Around Montreal in 80 days: a man, a dog and an epic search

A love story for the ages has been playing out in Montreal for the last three and a half months, and now it has an appropriately epic ending.

It involves a small dog named Sofa, who was adopted into a home in the city’s southwest on June 12.

Sofa, a mini Australian shepherd, went for a walk near the Atwater Market with her new owner, Phil Boulanov, on their first day together.

Then disaster struck: Sofa got into a confrontation with an off-leash dog and she bolted.

The problem was that she had barely been to her new home: she didn’t know the neighbourhood, didn’t know the house, and barely knew Boulanov.

He was devastated, he said.

“I lost her the first night,” he said. “When you lose a dog it’s such an emotional and heartbreaking moment.”

Luckily, a lot of people seemed to understand what he was going through. Seeing he was determined to get her back, friends began to pitch in.

They had to be creative, knowing she was truly lost and wandering the unknown. Boulanov has some marketing skills and began running targeted Facebook and Instagram ads, as well as putting up posters.

By June 20, a sighting had been reported. He and some friends began scouring Pointe-Saint-Charles. 

Based on reported sightings, “she was only going out at night,” he said. “So I had to target people who work night shifts.”

After a few other sightings, he installed trail cameras in public parks where he thought she was hanging around. It was an emotional rollercoaster.

“For one week we had no sightings—we had no idea what was going on,” he said. “We were very concerned about her.” 

Then things got more complicated. Sofa was exploring Montreal: she showed up at an industrial zone near the crossroads of St. Remi and St. Patrick streets, and then outside Angrignon Park, about three and a half kilometres away.

Still, Boulanov was zeroing in. It had been months at this point and he felt he had a good sense of Sofa’s habits.

But he realized he had another problem. Being able to find a dog is one thing, but catching her and taking her home is another—when she doesn’t really know you, after all.

He spent $1,000 on a humane animal cage, set it up in a strategic spot and waited.

“I had my phone buzzing at 5:16 a.m.,” he said.

It worked: as of Tuesday, Sofa is home, or rather, has finally been introduced to her new home after more than 80 days out in the city.

She just went on her first visit to the vet and was declared very healthy.

The vets said they were pretty surprised by the story, considering that even many of the most devoted long-time pet owners would accept their pets were lost after such a long time. 

“A lot of owners would have given up after 80 days, unfortunately,” said vet tech Melissa Montuori. “But he was very persistent. It's not something we hear about very often.”

Boulanov said the bright side of the situation was knowing that his friends came through for him during the long, long search and to know that he wasn’t “alone in this.”

Sofa isn't used to being walked on a leash or keeping daytime hours, or to the owner that she must have given up on, but she gave every sign of adjusting and living happily ever after.

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