There’s a German Shepherd in dog heaven who got there by making the ultimate sacrifice as one man’s best friend. Marco Lavoie, an adventurer, canoeist, expert outdoorsman, was lost and starving in the forest halfway between Waskaganish and Matagami when he accepted his pet dog’s gift of life.
Forced to make an ultimate choice, Lavoie gestured toward his faithful companion. The dog approached hesitantly, loyally, seemingly knowing what lay in store. Lavoie lifted the rock he hid behind him and sent it deep into her brain. The hound quivered, whimpered its last breath, and died. Her meat gave him the strength to survive until rescuers finally found him after a 30-day search.
No one knows yet exactly what the sequence of events that led to this event but days before Lavoie had been attacked by a vicious black bear at his campsite on the shores of the Nottaway River. The bear destroyed all that he had to sustain him in this wild country.
While this drama unfolded, a search-and-rescue party was scouring the river desperately searching for Lavoie and his unfortunate pooch. “He survived on fish for 30 days,” said Andre Diamond, one of the last people to see him at his departure.
Lavoie had canoed through Diamond’s trapline the summer before on a journey from Senneterre to Matagami, where he had capsized on a minor rapid. Diamond saw that Lavoie was not an expert canoeist and warned him not to go alone. “He said he wanted to do what our people used to do,” said Diamond. “It’s 2013! The Cree don’t do that anymore. Now we use outboard motors!”
The Nottaway River is one of the roughest of the three (Nottaway-Rupert-Broadback) major rivers that flow into Rupert Bay, a stone’s throw from Waskaganish. A quick look at Google Earth reveals that particular rapid as a muscular 11 kilometres long. The locals call it Gajinobetshdet, “The One That Lies (Flows) Long.”
Lavoie was armed with a .303-calibre rifle on this trip and Diamond wondered if he might have been fishing when the bear attacked his campsite. The bear ate all his food, destroyed his tent and presumably made his canoe and paddles useless. “I would have eaten beaver before a dog!” exclaimed Diamond.
Three months later, on October 30, a helicopter spotted Lavoie by the river, but wasn’t able to land because of dense bush and wild weather. The rescuer had to hike a long distance to get to him. Newspapers report Lavoie was “emaciated.” Search-and-rescue personnel had to carry him back to the chopper. He is still recovering from his terrible ordeal in hospital.
Cree sources claim that the first words he uttered – which have yet to be confirmed – after coming out of unconsciousness were, “I want a new dog.”