After over two months spent desperately searching for her missing dog, Tofino resident Shannon Boothman was delighted to have her best friend Itska back in her arms on Sunday.
Itska vanished near Tonquin Beach on Nov. 2 and the belief among Boothman and the Tofino RCMP at the time was that two tourists had taken the dog thinking it was in need of care.
Boothman said she received a phone call around 9 a.m. Sunday morning from a man who said he had Itska and planned to return the dog.
“He’s driving up right now from Victoria to give him back,” Boothman told the Westerly News on Sunday afternoon. “I’m really happy. I’m ecstatic. I can’t believe that I’m actually getting him back because it’s hard not to give up hope after so long.”
Boothman sent a photo of the day’s happy reunion to the Westerly News around 5 p.m. that shows her hugging her returned companion.
The story of Itska’s disappearance spread rapidly through social media and Boothman said she received an anonymous phone call from a person late at night on Christmas Eve who gave her the name of an Oak Bay man they believed had Itska.
Boothman then contacted the Oak Bay Police who investigated and located Itska, but did not determine the people who were caring for the dog had criminal intent and handed the file over to the SPCA.
“In this case, there didn’t seem to be any criminal implications from our member’s perspective who was investigating. The people felt they were caring for the dog. Now, you aren’t apparently allowed to just care for someone else’s dog, whether you like it or not,” Deputy Chief Ray Bernoties of the Oak Bay Police told the Westerly News Monday morning. “At this time, we don’t believe there was criminal intent by the people who had the dog.”
Boothman said she was unable to find a Facebook page for the man she was told had Itska, but circulated his name through social media and learned the identity of his mother, whom she sent messages to through Facebook. She said she began messaging the mother’s friends through Facebook on Saturday.
She said she received a call from the man at 9 a.m. on Sunday and he assured he would deliver the dog immediately. She said the man admitted he had seen the news she was searching for Itska.
“My heart kind of goes out to him. I think he was well intentioned, but when he saw all the posts and everything and how desperately I was searching for him, he should have stepped forward a lot earlier than now. Because that’s actually very negatively impacted my life. But, none of that matters right now because I’m getting my dog and I’m just so excited. I’m beside myself and I can’t wait,” she said. “I really believe that he thought he was doing the right thing but after all the posts and everything at some point he must have realized that he wasn’t.”
Boothman was anxiously waiting to be reunited with Itska in Port Alberni when she spoke to the Westerly News around 1 p.m. on Sunday.
“I feel like it’s Christmas. I’ve been trying so hard and I said I’d never stop trying and now it’s the end. I’m getting him back today. I just wish it didn’t take so long because really this has been very very hard on me. But, all that matters is I am getting him back,” she said.
She thanked Tofino’s RCMP detachment commander Sgt. Todd Pebernat and said he played a key role in Itska’s return.
“I really appreciate that he did step forward in aiding me in getting my dog back like he promised he would,” she said.
She added that, after being reunited with her best friend, she plans to take immediate steps to ensure she does not lose him again.
“The first thing I’m going to do when I get a vet appointment is get my dog microchipped. This can never happen again,” she said.