12/28/2011 04:03 EST | Updated 02/27/2012 05:12 EST

Vancouver Island puppy survives suspected wolf attack, tugs on people's hearts

VANCOUVER - If Nako were a kitten, he may have survived a suspected run-in with a Vancouver Island wolf pack by burning through all of his nine lives.

But Nako's a puppy, so he's relying on a growing wave of goodwill to get through his life-and-death ordeal.

That goodwill has not been in short supply since the mid-December incident, which cost Nako his tail, resulted in puncture wounds to his legs, paws and abdomen and led to a veterinary bill of nearly $4,700, said owner Samantha Garstang, 35.

In fact, Garstang said dog lovers from her local community and across Canada, the United States and even Australia have come to the family's aid, donating about $3,400 towards the bill, she said.

"People from all over have been calling and donating money to Nako's vet bill, which has been an overwhelming rising of community with no borders," said Garstang. "It's been overwhelming and just totally heartwarming and incredible and people are really rising around this little hero dog."

The ordeal began Dec. 15 at their home in Black Creek, B.C., a rural and farming community located almost half-way between Courtenay, B.C. and Campbell River.

Garstang said when she, her partner and their toddler son arrived home in the evening, they let Nako, an eight-month-old border collie-Jack Russell cross, out of the house for about 40 minutes.

But when they tried to get him inside again, the family noticed Nako was curled up and quiet, and when he managed to finally get up, said Garstang, he wandered into the house, minus his tail and dripping blood from his abdomen.

She said they took Nako to the Van Isle Veterinary Hospital and learned the attack may have been wolf-related. Garstang said she also talked to a conservation officer who told her Nako was likely the victim of wolves.

"I didn't even know there were even wolves in this area of Vancouver Island," said Garstang. "So it wasn't a thought that it was wolves. There have been multiple cougar sightings in the area lately. So I just assumed it was a cougar by his tail being ripped off and the abdominal injuries and how quickly it happened."

The conservation officer who Garstang spoke with was unavailable for comment Wednesday and neither was the veterinary hospital.

But Marie Long, manager of the Black Creek General Store, said she's not surprised by the story, which created a buzz around the community and in the shop when it first became public before Christmas.

"Oh, you can hear the wolves in the summer, for sure," said Long, adding she doesn't live too far away from the animals, either.

And Long said she was not surprised by the community's assistance.

"It's because it is a small town, but plus it's tight," she said. "The farmers are a tight-knit community, like this whole area is."

Garstang said since the attack, Nako has undergone two surgeries, spent eight days in the veterinary hospital and may be facing more medical procedures.

For the moment, though, he's back home and recovering in a bed in the family's largest washroom.

Garstang thanked those who have made donations online at, transferred money electronically at nako.lives@gmail.comor just phoned the Van Isle Veterinary Hospital.

She said everybody will get a thank-you.

"We're overwhelmed by all of people's generosity and kindness and we're not taking it for granted."