'Just in shock': Manitoba family reunited with dog missing for 7 weeks after car crash

Murphy, a six-year-old Shih Tzu, disappeared after a crash just outside of Pine Falls in August.

Murphy, a 6-year-old Shih Tzu, disappeared after family's vehicle rolled over in August

Hazel Steinke with Murphy. The Steinke family was reunited with the dog seven weeks after he went missing following a car accident. (Submitted by Meagan Steinke)

Meagan Steinke vividly recalls the day, two months ago, that her dog Murphy disappeared after a car crash.

And she just as vividly recalls how, seven weeks later, her family was reunited with the six-year-old Shih Tzu.

Steinke is still recovering from the injuries she suffered after the truck she was travelling in was involved in a rollover on Aug. 7.

She was with her husband, daughter Hazel, and her daughter's friend, heading to the family's cottage in Manigotagan. The family's dogs, Flash and Murphy, were also with them. 

Near Black River, about 120 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, "We just suddenly lost control of the truck," she said. "We just kind of felt it clunk to the driver's side."

The truck rolled several times before it came to a stop in a ditch. 

"My head and my neck were on the ground outside the truck," she recalls. "The two girls were able to crawl out the back window of the truck," and flagged down a passing vehicle.

The Steinkes' truck after a rollover just outside Black River, Man., on Aug. 7. The family suffered minor injuries, but one of their dogs ran away after the collision. (Submitted by Meagan Steinke)

RCMP told Steinke it appeared the crash was caused by lugs that had sheared off one of the truck's rear wheels.   

Right after the crash, a witness found Flash. But Murphy was nowhere to be seen.

The family, who are from Tyndall — about 40 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg — was taken by ambulance to the Health Sciences Centre. They suffered whiplash and gashes from the crash, Steinke says.

Feared the worst

In the meantime, her family and friends showed up at the scene to look for Murphy, combing through bushes and ditches for the dog. When they came up empty-handed, Steinke feared the worst.

"Where our truck landed, we were 10 feet from water."

After the family was discharged from the hospital, she was afraid to tell her daughter what may have happened to her dog.

"Nobody wanted to tell my daughter, because she heard somebody say that they simply had our dogs. Unfortunately, it was just the one dog," she said.

"It was a tough ride home from Winnipeg that night, when we realized there was only one dog."

Meagan and Hazel Steinke were reunited with Murphy seven weeks after he disappeared. (Submitted by Meagan Steinke)

Steinke says they put up posters and offered a $1,000 reward for the return of the Shih Tzu. 

"We had people contacting us, telling us they they were sure they spotted our dog in Selkirk, on the loose, or near St. Andrews."

That gave the family a sense of hope, but none of the tips led to finding Murphy.

It was on Sept. 25 that Steinke's mom called, telling Steinke to get over to her house in Beausejour. 

When Steinke and her daughter Hazel arrived, they couldn't believe their eyes.

"I noticed this, like, really dirty, brown-looking dog just going nuts, and he turned around and me and my daughter were just in shock," she said. Sure enough, it was Murphy.

"He came running straight to Hazel, so she scooped him up."

After seven weeks on the loose, Murphy was extremely underweight, and was covered in scabs and deer ticks. 

They took him to a vet, who prescribed him a special high-protein diet and antibiotics to help him gain weight.

Steinke says Murphy still has many vet visits ahead of him, and he remains guarded and skittish. However, she says it's great to be reunited, and all recovering together.

"We don't know what he did for seven weeks, but he managed to survive that," she said.

"And now he's home with us, and he's helping us on the road to recovery."


Marjorie Dowhos is the host of CBC Manitoba's Radio Noon. She is an RTNDA award-winning reporter. Marjorie joined CBC Manitoba in 2010. Prior to that, she was an anchor, reporter and video journalist in Thunder Bay, Ont., Medicine Hat, Alta., Fort McMurray, Alta., and Fort St. John, B.C. Marjorie is also the host of the CBC podcast Jets Stream.