One week in the woods near Creston.
That’s how long three-year-old black lab Niña was lost after being swept away in the current of Summit Creek.
However, against all odds, it looks like this story has a happy ending.
While on the road to her brother’s memorial in Grand Forks, Valerie LaFreniere decided to let her dog Niña stretch her legs on the turn-off for Summit Creek Trail.
Unfortunately, Niña broke free and bolted for the woods and the rushing waters of the creek.
“As soon as she went in the river, I saw her heading to the other side, trying to struggle,” described LaFreniere.
“And by the time I got to the creek’s edge, she was nowhere to be seen. She just disappeared.”
Labs are known as water dogs and are quite good swimmers. However, LaFreniere says Niña was a long way from the waters at home.
“We’ve never really gone anywhere or done anything. BC has water that moves. We’re from Saskatchewan where everything’s stagnant and doesn’t move. When she jumped in the water, I think was quite surprised that it was moving, and it just grabbed her and rushed her off.”
LaFreniere says she looked for an hour and a half, but couldn’t go any further into the woods in fear of getting lost herself.
“The pathways at the stop only went so far, so I yelled and called for an hour and a half. I spotted a couple of people and we prayed together.”
Unfortunately, LaFreniere had to continue to her brother’s memorial. She called her daughter to let her know but was not aware of the spotty cellphone reception among the mountains.
“When I called her, I didn’t realize there was no service, so I left a message that Niña had jumped in the water, but was then cut off. So she called the police thinking that I went in after her.”
LaFreniere says a search and rescue team then went looking for her but were called back after she got out of the mountains and got reception.
However, the search for Niña was just beginning.
LaFreniere and her daughter contacted the local animal rescue, PAWS, who sent out the call that a dog had been swept away.
Soon, most of the town was on the alert.
Boats were patrolling the waterways, searchers were walking along the trails near the creek, and one man with a drone was even patrolling the skies.
However, no one spotted any sign of Niña.
“My heart was just broken,” commented LaFreniere.
“I could hardly see. I had to pull over several times because I was crying so hard. I had to go home without my dog. When I got home, my cat was crying all night looking for her. It just didn’t end.”
However, on Thursday, one week after she went missing, a miracle happened.
“Then, I got in yesterday after picking up some groceries, and I got a call from the vet that they have her. I just couldn’t believe it.”
Niña had been found and brought to the vet, still wearing her pink harness.
Both she and the harness showed a little wear, but where the harness had to be removed, Niña was safe and healthy.
“I could hardly talk, I was choked up. But, I tell you, I’m still feeling the same way. So happy and sad at the same time.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am that everything has worked out. I had the worst thoughts of her getting sucked under a log jam or hurt and scared, and I just was so worried more for her than I was for me. Of course, now I’m happy that she’s safe. Apparently, she’s looking good, and she’s eating.”
When Niña was originally brought in, there was a little bit of confusion. When scanned, she came up as Wanda, her original name before she was adopted.
However, one of the staff, Lori Compton, recognized her as Niña immediately and asked to be the one to call LaFreniere.
And so, LaFreniere hit the road for the long 10-hour drive to Creston.
When she arrived, Compton was there to welcome her with a gift package from the local pet store Hound N’ Mouser, including a harness to replace the damaged one Niña got lost in.
“Oh, I am beside myself. I still have got that lump in my throat, I am just so excited.”
She says she felt the full support from the town of Creston, the staff at PAWS and the local vet.
“I couldn’t believe that there was so much support. That’s probably what kept me going, is that there were so many people out there looking. I wasn’t going to give up hope.
“Life is good today.”