Cst. Clay Wurzinger and his police service dog, Boomer, were searching for a missing Chemainus, B.C., woman on an abandoned logging road deep in the Copper Canyon area when Boomer's ears and tail perked up.
"It had been a long search up to that point and it was hot summer day," says Wurzinger. "Boomer was quite tired, but when we neared the end of that cut block, he became animated and disappeared into the ditch."
Boomer had found the missing woman, Irene Paquet, 67. She was still alive, but barely.
"I think Boomer was as surprised and startled as I was that she was still alive," says the Nanaimo Detachment member.
Paquet had been last seen six days earlier. Five days after she went missing, a man dirt-biking in the area found her abandoned car more than 50 kilometres down a logging road. Having seen a missing person notice for the woman on Facebook, he reported finding the car, which prompted a search of the area.
Although suffering from severe dehydration and barely able to speak, Paquet managed to grab Wurzinger's hand and say thank you.
"They probably found her at the perfect time," says Sgt. Kurt Bosnell, a Duncan Detachment member who was the search manager that day. "Her condition was pretty grave."
Paquet has a few health problems, including mild dementia. She doesn't remember much from the ordeal, but likely became disoriented as she was driving home and got lost.
"She has no memory of this," says Bosnell. "And based on her condition, we figure she was out of her car for several days, probably lying in the ditch for several days."
When Boomer didn't pick up Paquet's scent by the car, he and Wurzinger went in a different direction from the search and rescue teams to cover more area.
After finding her, they radioed the team for help.
"When the search and rescue members reached us, it hit me that we probably just saved this lady," says Wurzinger. "I went and gave the little guy a big hug and a lot of scratches."