Fate smiled on Bronco.
The black lab was recently rescued by a Nova Scotia couple driving the Dempster Highway.
The dog had travelled 80 kilometres in six days through the brush in the shadow of the Richardson Mountains.
He’d left Blackstone Outfitters near the end of June. Bronco was the owner’s pet.
After a lengthy search, the camp’s sole employee had given up hope he would ever find the wayward animal.
That’s where Blake Maybank and Martine Dufresne come in.
On July 5, after spending several weeks in the Yukon, the couple was driving down the Dempster Highway from Eagle Plains to catch a Whitehorse flight back to White’s Lake, Nova Scotia.
On the way north they’d found a neat place to stop, but it was foggy, so they drove on. On the return, they vowed to pull over to take photos.
They’d been stopping frequently for sightseeing and this particular spot, around the 212-kilometre mark, had a spectacular view of the Richardson Mountains.
Maybank couldn’t resist taking photos.
That stop proved to be Bronco’s salvation.
Getting out of the car and wandering off the highway, Maybank noticed something rustling in the bushes.
“Out of the corner of my eye I saw this black thing come out of the very thick willows lining the road,” said Maybank. “It was startling to say the least.
“I thought it was a bear momentarily, but it had a red collar around its neck so right away it clearly wasn’t a bear, but a black lab. It was in really sorry shape.”
Without much energy, the dog limped towards Maybank.
It was completely covered in horseflies and mosquitoes.
He sprayed Bronco with 100 per cent Deet — the stuff you can’t buy in stores anymore — and offered the animal food and water, which was declined.
He kept staring at the car and the couple knew he wanted a ride back home.
“He quickly jumped into the car,” said Dufresne. “He was confident something good was going to happen. He put his head in between the two seats and was happy he had company.”
Bronco’s fateful day wasn’t over yet.
A Yukon government truck was passing by and the couple flagged it down.
One of the two occupants knew of a dog missing from an outfitter’s camp 80 kilometres back up the highway.
An odd set of circumstances were building, said Maybank, noting along a long, lonely highway the travellers had parked at a random spot where, if the weather had been more co-operative at the beginning of their journey, they would not have stopped.
The dog just happened to be wandering by, and the second vehicle they flagged down knew exactly where the missing dog was from.
Making their way to an outfitter’s camp near the Blackstone River, the trio reached a gravel road near the main camp.
The dog was in a familiar place.
“He perked up,” said Maybank. “He knew he was getting back home.”
There was nobody at the camp except a cook, Eric Erson.
He had stopped searching for the dog, but had heard gruesome rumours of a feral dog, mangy in appearance and with a rib protruding from its side.
The rumours were wrong. Besides a few bug bites and cuts, Bronco was in good health.
“Bronco certainly had horseshoes,” said Maybank.
Bronco ran away with his sister, but she was found several days before and dropped off at a vet clinic in Dawson.
In one more odd coincidence in a relatively remote area of the Yukon, the cook was from Shelbourne, Nova Scotia, and after exchanging names, Maybank learned he was in the same bird-watching club as Erson’s wife.
“Nova Scotia is like the Yukon — more people, but small communities where people know each other,” he said.
“We were all just speechless at the extraordinary series of coincidences that led to this dog’s recovery. It seemed like fate.”
When the couple gets back to their home, their rescue operation will be the first story they tell friends and family.
“You couldn’t script the story anymore,” said Maybank. “People wouldn’t believe you. The odds are quite extraordinary that he was found.
“It’s a happy ending to a bizarre story.”
It turns out Bronco’s owners, Jim and Aidrienne Fink, live in Saskatchewan, where Maybank grew up in the city of Saskatoon.
One more coincidence: the reporter is from Saskatoon.