Charlie, a Labrador–heeler mix who calls Swift Current, Sask., home, has been getting a few more treats and pats than usual these days — and he's earned them, after what was probably an incredible journey.
After disappearing from his family's front yard through a gate that was mistakenly left open and spending 85 days braving the elements, he came home last week — full of fleas and a few pounds lighter.
Owner Kandice Moss said Charlie's journey began back in August when she and her husband noticed their two dogs were missing from the yard.
Their initial search was met with tragedy when they discovered that one of their dogs, Charlie's brother, had been hit by a vehicle.
With no Charlie to be found, Moss said they expanded their search efforts, putting a call out on social media, handing out posters, taking out radio and online ads, and calling Saskatchewan Animal Protection Services, all in hopes they would find their four-legged family member.
'I felt really, really hopeless'
Moss remembers feeling horrible.
"I was pretty negative about it. I felt really, really hopeless. Even after some sightings you start to wonder, you know, 'Is that really my dog?'" she told CBC Radio's Afternoon Edition.
"Every time we did get a lead … my husband or I would go out and look, because, I mean, you gotta. You can't give up hope and that feeling of your family member out there. It doesn't go away."
Despite numerous sightings, the trail was looking as though it would turn cold.
But then, one evening last week when Moss, her husband and their 18-month-old son were enjoying some quiet before bed, they heard a noise outside.
"When I stopped to listen, I said to my husband … 'That's really actually out front, something's in our yard.'"
When she opened the door she saw Charlie, sitting by her son's wagon.
"He just ran right into the house for hugs and there was a lot of hugs and tears, definitely."
'Still the same old Charlie'
Moss said the family isn't entirely sure where Charlie went but said judging by his condition, he spent his time outdoors.
She said he may have spent time near a farmyard just south of town, because farmers in the area spotted a dog they thought was him but were unable to get close.
Since his triumphant return, Moss said Charlie has been acting more anxious than normal, but is getting to enjoy the company of a new puppy the family brought in after Charlie's disappearance.
"He's still the same old Charlie."