Tikka, a French bulldog puppy, is Adam Bartsch’s new companion.

Sad ending to search for missing therapy dog

Campbell River companion likely a victim of wildlife

The fate of a Campbell River veteran’s faithful companion has been determined after weeks of searching.

Bailey, the purebred French bulldog that served as a therapy companion for Adam Bartsch appears to have fallen victim to wolf scavenging after possibly being kicked by an elk.

Bailey went missing on Nov. 9 on an outing near Brown’s Bay. The dog wasn’t registered as an official therapy dog but served that purpose in Bartsch’s life.

“Bailey honestly, just helped me, truthfully, get out of bed in the morning,” Bartsch said. “She was my little buddy. I went everywhere with her.”

Bartsch is a military veteran with a medical discharge who is dealing with PTSD and other conditions. One of Bartsch’s hobbies is going out in the bush setting up trail cameras to observe wildlife and Bailey accompanied him. On Nov. 9, the two were out near Brown’s Bay about 200 metres from their vehicle when a herd of elk appeared.

The energy of a herd of large animals and perhaps the smell of them seemed to excite Bailey because “something just snapped in her head” and she took off after them. Prior to that Bailey had never shown a tendency to chase after anything. But Bartsch feels that the smell of the animals in the middle of the rut and the excitement of the moving herd was too much for her.

“She took off into the herd of elk and she just wouldn’t listen,” Bartsch said. “I had this God-awful feeling I’m never going to see this dog again.”

He spent an hour searching for Bailey and “screaming, screaming her name.” As it started turning dark, he went home and, accompanied by a friend, returned with flashlights to continue the search into the night and for the next few days.

But also, the next day, word got around about Bailey’s disappearance and a search party was organized by Nikki Watts, the creator of the Campbell River Partners for Animal Welfare Society (CR PAWS) and its Facebook group Lost and Found Animals of Campbell River which has been created to conduct searches for lost pets and reunite found ones with their owners.

Getting Watts onside was an unexpected blessing for Bartsch. Watts dedicated herself unselfishly to finding Bailey, incorporating her friend and counterpart in the Comox Valley, Jacquie Bourdon. The two, more than anybody, drove the ongoing search for Bailey.

“She had a search party out there on day two,” Bartsch said.

Approximately 100 people participated in a search over three days but no trace of Bailey was found.

Word began to spread in the community and a widespread effort to find the dog continued. A story in the Mirror and our sister paper in the Comox Valley, the Record, as well as their websites and social media channels contributed to keeping the search in the public eye.

No sign of Bailey was to be found. However, three days into the search Bartsch was with a volunteer searcher, Shalaine Lawson, who discovered some wolf scat. Bartsch and Lawson went through the scat and he took it home and gave it to a veterinarian.

The vet went through the scat and found dog hair. Those dog hairs were compared with Bailey’s hair collected from around the Bartsches’ house. It took some time but five days ago, the vet contacted the Bartsches with the conclusion that the hair in the scat was 90 per cent certain, the same as the hair from home. It took that long for a conclusion to be reached.

No DNA testing was done because that would have been too expensive and would not have been conclusive whereas the vet comparing the hairs was all but sure they were from the same animal, given the circumstances.

So, what appears to have happened was that Bailey may have been kicked by an elk in the herd she chased and then her remains were scavenged by wolves.

It’s a sad end to the situation but out of it all, Bartsch has learned what a giving compassionate community Campbell River is.

“The community was just amazing,” Bartsch said. “People volunteered their time, going out in the rain.”

There were many people who contributed to the search, Bartsch said, but he particularly wanted to express his appreciation for four people in particular, Watts, Bourdon, Lawson and his friend Bob Wild.

Bartsch and his wife Chantelle wanted to show their appreciation for the effort Watts put forward. And to do so, they’ve started a fundraiser to help Watts with finding lost pets through CR PAWS and their Facebook page.

A Facebook page called Bailey’s Buddies has been set up so the public can donate to help CR PAWS. The goal is to raise $5,000 for Watts and work she does on her own time and own dime to help find lost pets.

“We just honestly want to give back to someone like this because a lot of people – myself included – had no idea there was someone like this,” Bartsch said.

Meanwhile, Bartsch has welcomed a new French bulldog into his home called Tikka.

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