Jax, the runaway Yorkshire terrier-chihuahua, is shown here with Heaven-Lee Sloat, daughter of Jax’s owners. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

Amateur pet detectives bring home lost dog in Campbell River

Community effort helps reunite Yorkshire terrier-chihuahua with family

A local dog-lover says that a concerted effort by Campbell River residents – and especially the Partners for Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) – helped bring her lost pup home safe and sound.

Penny Moch was in despair after her Yorkshire terrier-chihuahua went missing this summer. What followed was an elaborate search that involved social media tipsters and a live-animal trap in the woods, equipped with a video camera. Ten days passed before Moch was reunited with her dog, Jax.

“It was almost like the elusive sasquatch,” said Moch. “We’d get sightings of him but no one could catch him.”

Jax slipped away through an open door. One of Moch’s granddaughters went looking for the dog, and other family members soon joined the search. Meanwhile, Moch was posting about her lost dog on Facebook.

Someone online reported that he’d seen a little dog in the middle of Hwy. 28, across the river from Moch’s home at the Woodburn trailer park.

Jax the dog was missing for 10 days, before a community effort brought him home. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror.

Facebook users then reported seeing the dog heading east, towards Haig-Brown House. But nobody could find Jax in the area, and by the next day there were no new sightings of the five-year-old dog.

“I had given up,” said Moch, who bottle-fed Jax as a puppy. “I figured he was dead in the middle of a ditch somewhere.”

Meanwhile, Nikki Watts had been putting up brightly coloured posters.

“That’s just part of what I do,” said Watts, who volunteers as vice president of Campbell River PAWS.

Watts also coordinates Lost and Found Animals of Campbell River, a Facebook group run by the local PAWS group. The organization works closely with Coastal Animal Control and the SPCA, she said.

People use the Facebook forum to alert fellow members about errant cats and dogs, or other animals like bunnies and chickens spotted roaming the street.

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A quick review of the group’s timeline suggests that animals go astray several times daily in Campbell River. The forum often helps bring the animals home.

Moch’s post about Jax – which noted that “he recently had a haircut so looks a lot like a chihuahua” – was shared more than 50 times on the group’s Facebook page.

But it was the placards on the street, not a posting on social media, that yielded a tip leading Moch to a wooded area on the Inland Highway, near Willis Road.

That became the focus of the search, as volunteers came out to walk the trails. They also helped check a doggy trap that was set up in the area as tipsters spotted the dog over the next several days.

Campbell River PAWS also set up a video camera on the trail, which allowed the pet detectives to review footage showing that Jax was in the area.

The group later released a video containing footage of the dog as he nibbled on food placed nearby as bait.

Story continues below video.

Trails of food – including fish, a “stinky food” liable to attract the dog – led to a live-animal trap, camouflaged by foliage, said Moch.

Zap straps held the doorway open at night, since it’s dangerous for an animal to remain stuck in the cage for more than a few hours – makes them vulnerable to predators. People checked the trap frequently during the day.

Other familiar objects belonging to Moch were placed inside the trap, for Jax to pick up the scent.

“We had put my nightgowns in the traps, tried to lure him with those,” Moch said.

Her daughter Heaven-Lee Sloat was even prepared to camp out to recover the lost pooch.

“Me and a couple of friends, we were going to set up a tent and a little lantern in the woods and go play cards all night long, and see if he came to us sitting there quietly,” she said.

They didn’t have to resort to that.

The dog had been missing for more than a week, when Moch’s husband Dan was heading into the forest to check the traps along with Watts and an amateur pet detective from the Comox Valley.

Suddenly, Dan spotted the dog. He was about to run after the canine, but the Comox Valley helper urged him to sit down and speak softly to the dog.

“When Jax realized it was him, he came flying out of the woods and leaped into Dan’s arms,” said Moch. “When Dan was heading back to the vehicle, [Jax] was going nuts ‘cause he spotted me out at the highway.”

It was an emotional reunion after a 10-day absence.

“Everybody was crying,” said Moch. “The granddaughter’s looking at everybody and she’s going: ‘why are you guys crying?’”

She credited Watts and Campbell River PAWS for getting the word out, and thanked the many people who helped with the search.

Watts noted that PAWS is looking for volunteers, and she urged people not to give up if their animal friend goes missing.

“If you lose an animal, don’t panic,” she said. “Post, ask, and we’ll help.”

@davidgordonkoch
david.koch@campbellrivermirror.com

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