier and more confident than ever before.
"Sled dogs tend to be quite shy and nervous, but I think he went through some stuff out there and had to get brave," she said.
Becker and her boyfriend have lived in Whistler for just over a year, and couldn't be happier with their new home after seeing the community's true colours.
"As new homeowners in town, we couldn't be more sure that this is where we were meant to be," Becker said. "Having literally over a thousand people concerned about my dog in eight days was so moving."