Sookie, a large Great Pyrenees, is recovering at home after fighting for her life in the wilderness near her family’s farm over the holidays.
The lovable 100-pound dog survived after being caught in a trapper’s snare for at least four days in a wooded area south of Shellbrook before Christmas.
Shannon Hamilton and John Kunard aren’t exactly sure when Sookie went missing, as their dogs are given free reign of the farm. However, they went looking on Dec. 21 with no luck, and feared the worst.
“I was looking along the grid road,” Kunard said, adding he expected to find Sookie had been hit by a truck.
The couple went out every day to look for the two-year-old dog, and on Dec. 23 came within 100 yards of where they eventually found the trap.
“We were calling her name,” Hamilton said. “But she must have been unconscious.”
On Christmas Eve, the family was surprised to find Sookie on her porch bed, with part of the snare still digging into her ankle.
“It was a Christmas miracle,” Hamilton said.
Her lips, tongue and gums were cut from the effort of chewing the snare loose. Her paw was mangled from an attempt to bite it off to get free.
After surviving in the frigid cold, her paw was also frozen solid.
“She walked over to me and it was like ‘thump, thump, thump’ on the deck,” Hamilton said.
She sent her husband toward Prince Albert with Sookie in the back seat and called veterinarian services. Given how dire the situation was, and the busy holiday season, doctors worried they wouldn’t have the resources available to treat Sookie.
So Kunard changed course, heading for the University of Saskatchewan’s Veterinary Medical Centre in Saskatoon.
Sookie ended up having her paw amputated and stayed at the VMC for nearly a week. The veterinarians had initially thought to amputate at the shoulder, but worried that as a Great Pyrenees, the dog’s other legs wouldn’t be able to support the weight.
Kunard and Hamilton are now facing large vet bills and are waiting on a prosthetic paw for Sookie.
“After she survived all that… how do you put a price on her?” Hamilton asked.
Conservation officers investigating
Once the family realized what happened to Sookie, they asked conservation officers to investigate the trapping incident.
The snare was found less than a mile away from the farm, close enough that the trapper should’ve notified Kunard and Hamilton.
With how long Sookie was missing, the trapper could also be guilty of not checking their trap within 72 hours.
Prince Albert-based conservation officer Rich Hildebrand told 650 CKOM the violation could result in a $480 fine.
While Hildebrand couldn’t discuss the case, Kunard and Hamilton said there was evidence the trapper came back.
Footprints found at the site, compared with recent snowfall, indicated they had visited the site after Sookie was caught in the snare.
But she wasn’t cut loose.
“To think that somebody would do that, to leave her, makes you question what kind of trapper they are,” Kunard said.
“If the trapper had told us… we might have been able to save her foot.”
He added there are several trappers who operate in the area, some of whom are family friends.
“Stuff happens, we would have been understanding,” he said.
If the trapper is found to have left Sookie in the snare, animal cruelty charges could be laid.
While Sookie is at home recovering, and getting used to walking on three paws, she won’t be able to act as a farm guardian anymore.
Before the injury, Sookie and fellow Great Pyrenees Nanook defended the farm nightly from coyotes, wolves, bears and the occasional cougar.
“We hear them all night, barking and growling,” Hamilton said.
The dogs are outfitted with heavy leather collars to protect their necks, and have never been injured by a predator.
“They’ve come home with blood all over them, but it’s never theirs,” she said.
Now Sookie will help train Pebbles, a seven-week-old Great Pyrenees puppy who will take her place in defending the farm.
“She has no patience for Pebbles right now,” Hamilton said. “But she’ll get there.”