Lost and found: after 11 days in the mountains Patches returns to her thankful master

Ross McPhee at home with Patches after his pet's miraculous return home after being lost in the mountains for 11 days. David F. Rooney photo
Ross McPhee at home with Patches after his pet's miraculous return home. Patches, a Great Pyrenees, was lost in the mountains for 11 days after an accident on the Trans-Canada Highway near Three Valley Gap. David F. Rooney photo

By Ross McPhee

On Thursday morning, December 10, I was on my way westward on the Trans-Canada Highway to begin a vacation. I was heading to the Kelowna Airport to catch a flight to Vancouver, the first leg of my trip to Egypt. My dog and great pal Patches was with me, as she was going to be staying at Hy-Country Kennels near Vernon. Unfortunately, all of this was not to be.

The highway wasn’t too bad to drive on, although it had snowed lightly during the night and early morning. As I approached the Three Valley Gap Resort, a highway sander pulled out to start sanding and I followed it along the lake. As we came to the end of the lake the sander pulled off and I continued on up the hill. Driving became a bit more difficult after that as it had not been sanded, so I was driving slowly. Further on I hit an ice patch which caused me to swerve a little and I was on alert after that. I passed the Enchanted Forest development and just went by the big rock when I hit more ice and went out of control. I had no traction whatever, was swerving, and went off the highway and down the bank to the right and rolled.

My car, an Audi Allroad, came to rest on the passenger side. I was shaken and disoriented although reasonably OK, but there was no sound from Patches who was in the cargo area at the back of the car. I was afraid she was badly hurt or worse. After I scrambled out of the car with the help of a passerby who held the door open for me, I saw that the hatchback window had been blown open in the roll-over and Patches was gone. Her tracks lead toward the stream and the railroad but there was no sign of her. About ten minutes later there was a sighting of her on the south side of the highway but in the confusion of slowed traffic she ran up the mountain, obviously frightened by all that she had been through. I tracked her up the mountain that afternoon as far as I could until darkness turned me back (she was easy to track because she was trailing her leash!) but there was no sign of her. Later trips out to the accident scene and area were not fruitful.

Many people were aware of the circumstances of Patches going missing including City staff, the Fire Department and RCMP, the Animal Shelter, HMC and CPR staff, others in the vicinity of the accident, and friends and neighbours. The help offered and the concern shown by everyone was truly gratifying. This is a very caring community.

As time went by and as winter closed in, my hope was fading that I would ever see Patches again. And then, on Monday morning, December 21, eleven days after the accident, the miracle happened!

I received a call saying that Patches had been found!

A passerby found Patches in the vicinity of the accident and reported this to HMC staff who were carrying out avalanche control work in the area. HMC staff contacted City Hall staff who in turn called me with the good news. HMC staff then brought Patches back to town and delivered her to the veterinary clinic where I happily met her. After a medical check she was found to be in good health, although needing to gain back quite a lot of weight. She’s now back home, eating and sleeping well, and back to rolling in the snow with great pleasure on our walks around the neighbourhood. I can only wonder about the details of her adventure but it sure would be great to know … In the meantime, she has my everlasting respect for her stamina and ability to survive. She’s a great dog and I’m delighted to have her back.

Thanks and a Merry Christmas to all!

Ross McPhee is the City of Revelstoke’s Chief Administrative Officer

You can read an interview with the woman who rescued Patches at https://legacy.revelstokecurrent.com//2009/12/26/lost-and-found-patches-rescuer-speaks-out/.