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Lost and found

Linda Nixon hugs her dog Joey back at home on the day he was found in the bush after he went missing for nine days. - Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

If Joey the Brussels Griffon could talk, he would no doubt have a great story to tell.

As it is, Joey's owner Linda Nixon – and it seems many other people in Hay River – are left to wonder and be amazed how a small dog could survive in the bush and in freezing temperatures for nine days.

After Joey jumped a gate and ran away from his yard on April 10 – while a friend was looking after Nixon's house as she was accompanying another friend on a medical trip to Yellowknife – she seemingly got a large portion of the town involved in the search for her beloved pet.

Joey's picture was all over Facebook and Nixon offered a $500 reward for his return.

"Wouldn't anybody with a dog missing do that?" she said.

Nixon said the last time Joey was spotted was around 5 p.m. on the railway tracks near the Rooster convenience store on the same day that he got out of her yard.

"I put up a large reward because I didn't want somebody thinking he's cute," she explained. "I wanted him to be more valuable giving back than he was to keep."

With the publicity and the reward, Nixon said it seemed like half the town was looking for her dog.

However after five days, she asked people to stop looking.

She explained that Joey is such a pampered little dog that it became more and more hopeless that he could have survived in the freezing cold.

"I told people to stop looking, because I know that they were driving around insanely," she said.

However, Nixon said she never really gave up hope.

"It's not that I gave up in my heart," she said. "I was hoping and I was still looking. I walked the tracks the other day."

Then on April 19 she got a call from Sandy Whitteker, who was walking her dogs about 1.5 km into the bush behind 553 when she spotted Joey.

"I knew him from the photos," Whitteker told The Hub. "I'm a mile back in the bush, so there's not too many small brown dogs back in there."

She said the area in which she found Joey is pretty wild with wolf and lynx tracks.

"I'm the only one that walks there," she said. "To see a dog back there like that, I knew it had to be him."

Whitteker – who did not approach Joey so she would not scare him away – guided Nixon to the location by talking to her on cell phone.

"When Linda came up and he heard her voice, he just came right out," said Whitteker. "It was so sweet."

For Nixon, it was an emotional reunion.

"I picked him up. That was unbelievable," she said, smiling and crying at the same time while telling the story later that day.

"I thought I was sleeping," she said. "I thought I was dreaming."

After calling to him and Joey slowly coming to her, Nixon wrapped him in a blanket.

"She was walking ahead of me, holding him and crying," said Whitteker, who took a cell phone photo of the touching scene.

Later that day, Nixon and Joey were back at their home.

And she was still marveling at the fact that Joey survived the ordeal.

"How do I think he survived?" said Nixon when asked that obvious question by The Hub. "It's a miracle."

She noted Joey – which she described as eight pounds soaking wet – had lost just a couple of ounces in weight, was not injured and had no frostbite, although he was slow and appeared tired.

The owner speculated he may have found a burrow for protection.

As for what he ate during those nine days, both Nixon and Whitteker noted that some dogs eat rabbit droppings.

However it happened, Nixon said she is amazed and flabbergasted that Joey survived, describing him as a pampered and protected dog that has never had to fend for himself.

She is also very thankful to the people of Hay River who helped search for Joey.

"The people in the town are amazing," she said.

Nixon said she made a $200 donation to the animal shelter as a way of saying thanks to the town just before Joey was found.

She also noted Whitteker did not want the reward for finding Joey.