An 87-year-old Qualicum Beach man is lucky to be alive after going missing for two nights in sub-zero temperatures — and he likely has his dog to thank.
Oceanside RCMP Corporal Jesse Foreman said the man was reported missing on Saturday after a friend dropped by for a coffee and found it odd that he wasn’t home and his truck wasn’t in the driveway.
“He thought that perhaps his friend had gone for a hike on his son’s 160-acre property near Spider Lake,” Foreman said. “He drove there to investigate further and found the man’s truck parked at the end of the road and became very concerned when he could not find him nearby.”
The man phoned police to help search for his friend and the police in turn called out Arrowsmith Search and Rescue.
ASAR search coordinator Gordon Yelland said his group was called out at 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
“We had teams out on the trails and we kept looking until 12:30 a.m. with the help of two RCMP dogs, three civilian search dogs, a horse team and of course some ground personnel but were unsuccessful,” Yelland said.
The team left their mobile operations base on site with a volunteer on hand to monitor developments and resumed their search Sunday morning.
“Comox and Nanaimo Search and Rescue joined in on Sunday afternoon and we got two dog handlers out from Campbell River along with several members from Comox Search and Rescue,” he said. However they were again unsuccessful in their search.
On Monday morning, Yelland said his team was again forming up to scour the woods when they received some unexpectedly good news.
“We received a call saying the grandson and some friends had gone onto some trails and they got close by him,” Yelland said. “The fellow had his dog with him and while we’d had teams fairly close by, calling him and his dog, but got no response. However, when the grandson called the dog it came to him from a very obscure trail.”
The grandson and his friends followed the dog and found the man hunkered down by a stump under a log overhang.
“The dog kept him warm over the two nights he was out,” Yelland said. “He was just wearing jeans, light shoes, a shirt and a medium jacket, nothing really good for the cold.”
The man was rushed to hospital as a precaution, but aside from mild hypothermia, he was in good shape.
“He was coherent, talking to his grandson and his friends,” Yelland said. “he was very cold and tired and he had got a bit damp, but he was conscious with no injuries, no broken bones, nothing strained. He was in good shape in that respect.”
Yelland said having the dog on hand was likely a major factor in the positive outcome.
“Having the dog with him was a big help,” he said. “The dog would be able to curl up with him as a heat source.”
As an experienced ASAR technician, Yelland is well aware that the chances of finding a search subject alive in cold weather diminishes rapidly after the first night out, so he was delighted with the outcome.
“We didn’t know this morning what we would encounter,” he said. “The probability of him being in the condition he was in, considering the sub-zero temperatures, was fairly low. We always hope for the best, but when it gets to the second day, after two nights out, we plan for the worst.”
Foreman said the dog deserves much credit for the successful rescue.
“This man’s dog is truly a hero, as he kept his master warm and ultimately led family to him for rescue,” he said.