Bookworm: Rescue of Belle & Sundance



The argument could be made that you’re a softy.

You can’t bear to watch any TV show in which someone loses his pet. Even Lassie puts a lump in your throat; never mind those commercials with the homeless dogs. It hurts your heart to see hurt animals because you love your critters so much.

Face it: You’re a sucker for a furry face, so what would you do if you learned about a seemingly impossible situation that could surely lead to tragedy? Find out what one entire town did in The Rescue of Belle & Sundance, by Birgit Stutz and Lawrence Scanlan.

Even in the harshest weather, the Rocky Mountains in British Columbia are gorgeous. The scenery is lush and beautiful, but up close the terrain can be a challenge for anyone who forgets the power of nature.

In early fall 2008, a law­yer from Edmonton tried to take supplies to a friend hiking near the Alberta line. When his two pack horses had trouble in the “foul and cold” weather, the man relieved the animals of their loads and turned them loose, believing they would find their way down the mountain. He notified the RCMP in McBride, British Columbia, just in case.

Afterward, the animals were sighted by snowmobilers and hikers several times. Pictures were taken of them frolicking in mountain meadows and were posted online. Everyone figured someone had the situation under control.

Because they believed the horses had been reclaimed, it was a shock to horse lovers in McBride when the animals were again spotted in late December. Though getting there was dangerous because of the season’s snowpack, some ventured up to where the animals stood, corralled in a small area by 2-meter-high snow, starving and waiting.

Author and horsewoman Stutz could barely sleep when she learned of the animals’ plight. It had been determined that the snow would impede the rescue. Frigid temperatures meant an airlift was impossible. Predators made the situation even more dangerous.

The only way out would be an all-volunteer, hand-dug, kilometer-long trench through the snow, then a walk down a logging road for almost 19 miles to safety. Could the town pull off a Christmas miracle?

You probably already know the outcome of The Rescue of Belle & Sundance. Still, getting there is a pretty great ride.

Stutz and Scanlan put readers on the edge of their saddles as they recount the eight-day effort made by dozens of volunteers on behalf of two starving animals. I shivered as the authors explained the conditions the rescuers endured.

I also liked that readers get an update on what happened in the aftermath of the rescue.