It took dozens of sightings, a broken foot, plenty of roast chicken and even a pet psychic, but a lost dog that captured Whistlerites’ imagination over the past two weeks has finally been reunited with her owners.
Kali is a two-year-old border collie rescued from northern Manitoba that had spent less than two days with new owners Doug and Mary Forseth before she escaped from their Cheakamus Crossing home on Feb. 23.
“It was only about 33 hours. She had two sleeps in our house and one full day and then went missing early the second day, before we could feed her breakfast even,” recalled Doug.
The tightknit neighbourhood quickly banded together, and makeshift search parties began following the dog’s tracks, covering dozens of kilometres a day. Soon enough, sightings of Kali started pouring in.
Accustomed to living outdoors, the former stray was “on the move constantly,” Doug said, with sightings reported from Creekside to Function and nearly everywhere in between.
But as soon became apparent, the usual tactics weren’t going to work on Kali. Wary of people and unfamiliar with leashes, she managed to elude dozens of would-be captors over her two-week odyssey. So the Forseths enlisted help from staff at the Squamish dog-training centre, Canine Valley, who stressed patience in their approach.
“From the get-go, they said it’s going to take days, and it could take a week,” Mary said. “Of course at that point, we were like, ‘No, no, no.’ We didn’t believe that.”
Receiving dozens of calls and texts a day from Good Samaritans—Doug estimates he answered more than 60 calls and 100 texts one day—Kali led her owners on something of a wild goose hunt. Chasing after such a skittish dog was out of the question, so the Forseths relied on a diligent group of neighbours they dubbed “Team Kali” who would report the dog’s location in real time.
Along with the added eyes, the group assisted in a number of other ways, from designing and printing missing “fugitive” posters, to spreading the word that Kali was not to be fed or approached if seen, which proved to be essential in clearing up confusion in such an ever-changing situation.
“I fell into that role … of trying to spread not just the word but the information, because everyone took over the [Facebook] comments and we felt the need to set people straight,” explained Lindsey Ataya, former Pique staffer and Cheakamus resident. “I think people just kept throwing in their own judgment about it, and we felt the need to stick up for Doug and Mary and let people know that they’re doing everything humanly possible to get this dog back.”
There were a handful of close calls over the two weeks. Enjoying the 360-degree view that a frozen-over Nita Lake offered, Kali was spotted numerous times lying in the middle of the ice. One day, Doug even took to the lakeshore armed with a whole roasted chicken in the hopes of attracting her, while Team Kali manned the Valley Trail asking onlookers to keep clear.
“Doug went over there and played in the snowbank for three hours with a fresh chicken from Creekside Market,” Mary relayed with a chuckle. “We were trying to trap this busy dog, and it didn’t work. We got very close.”
Another helpful neighbour, Tina Symko, managed to lure Kali inside her Cheakamus garage, before the ever-elusive canine somehow squeezed her way past as Symko was closing the door.
“I made a bit of an awkward lunge to try and block her from getting through the door, and she just squeezed out underneath me,” Symko remembered. “In the process, I bashed myself up a bit and ended up with a broken foot. I took one for Team Kali there.”
Despite the injury, Symko, who even fielded calls from a pet psychic offering help, said she was happy to lend a hand to a neighbour in need in this pandemic year when so much has felt beyond our control.
“You’re not saving the world. You’re not curing COVID, but at least if you can bring this lost dog home to its new family, that’s a great thing that everyone could feel good about,” she said.
On the advice of Canine Valley, the Forseths soon switched tactics, setting a pair of trap crates (one of which was borrowed from Whistler Animals Galore) with bits of food inside to entice Kali. Doug also set up a motion camera that notified him when something was caught on tape. The first night’s catch? A wayward racoon.
“Whoops!” Mary exclaimed.
Eventually, however, the Forseths spotted Kali on camera venturing into the crate, which for the first few days it was set, was not armed, so she would grow more comfortable in it. By Monday, March 8, they re-armed the crate, set some food inside and hoped for the best.
Their perseverance paid off.
“I was crying. I admit it, I was crying,” said Mary of her reaction to finally getting Kali home.
Wasting no time, the Forseths took Kali to Canine Valley the day after her reunion for training. “I went from relief that she was home and safe to switching gears to figure out how we were going to train her so this never happens again,” Doug said. “We’re undertaking this immediately to try and turn this from a feral dog to a domestic dog.”
In the whirlwind of Kali’s reunion, the Forseths have still found time to appreciate the immense support offered by friends, neighbours and complete strangers in getting her home safe.“The two big wins were getting Kali back and No. 2 was connecting with so many people that cared,” Doug said.
The Forseths have also enjoyed Kali’s newfound celebrity status, spending some time Monday night going through the many memes she has inspired on Facebook.
“Kali’s a true Whistler local now,” Doug said.