It was the best 30th birthday present Frank Choltco-Devlin could have asked for.
Since the weekend, the Bellingham, Wash., resident has been frantically searching for his dog, Wyatt. On Sunday (June 23), Choltco-Devlin returned to the parking lot at the bottom of Stawamus Chief to find his silver 2002 Dodge Ram pickup truck missing. He had parked the vehicle around noon and went climbing, leaving Wyatt, a 18-month-old chocolate Labrador, asleep in the vehicle. But when he returned to the lot around 5 p.m., the diesel 4x4 was gone and so was Wyatt.
“I was just devastated,” Choltco-Devlin said. “He's just really loving and friendly. It was gut wrenching.”
Choltco-Devlin's passport, wallet and his climbing partner's camera equipment and phone were also in the truck. With the help of a passerby, Choltco-Devlin was able to reach his brother, who was coaching at a mountain bike camp in Whistler, to get a lift home.
The ride back to Bellingham was silent, he said. All he could think about was his four-legged friend. The rescue dog went everywhere with Choltco-Devlin — on mountain bike trips, climbing outings and hiking.
On Monday (June 24), the engineer was back in B.C., this time blanketing the Lower Mainland and Sea to Sky Corridor with posters. Later that evening, Choltco-Devlin got a call from a person in Kelowna who had bought Choltco-Devlin's climbing partner's stolen cellphone. When the purchaser realized the phone was stolen, he contacted Choltco-Devlin.
Kelowna RCMP tracked down the phone and its user, Choltco-Devlin said. By midnight an officer had found a dog that fit Wyatt's description. Choltco-Devlin drove straight from Squamish to Kelowna, arriving there around 6 a.m.
“Wyatt was tired but happy to see us. We took him to go swimming and played fetch,” Choltco-Devlin said on his way back to Bellingham with Wyatt napping in the back of the vehicle.
To celebrate his 30th birthday, Choltco-Devlin said he plans to meet up with friends, but after the overnight hunt for Wyatt, it's not going to be a late night out. The incident soured his experience in Squamish, Choltco-Devlin said. Up on the rock face, he admired the area's beauty, he said, but now questions whether he would return to a community in which one's dog isn't safe in a busy parking lot.
“It definitely makes it difficult,” he said, about visiting Squamish to climb.
Squamish RCMP are bumping up patrols in the Stawamus Chief and Shannon Falls provincial park parking lots, RCMP Sgt. Wayne Pride said. Although there's been a spree of thefts from vehicles, vehicle thefts — especially with pets inside the vehicles — are rare, Pride said. Police have put forward a proposal to place video surveillance at the parking lots, he said.