Nfld. & Labrador

Presumed dead: This lucky pup survived 5 nights in the wild after 15-vehicle crash

Obi the Shih Tzu was lost amid the chaos of one of the biggest highway vehicle pileups in Newfoundland and Labrador history, but has finally made it safely home.

Family lost Obi the Shih Tzu after highway pileup on Feb. 18

Obi the Shih Tzu was presumed dead by his owners after a 15-car crash on the Trans-Canada Highway on Feb. 18. (Submitted)

Obi the Shih Tzu was lost amid the chaos of one of the biggest highway vehicle pileups in Newfoundland and Labrador history, but has finally made it safely home.

Tanya Cassell Pardy was driving on Feb. 18 with her two boys and the family dog when their car became one of 15 vehicles involved in a pileup on the Trans-Canada Highway at Birchy Narrows, just east of Deer Lake. 

The family had been driving along the highway after a visit with Cassell Pardy's father in Hampden through clear skies punctured by sudden, vicious snow squalls.

"It was instant. It was unbelievable how it was sunny one second and then I couldn't see anything the next," Cassell Pardy said.

"Next thing I knew, here was the crash ahead of me and we went full into a transport truck."

'We're going to get crushed'

The family survived the head-on crash, only to be rear-ended by another vehicle. Everybody was shaken, bruised, but otherwise OK.

But not for long. 

"Another car is going to [crash] into us, or a transport truck, and we're going to get crushed," Cassell Pardy remembered thinking, before yelling at her boys to get out of the car and run for safety.

As they stepped out onto the highway, bystanders already on safe ground began hollering at them to run.

"When I looked, a transport truck was coming towards us," she told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

Fifteen vehicles collided near Birchy Narrows on Monday, Feb. 18, when visibility suddenly dropped to zero. Six people were sent to hospital. (Jennifer Grudic/CBC)

Cassell Pardy and her nine-year-old ran to one side, her 12-year-old son and Obi to the other, as the truck sliced through their car, transforming it into a mess of twisted metal between them.

When the 18-wheeler came to a halt, Cassell Pardy didn't know what she would see on the other side. Was her son still standing there?

"All I could see was the transport truck. I didn't see Joshua, and I couldn't see Obi."

After moments of tension that felt like minutes, Joshua poked his head out around the truck, and his mother's heart settled back into her chest.

But the family's three-year-old Shih Tzu was nowhere in sight.

Where's Obi?

After seeing Joshua standing safely on the other side of the truck, Cassell Pardy ran to her son and brought him to safety with everyone else.

She then realized Obi was missing. Amid the fray of the pileup, the chances of finding him alive seemed bleak.

Despite sustaining a broken foot in the crash, Cassell Pardy began looking under vehicles and along the side of the road, worrying the dog had been buried in snow after the transport truck came to a halt.

Six people were sent to hospital in the crash, two with serious injuries.

While Cassell Pardy was devastated about their dog, her first priority was getting her sons away from the scene.

"They had seen enough already. They were traumatized by Obi. I didn't really want them sticking around any longer," she said.

Her father came from Hampden and parked in the middle of a growing line of traffic. With her broken foot, she walked seven minutes up the highway to get in his car.

The Pardy family: Dean and Tanya, and their sons Joshua and Jonathan, along with their dog, Obi. (Submitted)

A ray of hope

On Thursday, the family arrived back home in Conception Bay South, about 600 kilometres from where Obi went missing.

Three nights had passed since the crash, a time when the entire island suffered through an extreme cold warning, with temperatures dipping down into the –20 to –30 C range.

Cassell Pardy posted on Facebook, asking anybody in the area to keep an eye out for their dog. 

This Facebook post generated shares all over the province, and eventually led to a break in the search for Obi. (Tanya Cassell Pardy/Facebook)

"To be honest, I posted in hopes of getting his body back so we could get some closure," she said.

The post was shared all over the province. On Saturday night, the family got a huge surprise.

A married couple on the west coast had spotted Obi near the crash site around 5 p.m. They got out of their vehicle and tried to lure to dog over, but he was scared and ran away again.

Cassell Pardy's husband looked up flights to Deer Lake. There was one leaving in an hour.

"He went to the airport and jumped on a flight," she said.

Finding Obi

Her husband Dean picked up his father-in-law at Hampden Junction and they set out around 8:30 that night with flashlights.

While combing the area, they picked up the Shih Tzu's tracks in the snow and followed them back into the woods. They lost the trail, however, when they ran into snowmobile tracks going through the area.

To be honest, I posted in hopes of getting his body back so we could get some closure.- Tanya Cassell Pardy

Freezing cold, they went back to the truck to warm up and call in the disappointing results.

But Dean decided to head out once more before calling it a night, walking into the woods and calling Obi's name.

To his delight, he heard a small bark in return. He took a few steps towards the bark and called again.

Another bark.

He repeated it again, getting closer until he found the little dog stuck in the snow.

"He was very weak," Cassell Pardy said. "He was covered in ice and snow."

Obi making a recovery

The force was strong with Obi during his five nights in the forest. They took him to Hampden for the night, where he warmed up and got some food.

He made it back to Conception Bay South the next morning and went to the vet, where the family received good news.

Obi had lost a little weight, but was otherwise no worse for wear after five days in the woods. (Submitted)

Obi had lost weight, but he didn't have any frostbite on his paws or ears. He will be fine.

The past seven days have been a roller-coaster for the family, but they'll never forget the happy ending.

"We cried, and cried and cried. We cried just as much knowing that he had found him as the night we had lost him."

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from the St. John's Morning Show

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