Many dog owners can relate to the struggle of trying to wrangle their pet through the door when that pup just doesn’t want their walk outside to end.
That hasn’t been the case for Jared Riseborough and his 11-month-old St. Bernard, Gunner. Though the former farm dog is still getting used to life indoors, said Riseborough, “he definitely prefers inside over outside right now.”
Gunner seemingly had his fill of the great outdoors last month, when he spent a full three weeks on a cross-town adventure that took him from Creekside to Emerald and even, reportedly, all the way to Harmony bowl on Whistler Mountain.
Gunner bolted away from his Sarajevo Drive home on Dec. 9, just two days after Riseborough and his family adopted the timid St. Bernard from Chilliwack.
“At first, I was like, ‘Well, he probably won’t go that far. He’s pretty scared of most things right now, so it’ll be fine,’” said Riseborough. “Initially I left work to go find him and I did actually see him and almost got him within, like, the first two hours. But trying to dive for a dog when you’re already in waist-deep snow is not easy.”
Over the following three weeks, sightings of Gunner would pour in through social media. The Sea to Sky Neighbourhood Animals Needing Assistance (NANA) Facebook group as well as Canine Valley, a Squamish-based training-centre, helped spread the word, field sighting reports and build a strategy.
“We would try and go out at least for a couple hours every day after work, usually to see if we could follow him around, which was originally just around Creekside,” said Riseborough. “And then, at some point … someone saw a St. Bernard at the bottom of the Harmony chair, so I don’t know if he went up that far, but if someone said they saw, I guess he went for quite a bit of an adventure.”
Considering St. Bernards were originally bred for rescue work high in the Swiss Alps—coupled with the fact that Gunner had been seen scrounging for food from garbage bins—Riseborough remained confident Gunner could endure the tough terrain and harsh conditions, even as the wind chill approached the -30 C mark over several days in mid-December.
“I was pretty sure we would get him back, but it was still pretty stressful and worrying, for sure,” he said. “Like, how stressful is it anytime you lose a dog even for a few hours, right? But all the sightings definitely helped to keep the mind a little at ease.”
Ultimately, rain was where the pup apparently drew the line. He was found sitting by the back door of a home in Emerald on the morning of Dec. 30, three weeks to the day that he bolted. The homeowners let him in, gave him a snack and some water, and promptly called Riseborough.
“As soon as it got rainy, he’s like, ‘Alright, I’m going to go find someone. I’m done,’” said Riseborough.
Gunner isn’t the first four-legged Whistlerite to embark on an extended adventure from their new home. Though he beat her record by a solid week, the St. Bernard’s story is reminiscent of Kali’s, a border collie rescued from northern Manitoba that had spent less than two days with new owners in Cheakamus Crossing before escaping in February 2021, capturing the community’s attention throughout her 14 days on the run.
After Kali’s safe return home, local retailer WHISLIFE designed and sold Kali-branded hoodies as part of a fundraiser that drummed up $1,200 for Whistler Animals Galore (WAG) and the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation. Riseborough and WHISLIFE owner Matt Hall are looking to capitalize on Gunner’s adventure to raise funds for WAG and to NANA once more as a thank-you from Riseborough for the their help finding Gunner. WHISLIFE currently has hoodies available for pre-sale. All proceeds will benefit WAG and NANA.
“It’s been great to have all the community support,” said Riseborough. “I grew up here since I was pretty young, so it’s nice to know the whole community is still looking out for all the dogs.”