C Bay community brings Jasper home

CONSTANCE BAY – Like the plot of every ‘90s-era Disney live-action movie, the story of Jasper is the story of an escaped pet, thought lost forever, who beyond all odds, makes his way home.

Jasper is a beautiful red golden pheasant who kicked off the New Year, the coldest days of the year so far, with an eight-day sojourn in the wilds of Constance Bay.

Constance Bay resident Danielle Geoffrey cares for the bird. At the time, she thought Jasper was gone forever.

“The bird escaped when I went in his aviary to feed and water him,” Geoffrey told West Carleton Online yesterday (Jan. 14). “Because of the snow accumulation, the door didn’t close fully behind me. This allowed my new puppy to run in after me and chase the bird out. Jasper immediately flew high, and quickly out of sight. My husband and I searched the area but had no luck finding him. I initially hoped he might return on his own but when a day or two passed, I was certain we would never see him again, believing he likely would have been killed by some type of predator in the night.”

Then the power of Facebook kicked in to high gear. If you are a human being, you have a love-hate relationship with the social media giant. For good or for bad, Facebook has become a mass-communication powerhouse.

On Jan. 5, on the popular group page Constance Bay/Buckhams Bay Neighbours, a photo surfaced. And a question.

The photo that kicked off a manhunt, err birdhunt. Photo by Sarah Hodge Mahoney
The photo of Jasper that kicked off a manhunt, er, birdhunt. Photo by Sarah Hodge Mahoney

Sarah Hodge-Mahoney posted “Is someone missing a bird? I saw this out front of my place and it doesn’t look domestic. Spotted around Acorn Crescent.”

This Jan. 5 post, with a photo of the pheasant and it’s beautiful long tailfeathers, caught the imagination of the community. Many, many community members posted comments of hope and concern. The bird escaped custody at the time, but several community members rallied, communicated, and started looking for Jasper.

Geoffrey found the post and offered tips but was not hopeful.

“I never attempted a ‘missing bird’ post because I thought there was no way he would ever be found or if found, he would never be caught,” she said. “They’re fast and fly pretty well. They do fine in the cold, but they are extremely vulnerable to predators.”

Over the days, the post thread continued. People offered bird-catching tips while others joined in the hunt.

Constance Bay’s Paul Graveline reported his wife Sarah spent an afternoon looking for Jasper. But to no avail. When spotted, Jasper would vamoose.

Resident Jo-Ann Campbell was another Constance Bay community member following the Facebook thread with great interest.

“I had read about Jasper on the Facebook page,” Campbell told West Carleton Online yesterday(Jan. 14). “Someone had taken a picture of this colourful bird and wanted to know if someone had lost him. That was when Dani (Geoffrey) came on and explained it was her golden pheasant and, yes, it had gotten out. I knew from the thread he had been spotted on Torbolton Road, which is a few blocks from my place on Charmont Way. When I went out to walk my dog, I was always on the lookout. After almost a week, I figured he had probably met and untimely departure, or succumbed to the cold.”

It was indeed looking grim for Jasper, but on Jan. 8 there was a break in the case.

“Then on Wednesday, Jasper decided to walk in to our front porch and perch for a rest on top of our cat tree,” Campbell said. “I have a home salon and was working that morning, so my front door leading into a sunroom/veranda is open so clients can be welcomed and drawn to the door to the house to come in to the salon.”

Despite a home full of predators, Jasper felt just as welcomed as Campbell’s clients.

“We have four cats and a dog, who barks at people coming and going and was in and out that morning as clients were coming and going,” Campbell said. “My husband worked at home that morning but had to go in for a 1 p.m. meeting, so was leaving the house around 12:30 p.m., when his eye was caught with Jasper in one of the windows at the far end of the veranda. He called me to come see and I was so thrilled that he was in a safe place and a place that I could close the door and make sure he stayed safe.”

Eight days later, living off the lay of the land in freezing temperatures, in a community well known for its racoons and other bird predators, Jasper had turned himself in.

“Because I had seen the post on the Facebook page, I knew exactly who to contact, although I didn’t have her contact information and didn’t know where she lived, so I posted on the page,” Campbell said. “Within moments, Dani responded to the post and we turned our conversation over to private messaging. The post got so many comments, because it was one very good ‘feel good’ moment.”

Campbell’s public post read “He is safe and sound in our porch. He just walked right in and made himself at home on the top of the cat tree. He is absolutely gorgeous and so much bigger than the previous picture showed.”

For Geoffrey, it was a reunion she assumed would never happen.

“It was wonderful to see so many people concerned about Jasper’s well-being,” Geoffrey said. “Our community has always been really good about helping to reunite lost cats and dogs, but I think the novelty of an escaped bird, and a very unique and colourful one at that, attracted more interest. I was so grateful for the offers to help me try to catch him following sightings but having experience with this type of bird I was not optimistic. Typically, once they get free, they’re gone. I was completely shocked when Jo-Ann posted she had secured him. It was really unbelievable – first that he had even survived and second that he would enter a residence. In the end he was found only a little over a kilometre away, though some of the sightings were further away than that.”

And in true Disney fashion, it was a pet story that lifted the entire community.

“Finding Jasper was a boost that everyone had needed that day, with all the crazy stuff that transpired around that time (read Iran-U.S. conflict), in that big bad world out there,” Campbell said. “I think it gave everyone a terrific lift. We had a year-old Siamese that got lost in the village for 26 days in the depth and cold of winter three years ago. But we got her back home through the connection of that page.”

More than 70 residents commented on their excitement Jasper had been found in the Jan. 8 post.

“Back home,” Geoffrey posted on Jan. 8. “Thank you so much to everyone who helped with sightings, and especially to Jo-Ann for welcoming him in to her home.”

Jasper should consider re-thinking his life choices as choosing to perch atop a cat tree in a house with four cats was the smartest decision he made over the last eight day. Photo by Jo-Ann Campbell
Jasper should consider re-thinking his life choices as choosing to perch atop a cat tree in a house with four cats was the smartest decision he made over the last eight day. Photo by Jo-Ann Campbell