Canine companions and 'mental toughness' helped dog walker survive wilderness ordeal

Marcel Poitras says wife Annette gave one of her two rain jackets to Roxy the boxer and learned from the other dogs how to dig down to find a dry spot.

Annette Poitras shared a rain jacket with 1 dog and dug down into the dry dirt after watching the others

Annette and Marcel Poitras pose for a photo while Annette recovers in hospital after spending two nights in heavy forest on Coquitlam's Burke Mountain. (Marcel Poitras)

Marcel Poitras says his wife, Annette, who spent three days lost in the B.C. wilderness, is doing as well as can be expected one day after being rescued. 

Yesterday, a search and rescue helicopter long-lined 56-year-old Annette Poitras and three dogs to safety after the group had spent two very wet nights in heavy forest on Coquitlam's Burke Mountain.

"Annette's doing really good — no broken bones or anything. She basically just needs to be on an IV," he said. "It's more a situation of trauma to her muscle from when she fell and was crawling around trying to get to where the helicopter could see her."

North Shore Rescue volunteers prepare Bubba, Roxy and Chloe for their long line rescue. (North Shore Rescue)

Annette, a dog walker, had set off Monday for a two hour hike but on the way home fell off a slippery log, losing her cellphone and injuring her side so badly she was unable to walk.

"She basically had to lay there for quite a while. She couldn't move," said Marcel. "No broken bones, but she got muscle damage right in a spot that didn't allow her to get up."

He believes his wife's mental strength and the dogs helped her survive the ordeal.

Marcel Poitras (right) said his wife Annette's (left) mental strength helped her survive three days lost in the wilderness. (Poitras family)

In fact, he said his wife told him she followed the dogs lead as night fell, digging down underneath the sodden forest floor to where it was dry.

'Went on instinct'

"She just basically went on instinct and watched the dogs and kinda did some of the same things," he said. "The [forest] overburden soaks up the water [so] moving that out of the way she got down in the dirt where it's actually a little warmer and just basically hunkered down and waited for help."

Roxy's owner posted this picture Wednesday evening, writing, 'Roxy is FUREVER grateful for saving her, Annette, Chloe and Bubba. Roxy is at home on the couch sleeping peacefully. I cannot thank all the SAR searchers enough. A million thanks.' (Janet Kilberg/Facebook)

He said his wife was wearing two rain jackets but took one off to help keep shivering Roxy, the short haired boxer, warm. 

"Roxy was lying beside her," said Marcel. "He has very short fur and was almost as cold as she was."

"Her dog Chloe, she's not one to cuddle so she didn't help in that sense. But she didn't lie down. She sat up all night and didn't sleep. She sat watching Annette, and Annette just really felt she was on guard all night."

Bubba, the puggle, wandered away the first night looking for food but was found the next day. (Coquitlam SAR)

The third dog, Bubba, an older puggle, wandered away during the first night but was found the following day.

Bubba got her moving

"Bubba is very food focused, and thought, if nobody is going to feed me, I'll go feed myself," said Marcel. "So the next day, that's what got Annette off the ground and got her moving a little bit because she had to go find him. She found him and got them together, and they hunkered down." 

Late Wednesday morning, searchers made voice contact with the 56-year-old after hearing a weak human voice and barking dogs.

Searchers eventually found Poitras approximately a kilometre off a main power line trail.

"She was lying on the ground prone," said Darren Timmer, search team leader for Coquitlam Search and Rescue. "She could not get up, but she could wave her hand to get our attention."

"The dogs were very excited that we were there. We heard them from a distance."

Chloe belongs to Annette, while the other two dogs belong to clients. The border collie stood guard over her during the two nights they were lost. (Susana da Silva/CBC)

According to her husband, she will spend another night in hospital to receive more fluids and physiotherapy and, like Chloe, Roxy and Bubba, is expected to make a full recovery.

"She's not very mobile now, so we're going to get her some physiotherapy and get her up and walking around," said Marcel.

"All things considered she's in good spirits."

Annette Poitras, 56, a professional dog walker, was found along with three dogs Wednesday after spending two cold and wet nights lost in the Coquitlam, B.C., wilderness. (Supplied by Coquitlam RCMP)