Cortney Lake’s disappearance now a homicide
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) major crime unit are now investigating Cortney Lake’s June 7th disappearance as a homicide.
After almost two weeks of being lost in the woods, Diesel is now recovering safely at home.
©Rosalyn Roy / The Gulf News
Even people without pets can usually appreciate the undying and unconditional love that animals offer their human companions, not to mention the proven health benefits.
For pet owners, pets are usually regarded as another member of the family, a living, feeling creature to be just as protected and loved.
“It was my fault,” said Natasha Keeping, clearly still emotional at the memory of losing Diesel almost two weeks ago, around mid-June.
Diesel is her 11-month-old Newfoundland-Labrador cross, who is – uncharacteristic of both those breeds – terrified of water.
Keeping and her husband had been playing with the pup near a brook that morning, throwing branches into the water to help him overcome his fear. They were returning to their car when Diesel suddenly ran off, apparently distracted by something in the woods nearby. The dog simply vanished.
For the next 12 days, Keeping returned home only to change or grab water, or when it was too dark to search, barely sleeping or eating. Neighbours, friends and strangers alike all took turns combing the woods looking for her lost pup.
“The brook was full of people looking for him,” said Keeping of the number of volunteers. “Everybody from South Branch to Rose Blanche was looking for that dog.”
Days of heavy rain and fog hampered searchers and prevented deeper searches into the country. Once the weather cleared, Keeping returned to the area, even resorting to cooking bacon and barbecuing in an effort to entice Diesel out of the woods.
Three days after his disappearance, searchers found paw prints near some moose tracks, and many believe that is what caught the dog’s attention. Other than the tracks, however, there was no sign of Diesel.
Keeping also took to social media, and reports of her dog in the Codroy Valley or down in Rose Blanche always sent a posse hurrying off up and down the coast to no avail.
Finally searchers caught a break. On the weekend of June 24, a couple of fishermen at a brook mentioned hearing a dog barking around an area called Big Pond, which lies on the other side of Burnt Island Brook heading towards Rose Blanche.
Along with others, Corwin Thorne and Eric Chislett tried to follow the sporadic barking. At dark they couldn’t see to continue but returned the next day, searching for hours in West Channel Hill and around the three ponds in that area.
Eventually, Thorne sat and waited until he heard some barking. Luckily, Thorne is familiar with the land and how sound can echo off the rocks.
“I could picture right where he was to,” said Thorne, who directed fellow searchers to cover certain area. Nevertheless, they still couldn’t zero in on Diesel’s exact location.
“I was a little bit frustrated, hearing the dog so plain and knowing that to me he was in Second Pond somewhere,” said Thorne.
“I went back down on the road and ‘lo and behold as soon as I got back down on the road he started barking again.”
Thorne retraced his steps and eventually emerged atop a knob, finally spotting the missing dog on the other side of Second Pond. Diesel kept going in and out of the woods and the evening light was fast disappearing. Knowing it would be too dark to see anything by the time he made his way around the pond, Thorne stripped off, jumped into the icy pond and started swimming.
Diesel tried to run off when Thorne approached but was trapped by thick shrub and branches and his own weakened condition. Thorne sat down and waited until the dog calmed down and finally came when called. By now both were effectively trapped.
Chislett and Paul Strickland soon arrived with Thorne’s clothes and fashioned a harness for Diesel. At one point they carried the dog out while walking neck deep through the water.
Keeping said that by the time they brought Diesel to her, half of Burnt Islands was there to witness the reunion.
“It’s amazing to see how a small community come together so quick,” agreed Thorne.
Keeping said she is incredibly grateful to all those who helped out.
“It’s a debt I can never repay,” she said.
Keeping immediately took Diesel to the vet. The dog has lost a lot of weight and has suffered cuts to his legs. In order to keep his organs from going into shock, Keeping must restrict his diet, gradually increasing his food intake for at least a week. He was wobbly for his first day home, but by the second morning, after some grub and a night’s rest, he is showing signs of his usual energy.
For now Keeping has Diesel restricted to the back deck when he’s outside.
“He won’t be getting away from me again!”