The Kivalliq witnessed its own real life version of Homeward Bound earlier this month when a dog travelled 70 km across the tundra to be reunited with its owners.
The Adams family was getting ready to leave Rankin Inlet for Whale Cove after hearing about a death in the family on May 2.
Flights were cancelled the next day, so they planned to head to Whale Cove by snowmobile the following morning.
While they were getting ready to go, the family noticed their 10-year-old German shepherd Pepper was frantic and eager to join them. That was out of character for the aging dog, who has bad hearing and spends most of her days sleeping. Her desire to travel was even more unusual given that Pepper hadn’t joined the Adams on the land ever since an incident about eight years ago gave her a scare.
“She doesn’t go anywhere anymore. Bylaw doesn’t even bother her,” mother Donna Adams, told Kivalliq News.
However, as the Adams were grieving the death of their family member, Donna said Pepper seemed to be especially energized and affectionate.
“We were in such shock and trauma and grieving she felt that, because she was determined to go with us. She even jumped on the sled,” said Adams. “I attribute it to her knowing that something was wrong and she knew we were traumatized and grieving that day. She didn’t want to leave our sight.”
When the family finally took off, Pepper tried to chase the sled but she eventually returned home where the Adams’ youngest daughter was staying behind.
The next day, the daughter ended up getting on a rescheduled flight to join the rest of her family in Whale Cove, leaving Pepper all alone.
The day after the funeral, the father Willie Adams headed back to Rankin Inlet by snow machine with his eldest son because he had to go to work. When they got home, they were devastated to find that Pepper was gone. They searched around the community for a while but she was nowhere to be found.
Donna said there was already so much grief over the death of a family member that they eventually accepted that Pepper was gone for good.
“It wasn’t really a priority. We just let it go. We were sad but we had so much going on,” she said.
A few days later, a hunter travelling between Whale Cove and Rankin Inlet told the Adams he thought he saw a German shepherd wandering on the tundra.
“We just figured she was a goner for sure. Like she took off and it’s wolf hunting season and there’s a lot of traffic between the communities this time of year,” Donna said.
With Willie back in Rankin Inlet, Donna stayed in Whale Cove with her youngest daughter and granddaughter to spend time with family for the week.
On May 10, Donna decided to take her granddaughter down to check out Whale Cove’s games in celebration of Hamlet Days.
As she drove down to the ice where events were taking place, she saw her youngest daughter running frantically with her coat unzipped with her cellphone in hand.
When they met up, her daughter told her she thought Pepper was in town. She said Molly Okalik, the community’s recreation coordinator, had texted a blurry picture of what appeared to be a German shepherd walking around.
They drove around town as fast as they could, yelling the dog’s name. Then, out of nowhere, a skinny version of their family pet emerged.
Once Pepper recognized her owners, she jumped into Donna’s arms.
“She nearly knocked the glasses off my face,” said Donna. “I don’t think in my life I’ve ever burst into tears instantly like that.”
Donna said Pepper looked 10 year younger because she lost so much weight and her eyes were swollen shut due to snow blindness.
That night Pepper didn’t eat and she didn’t even go out to pee because she was so tired. After everything the family had been through, they were ecstatic to be reunited with their beloved dog.
“By then we had completed the funeral and we were in lighter spirits and it brings some closure,” Donna said. “We were just on cloud nine and beyond.”
Willie ended up getting a co-worker to bring a kennel from Rankin Inlet to Whale Cove the next day. By Wednesday, Donna and her grandkids were all on a flight back home with their family dog.
Now that they are back in Rankin, Donna said Pepper is “back to her lazy old self.”
Although Pepper is not normally allowed to lie on the carpet, the Adams have now made an exception for their determined dog.
“We were all elated and proud of her more than anything,” Donna said. “We’re so relieved we didn’t lose her after all.”