Ninety-six days. That’s how long Bailey has been missing in the woods in Canada. But Bailey’s owner, Peter Weibe, as well as Kim Taylor, a professional dog finder, refuse to stop searching for her.
In August, Weibe was camping in the woods near Sundre, Alberta, with his three dogs — Bailey, Atilla and Gusto — when a thunderstorm swept through the area.
“There was a bolt of thunder, and two of the three dogs ran — Bailey and her son Atilla,” Taylor told The Dodo. “Peter went after them — for four days and nights straight.”
After a few days, Weibe found Atilla in a field — but not Bailey. So Weibe started posting ads online and reaching out to local veterinarians, asking for their help. That’s how he got connected with Taylor, who’s been professionally tracking and rescuing lost dogs since 2013.
Taylor started doing this work after losing her own dog, a Labrador retriever named Ryley.
“My husband had our two Labs out for a run in the winter in February, and in about 20 minutes, one vanished,” Taylor said. “It just drove me crazy.”
Despite conducting an exhaustive search, Taylor never found Ryley — but this experience motivated her to learn how to find lost dogs, which she turned into a career.
“Generally, I start where the dog was last seen,” Taylor said. “I pretty much go on my own, and I track by paw prints and poop. I find the animal’s water source from the place where it was last seen, and I look for prints around that area, and then usually we find signs of life.”
In 2013, Taylor also adopted a rescue dog named Brandy, whom Taylor has trained to help her track missing dogs.
“If the owner has a blanket or a jacket or something with the dog’s scent on it that I can send my tracking dog to, that’s one of steps I will take,” Taylor said. “But if the terrain is full of cougars, I don’t want to bring my tracking dog in there.”
Tracking a lost dog isn’t the hard part, Taylor explained — the most challenging part is actually catching the dog.
“By the time I usually get the call that the dogs are lost, they’ve been out there for a week or two, and they’ve become feral,” Taylor said. “They don’t want to be caught, and they don’t see people as safe to go to.”
Bailey is proving to be the most difficult dog Taylor has ever tried to catch.
“The longest one I’ve ever had before is 19 days,” Taylor said. “And in my mind, that was amazingly long. But this gal — she’s been running for over three months now.”
“I’ve had her within 25 feet of me four times — just about within grabbing range,” Taylor added. “But she just can’t allow herself to be caught.”
The reason Bailey’s been so evasive, according to Taylor, is because of her wild instincts.
“You’re not dealing with a lap dog anymore,” Taylor said. “You’re dealing with the equivalent of a coyote. If they see a human, they’re going to run. If they hear you, they’ll run.”
Yet Taylor continues to find signs that Bailey is alive, so she won’t give up on her. Taylor goes into the woods every day to track Bailey, check the trail camera she set up, and leave out food and water. She also regularly sets up humane traps — but so far, Bailey has not fallen for the bait.
Taylor isn’t the only person still looking for Bailey. Weibe has searched tirelessly for the dog whom he rescued when she was about a year and a half. Like Taylor, Weibe spends his days tracking Bailey, checking the trail cameras and replenishing the food and water stations.
“He loves her,” Taylor said. “He said, ‘I’ll keep going, as long as we keep finding signs of life.’ He couldn’t live with himself if he knew she was still alive up there.”
Weibe’s commitment to finding Bailey has taken a heavy toll on him, but he remains hopeful that he’ll reunite with his best friend soon.
“He refuses to leave, so he lost his job,” Taylor said. “With no income, he had to give up his place in order to stay up there to look for Bailey. He is staying in a small RV up there.”
As the weather gets colder, Taylor worries about Bailey’s ability to survive. Yet Taylor suspects that Bailey may have found someone to help her.
“I think she picked up a little friend — either a fox or a young coyote,” Taylor said. “Because in order for her to survive the temperatures that we’ve been having, especially in the last two or three weeks, she’d have to be denning. I mean, she’s a pit bull — she doesn’t have a coat. So she’d have to have learned or observed about how to get into the dens.”
Taylor has also found evidence that Bailey is hunting, but this might be harder for Bailey to do as the weather gets colder, and Taylor is hoping that Bailey will eventually go into a trap to get some food.
“I’ve never dreamed that I’d be doing this for this long, to be frank,” Taylor said. “I’ve gone to have the talk with Peter about it being time to give up, but that very morning I found signs of life. So I’m just compelled to keep going until I don’t find signs of life.”
While Bailey’s future remains unknown, Taylor hopes that others will never have to go through the same experience.
“Education is the key thing,” Taylor said. “What do you do when you lose a dog? You don’t run through the night screaming its name, because that just drives them further away.”
Taylor also recommends being aware of the kinds of things that may make a dog bolt — such as gunfire, fireworks or thunderstorms — and to keep your dog secure at all times.
As for Bailey, Taylor will keep looking for her as long as she believes she’s still living.
“I won’t give up on Bailey,” Taylor added. “Other dogs have survived much longer, so this isn’t impossible.”
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