The Story of Ben

The Story of Ben

TRIAL: May 6, 2010 | 9:30 AM | Alberta Provincial Court in Cochrane | We’ll be there!

Here’s the email we received last week about Ben — Lorna and Ed’s Malamute tragically killed in an out-of-season snare.

We have been going up on the Powderface Trail to Canyon Creek for over four years to run our dogs. Until last year we had two big Alaskan Malamutes, Ben and Keesha and one SPCA special Sarah. Sarah is part cocker spaniel and part border collie, so she has long soft fur.

On November 29th, 2010 my husband and I decided to take Ben and Sarah up for the last run of the year as the Powderface Trail is closed on December 1st for the winter. We left home before noon, putting their coats on; as it is hunting season and we didn’t want Ben to be mistaken for a wolf. Ben has always been very obedient, and they come when called or to a small whistle that I have. He just loves to be able to run free, in and out of the trees. Ed has asthma and so waited in the truck while I walked with the dogs down the valley to the east of the trail.The snow was quite deep that day, and little Sarah was having problems in the snow. Ben had run about 15 yards ahead of me, but I wasn’t worried. I bent down to break the snowballs out of Sarah’s feet, and when I looked up Ben was gone. He just vanished without a sound. I called and called, and walked down the valley a bit more, but still no sign of him. As it was getting dark, we decided to go home and come back the next morning. Ben is an outside dog.

When we got home, I talked to my daughter, and she made up some “Lost” posters and I printed out a bunch to take back up to the area and post on any signboards we came to. We were up at 5:00 A.M. and started to put up our posters everywhere we could. We also talked to a lot of people including some hunters with the idea that the more people that were looking for Ben, the better it would be.

It was about noon by the time we got back to Canyon Creek, and I looked for Ben’s tracks to see which direction he had taken. It wasn’t far from where I last saw him that I found his lifeless body in the trees with a wire snare around his neck. I couldn’t get it off, so had to call Ed to help. Ed couldn’t get it off either, and ended up cutting the cable to get him free. In the same area was another trap, a big wooden box with a large Conabear trap in it and a huge chunk of raw meat. The trap was set about one foot off of the ground, and if a dog or a child had reached in, they would have been caught. The jaws of the Conabear are about 12 inches square, and have two strong springs. Trappers use a rope or clip to set them, as they can be caught in them themselves.

With great difficulty, Ed and I loaded Ben’s 120 pound body into the back of our truck. We headed back to the Ranger Station on the Elbow side and met up with a Conservation Officer, Bill O’Conner. He tried to get the snare wire off of Ben’s neck, but it took him ¾ of an hour trying various tools before he was able to free Ben.

Bill asked us to take him back to where Ben had been caught. He walked in and said it was 300 meters off of the trail. He also asked us if we had taken a quad in there, as there were fresh tracks in the area. We said no, and he left to go back to the Elbow side; and we went north towards the Transcanada Highway.

We continued about a mile or so, and came upon a truck with a quad in the back with fresh snow in the cleats. As we sat there, a man came out of the trees carrying some tools. We asked him if he had been the one who went down the Canyon Creek Valley. He was definitely on the defensive and said yes he was. So Ed told him that he had killed our dog. He went and looked in the back of the truck and said,”oh, sorry”, but I had the feeling he didn’t mean it. We asked his name and I took his license number. His name is John McWilliams. He was very arrogant to us, and so we just left.

When we got back to Calgary, we went over to our vets. and we left Ben’s body there to be cremated. The total bill was $275.00.

Bill O’Conner told us to call the R.C.M.P. in Cochrane, but to wait a few days as they were busy. Ed and I were absolutely devastated by this time. We felt that this was a wrong thing to be happening in a populated recreational area. I can’t remember why, but for some reason we were up on Barlow Trail N.E. and happened to see the Global signs. We went in and talked to a lady there, and she said she would talk to her boss.

They gave us a call, and we went out to the Elbow Falls area on Sunday December 5th and did an interview with the crew from Global news. We just wanted to get the word out, so that no one else would have to go through the heartache that we were experiencing.

Ben wasn’t just a dog. He was a member of our family. He slept outside most nights, but always came in to socialize and have his breakfast. He spent as long as he could stand in the house, as he had such a heavy coat. Ed kept looking out the kitchen window for Ben, as he was so cheeky, and would bark at us through the window.

The Calgary Sun phoned us, and wanted to do an article. A photographer came up to the house and took pictures. They were on the front page of the Sun on December 6th. Also a follow-up article on Dec. 7th.

Our son, Ted, picked up Ben from the City Pound. His boss’ daughter worked there, and Ben had been in the pound 3 weeks, and he hadn’t been adopted. Ted was so happy, and spent a lot of time with Ben, training him and taking him out in the mountains. We had another Malamute at the time, Keesha, and the three dogs ran alongside the truck or the quad. Ben gradually developed a special personality. He became very affectionate and was no trouble if you don’t count the holes in my front lawn!

After the story appeared in the Calgary Sun and on Global T.V. we had lots of people come up to us expressing their sympathy. We were in contact with the Cochrane fish & Wildlife officer named Rob Dipalo. He told us that Mr. McWilliams was charged with hunting out of season. We do not approve of that, as if convicted he would lose his hunting license. We felt he should be charged with what he did wrong, trapping out of season, and he should lose his trapping license. According to Mr. Dipalo Mr. McWilliams has a trapping license, and was allowed to trap after October 1st, but he could not put out snares until after December 1st. If he had obeyed the rules, we would not have lost our pet. Also we do not think it is right that they are allowing trapping in an area where people take their children and pets.

John McWilliams goes on trial for the killing of Ben on May 6 in Cochrane.

TRIAL: May 6, 2010 | 9:30 AM | Alberta Provincial Court in Cochrane | We’ll be there!


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