After almost three weeks on the lam, battling sleet, rain, freezing temperatures and at least one winter storm, a black and white Shih Tzu named Barney is back home with his family in the Cowan Heights area of St. John’s.
Laura Murphy and her five-year-old daughter Katelyn Murphy were on vacation out of province when their pet went missing on March 14.
Murphy’s brother had visited the home to let the dog out. The gate into the yard had mistakenly been left open. Barney took off, Murphy’s brother in quick pursuit.
“There was no way he was going to get him. He just won’t come to any men,” she said.
Murphy and Katelyn came home several days after Barney went missing. Even while in Nova Scotia, Murphy had enlisted the help of family and friends to put up posters and make calls.
Almost 800 people joined a Facebook group set up to spread the word about the lost dog.
Murphy’s sons, nine-year-old Alexander Moyles and eight-year-old Shawn Moyles, also missed Barney and helped in the search.
The family posted a $350 reward for his return, Murphy said. There was $250 donated by a local businessman who called a local talk show with the donation after hearing about the missing dog.
Family, friends and strangers searched in the Blackmarsh Road area for weeks. It’s where Barney had been sighted but no one could catch him.
Murphy and her husband, Paul Murphy, and friend took turns staying out all night in the woods.
They set up traps and even brought their BBQ in the woods hoping the smell of cooked food would entice him closer. Nothing worked, Murphy said.
“I knew he was out there in the cold. And I knew no one had taken him in because he’s just so nervous. He’d never go with anyone.”
Murphy says while losing the family pet was devastating the hardest part of the ordeal was when she received a phone call from someone saying they’d found her dog.
The call came after they’d been searching for Barney for about a week, she said.
“He told me that he had my little dog and I could come get him. He said he was in Shea Heights. When I asked him where in Shea Heights he laughed and said that he’d just beaten him to death. It was horrible,” Murphy said.
She called the police in a panic. But the more she thought about the call, the more she believed it was a cruel joke.
Murphy and Paul adopted Barney from the SPCA two years ago. He’d been abused before coming into their home, she said, and has always been scared of men.
“I knew there was no way he was going to go with a man. … So, after I got that call, we just kept on looking.”
Barney may not like men but it was local dog trainer Ken Reid who captured the pooch on Sunday after searchers put in a worrisome night Saturday fearing the dog, who was only 12 pounds when he went missing, would not survive the snowstorm.
However, according to Reid, the snow helped in Barney’s capture.
Reid spotted dog tracks in the snow near a wooded area off Redmond’s Road. He followed the tracks and soon caught a glimpse of the dog.
“I kept my distance. … I managed to get up closer to him then he made a dart in the woods but he got bogged down in the snow a little,” Reid said.
Reid made a quick move and got the dog.
“He just sat there shaking in my arms. But then I held him and he licked me. I said to him, ‘You’re coming around, buddy.’”
Murphy says she’s grateful to Reid and everyone else who supported her family during the past 2 1/2 weeks.
“It was just wonderful getting him in my arms again. He got us all rotten and he stank up our truck. But we were just so happy to have him home.”
Barney lost two pounds during his time on the run. However, he received a clean bill of health from his vet on Sunday.
Sitting next to her mother on the chesterfield, Katelyn is soon ready to add her thoughts to the story.
“I did really miss Barney when he was gone. He doesn’t hurt anyone. I helped mommy look for him and I yelled out the loudest.”
Murphy has some advice for other pet owners who may lose their animal. Never give up hope, she said.
“He’s our pampered pooch. He’s like another child to me and I just had to find him. If it was a year down the road, I’d still be looking for him.”