Lost dog found in Manitoba town reunites with U.S. family more than 2 years after crossing border into Canada

After two years roaming around a rural Manitoba town, a small white dog that went missing from Grand Forks, N.D., has been reunited with its American family.

Charlie the dog escaped Grand Forks, N.D., home during snowstorm in winter 2016

Catherine Herzog never thought she would see her lost dog ever again. On Monday, she reunited with Charlie, who went during a snowstorm shortly before Christmas 2016. (Submitted by Hannah Zacharias/7 Acre Wood Animal Boarding Kennel)

A frail white dog with a distinctly goofy mouth that ran away from its U.S. home in the middle of a snowstorm in late 2016 was caught in a coyote trap before reconnecting with its American family on Monday — in Canada.

Charlie hadn't been seen by the family since he bolted out the door of their home in Grand Forks, N.D., as snow blanketed the yard more than 2 ½ years ago. 

Catherine Herzog said she and her family were deeply concerned about their lost dog, who had joined them when he was a tiny puppy that could fit in the palm of her hand.

"Weeks turned into months and months turned into years, and we'd never heard anything, so we had assumed that either he had frozen to death or got hit by a plow or a car," she said.

Charlie, a crossbreed between a pug and a miniature American Eskimo dog, had left behind his brother and two daughters.

Herzog said she frantically called police, shelters, kennels, and vets in the area — to no avail.

Dog gone

Meanwhile, residents in a rural Manitoba community — more than 160 kilometres away from Charlie's home in North Dakota — were quite confused by a strange dog that mysteriously began roaming around town.

Angie Prince-Smoke runs a community group on Facebook for people who live in Morris, about 60 kilometres south of Winnipeg. An animal lover herself, with three canines and four cats at home, she said people had been posting in the group about spotting the seemingly wild dog for the past two years.

"Many posts were in the wintertime because everyone was concerned of his safety," Prince-Smoke said. "So everybody was posting 'whose dog is this? We can't catch him. I've tried to lure him in.'"

Charlie somehow managed to evade capture and survive the harsh Prairie winters. Residents, who would toss scraps of food to him, believed he was abandoned or neglected. They would see him hanging around near the grounds of the town's annual stampede and rodeo, looking fearful.

"As soon as they got near him, he was gone," Prince-Smoke said.

Family reunion

On Aug. 2, more than two years after getting lost, Charlie was caught in a coyote trap set up by the town's animal control services to catch him. He was impounded at the 7 Acre Wood Animal Boarding Kennel, in the Morris area.

Robert Zacharias, who owns the boarding facility, said the lost pet was agitated and scared upon arrival.

"It looked like a dog that had definitely been on the run for a while," he said.

He was still wearing identification tags on his collar, which allowed him to be tracked to his American family, who immediately recognized him by his little tongue hanging out the side of his mouth.

"I never in my wildest dreams expected to get that phone call," Herzog said when she heard her dog had been found.

"Never, ever thought he would've made it all the way to Canada."

Herzog made the trip north from her home in Grand Forks to Morris immediately when she learned her missing pet was found. 

"I made a beeline for Canada" — her first time crossing over the border beyond Peace Gardens she said over the phone, hours after reuniting with Charlie. "We've missed that sweet little face of his."

When they were finally reunited, the dog bolted over to her before anyone at the pound could get a leash on him, she said.

"He was crying and giving kisses."

The two continued travelling north to Winnipeg, where Herzog arranged veterinary visits to properly vaccinate and check up on the pet.

"He was my little buddy. And he was always kind of frail, so it's amazing that he made it this long in the wild," Herzog said, chuckling while reflecting on the dog's adventures.

Herzog looks forward to bringing the previously pampered pooch back to his family in Grand Forks. She said she thanks the residents of Morris who kept an eye on the dog and helped him stay alive.

"The people really went the extra effort to find his family, and we're just so grateful to all of them to have him back."