A couple of months ago I was running down the Valley Trail when, out of nowhere, a large black dog bounded out of Nita Lake and began to keep pace with me.
As a dogless dog lover who dreams, pines and talks constantly about wanting a pup, I was pretty excited to have gained this temporary running partner. He ditched me around Lakeside Park to beg for hot dogs from some picnickers, but I understood and carried on my way.
Looping back around the park again some time later it was a different scene. The picnic was packed up, the sun was setting and a new group of people with concerned looks on their faces was starring at Buddy (as I had named him), as he ran recklessly on the shore of Alta Lake.
A man stopped me. "Is this your dog?" he asked in a thick Scandinavian accent.
I shook my head and explained that I found him earlier that night running around without tags or any owner in sight.
"Do you have a phone?" I asked, thinking we could call Whistler Animals Galore and see if anyone was missing the rambunctious creature.
"No, we just moved to Whistler two hours ago," he replied.
"Oh. Well, maybe I'll take him home and call the shelter. And welcome to Whistler. You're going to see a lot of dogs."
We parted ways while I coerced Buddy into following me by waving a large stick. It worked. We ran back towards Creekside, side-by-side, stopping to ask passersby if they recognized him.
I consulted with one woman out walking her dog.
"Should I take him home? Is this stealing? Who lets their dog run around without tags?"
She was motherly looking and kind and I immediately trusted her advice. She agreed I should bring him to my tiny, pet-free apartment and attempt to find his owners.
I nodded, excited at the prospect of having a dog for a night (maybe forever!) but worried about getting him across and down the highway safely without a leash. Eventually, I figured out if I grabbed the stick clutched tightly in jaws and pretended to play tug of war he would stay next to me. So, for the next couple of kilometres that's how I ran, up to the door of my building where I quietly snuck him down the hallway and into my apartment.
I called WAG immediately, assuming there would be some kind of afterhours emergency line for these kind of situations. Turns out, there isn't. I wracked my brain. Who else would deal with rogue dogs at 8 p.m. on a Tuesday night? I called the RCMP non-emergency line.
"Um, we don't really deal with animals," the officer on the other end said.
I stared at Buddy, his hulking black figure taking up a quarter of my living room, tongue hanging out of the corner of his mouth as he looked up at me. I was hit by a wave of panic: Did I just accidentally steal a dog?
I've learned a lot about Whistler in the eight months I've lived here, but I'm still constantly stumbling upon unspoken rules and words and rituals that I didn't know existed. Maybe people let their dogs roam, unattended and tagless, until nightfall when the dogs know it's time to return home.
Thief or not, I realized I was stuck with this dog for the night. I offered Buddy quick and strict instructions — "Do. Not. Bark."— and dashed off to the grocery store for dog food and a leash.
"How much do big dogs eat?" I asked my mom on the phone as I scooped smelly, goop out of a can.
Buddy began licking my feet enthusiastically and I was giggling too hard to hear her response.
"Just don't name him," she said, probably remembering Judy, the poor, dead hummingbird my sister and I failed to nurse back to health and sadly buried last summer.
Against my better judgment, Buddy slept in my bed that night, his top half on my stomach squeezing the air out of lungs, his big goofy face resting on my chest.
"This is nice," I thought. "We're even the same running pace."
I teared up only a little dropping him off at WAG the next morning. The woman working there didn't seem hopeful he would find his owners as no one had called looking for him overnight.
"Check the website in four days," she advised, ushering Buddy off before I could say a proper good bye. "If no one claimed him he'll be posted up for adoption."
Luckily, he wasn't. I'll probably never know to whom Buddy belongs or why he was wandering the trail that night. If his owners happen to read this, my message is two-fold: I'm very sorry about possibly, kind of stealing your dog for 12 hours, but if you're lucky enough to have such a lovely dog put some tags on his collar, if only so I don't have to name him.
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