Missing dog found after two weeks in Cowichan Valley backcountry

A four-year-old husky-shepherd cross lost in the backcountry for more than two weeks is quietly resting at home after being reunited with his owner early Thursday.

Keno had bolted while he and owner Jesse McMaster were taking a hike on Mount Prevost in the Cowichan Valley on Jan. 26. “He spotted an elk and just took off,” said McMaster. “He was on a leash, but it happened so fast that it slipped out of my hands.”

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For the last two weeks, he has taken time off work to look for his dog, hiking the trails by day and on some nights, sleeping in his vehicle at the top of the mountain. He finally got the call he had been waiting for Thursday morning.

“I just bawled my eyes out,” said McMaster, 27.

He said that he was at a loss of words to describe his relief and gratitude to members of Reuniting Owners with Animals Missing and the Arrowsmith Animal Rescue Foundation, which had joined in the search. Along with a team made up of McMaster’s friends and family, up to 50 members of the two organizations had been actively scouring the rugged terrain around Mount Prevost.

ROAM posted information about Keno on its Facebook page, where it generated 2,000 shares, said Lesli Steeves, one of eight administrators with the group. Steeves estimates that number of shares meant word got out to 100,000 people.

“One of those people who read the post called in a sighting at 6 p.m. last night on Mount Sicker Road, but was disconnected before he could send his co-ordinates,” she said Thursday.

“Another volunteer, Justin McKinley, then went up the mountain around 5 a.m. and, after a bit of coaxing, was able to get Keno into his truck.”

She said that surviving two weeks in the woods is not unusual for many dogs. Huskies have a natural advantage because the breed originated in the north and has thick fur to survive low temperatures.

Keno was taken for an examination after his rescue, and, apart from a slight loss in weight, was given a clean bill of health.

McMaster received another bit of good news later in the morning. An anonymous donor had offered a $1,000 reward for Keno’s safe return, but McKinley turned down the money, requesting that it be given to McMaster instead to make up for his lost wages for the last two weeks.

“I am lost for words,” said McMaster. “I am so thankful both to ROAM and to him.”

parrais@timescolonist.com

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