Nfld. & Labrador

Pet dogs escaping over snow-covered fences in St. John's

A Facebook group for lost pets is plastered with more than 50 posts about lost dogs, with many saying the dogs escaped their yards by climbing snow banks that built up during the big storm.

A Facebook group for lost pets has been plastered with posts about roaming dogs since the big storm

These are images from the Facebook group NL Lost Pets Network. Since the big storm, there have been more than 50 posts about lost dogs. (NL Lost Pets Network/Facebook)

"We have two dogs in our backyard. Uh-oh! Two big dogs."

A woman's voice in a cellphone video, posted to the Facebook group NL Lost Pets Network. Two large, black dogs can be seen roaming a yard where the snow drifts are piled high against the fence.

It's one of more than 50 posts about lost dogs since the big storm Jan. 17. The group is plastered with pictures and videos of dogs, lost and found. Many of the posts show dogs running through snow-covered streets, dodging traffic along the way. 

Stray dogs run down Elizabeth Avenue. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

In several of the posts, dog owners explain their pets escaped over a fence by climbing snow banks that built up during the storm.

For dog experts, it's sad but far from surprising. 

"You know, when we get hit with the amount of snow that we have, it's really easy for the snow to drift up and pile up against the fences," said dog trainer Ken Reid, who calls himself "Newfoundland's dog whisperer."

"People let their dogs out, and the dogs walk right over the fence and go on walkabout. Not only that, with the amount of wind we've been having, fences get damaged, gates come down, gates come open, and what was typically a secure backyard becomes a fun zone for the dog."

Dog trainer Ken Reid bills himself as Newfoundland's dog whisperer. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

Before the storm, a tragedy

It's a situation that's already led to tragedy for at least one family.

The week before the storm, Matt Murphy came home from work, and let his dog Maggie out in the backyard. What he didn't realize was that a snow removal crew had blown snow over his fence and into the yard, piling up in just the wrong place.

The week before the storm, Matt Murphy's dog escaped his yard by climbing over a snowbank and was struck by a car near Torbay Road. The dog died. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

"She found the opportunity to escape into our neighbours yard, and then she was able to get loose," said Murphy. "I put a call out on social media for everyone to keep an eye out for her, she responds to Maggie, the area of town she was in. And then I found out that she had in fact been struck by a car, and by the time I found her at the vet clinic down on Topsail Road, she had already passed."

Murphy says the sudden loss was deeply painful for his entire family.

"It was terrible. My heart jumped up in my throat. It was obviously devastating, the loss of a family member. Very concerned how I was going to communicate this to my two young daughters."

Murphy says he can't yet bring himself to get rid of his dog's toys. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

How to protect your pet

In many of the posts on NL Lost Pets Network, comments indicate the escaped pets have made it home safely. Often, a person spotted the dog and was able to corral them, post a picture, and connect with the owners. But in many other posts, there seems to be no resolution and it's unclear if the missing dogs have been found.

These are just a few of more than 50 recent posts about lost dogs in the NL Lost Pets Network group. (NL Lost Pets Network/Facebook)

With the right training, Reid says, a dog will learn to stay in their own yard, fence or no fence. But for now, the best way to protect your pet is to keep an eye on them.

"Any time your dog goes out, go out with them. Make sure they have their IDs on them. That way, if they do get out, it's real easy to get them home."

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