By: Gabrielle McLaren
Dr. Fredrick Brennan shows us the eclectic content of his backpack, which he believes contains everything that he needs on his 12-day expedition to track down McFogg the Dog in the wilderness of Burnaby Mountain. From state-of-the-art night goggles to military-grade GPS technology, Brennan’s preparations are nearly complete.
“Any SFU alum can tell you that this was McFogg’s favourite,” Brennan says, holding up a tin of Pedigree Chunky Ground Dinner with Beef, Bacon, and Cheese Flavour. His face darkens. “We hope to bring McFogg back so that future generations of students will know him as we did.”
Brennan himself was an SFU student (graduating class of 1989), and fondly recalls McFogg the Dog cheering the football team to victory or welcoming students to campus at the start of every semester.
“McFogg was such an incredible part of SFU’s culture,” Brennan said. “Sometimes it seemed as if he radiated our school’s very spirit . . .”
Tragedy struck while Brennan was across the country, finishing his PhD in alternative geography at Queen’s University. According to SFU’s Extremely Detailed Department of Archives, McFogg the Dog was last seen onstage following the SFSS’s 1994 election results announcement. Witnesses report that when the electors were announced after a 17-person voter turnout (which did not include most of the candidates running for positions on the Board), “something switched inside McFogg,” according to then-second-year student Doyle Curtis.
After lifting his leg and peeing on the newly elected president, tipping down lighting equipment, and otherwise ravaging the stage, McFogg the Dog ripped off his kilt and ran from Convocation Mall. Though several members of the track team tried to catch up, McFogg was too fast and he disappeared into the woods, never to be seen again.
Search parties were sent in throughout the night, but after a week of unsuccessful searches, Burnaby RCMP declared that McFogg was presumed dead. The student population was shooketh, and for months on end the entrance to all hiking paths winding their way around Burnaby Mountain became living, breathing shrouds to the beloved terrier. Students left flowers, photographs, dog treats, replacement kilts, and blankets as winter approached.
“When it stopped,” Brennan said, “students forgot. But we can go back. This might be the single greatest contribution that the alternative geography department can make to this school.”
Brennan is hopeful, given new evidence of McFogg’s well-being: a photograph taken by first-year student Bo Joyega. Joyega was hiking in the woods with friends when he heard a strange sound. The group had feared a bear, and were shocked and confused by the seven-foot-tall terrier they spotted in the distance. The photo went viral on SFU Connect, and Brennan knew that he’d found something special when it landed across his desk
“Rumours that McFogg the Dog was still alive in some sort of semi-lucid feral form have been circulating around the school for years. Droppings too large to be associated with bears have been reported, and every now and then students will find racoon carcasses lining University Drive. But this is concrete evidence unlike anything we’ve seen before. We think that McFogg is trying to get back to us,” said Brennan, who printed the picture and stuck it to the corner of his office computer.
Within days of the photo being published, Brennan secured funding from the alternative geography department, the personal funds of Andrew Petter, and the SFSS, who was desperate for any way to restore student engagement and school spirit. He put together a team of experts whom he thinks will be able to bring back McFogg.
First, there is Dr. Audrey Williamsberg, an animal behaviourist who has studied the mentality of the omega members of wolf packs.
“I think that McFogg left because he too was feeling like an omega,” Williamsberg said. “Tired of being pushed around, mentally exhausted, constantly disrespected and underappreciated, inferior to whatever culturally insensitive bird UBC is using . . . I think I can put myself in his shoes and predict his movements across the forest.”
To help him is Dwight K Beet, a local bear expert who has spent over 17 years integrating himself into bear packs across the province. Beet has learned how to survive in the British Columbian wilderness, and he is renown across the globe for his ability to determine species, sex, age, diet, and mood based on animal feces. He will be the only one armed over the course of the expedition, but hopes he won’t need to fire.
“But I will,” says Beet. “If need be, then God as my witness, I will bring him down.”
Joining them is Dr. Julian Nebelhund, a linguist who is mapping out the patterns of animal language. He has been planting microphones in the woods hoping to catch McFogg’s vocalizations.
“McFogg has been feral for so long, he might have forgotten human language,” Nebelhund said. “I’m hoping to be able to communicate with McFogg. Something like, ‘it’s OK, McFogg. It’s time to come home, man.’”
The last member of the team is a grad student, Mariam Ali. Ali is paying $9,700 a semester in tuition and is desperately hoping that once her supervisor, Dr. Brennan, solves the mystery of McFogg the Dog, he’ll finally be able to give her some feedback about her thesis on fish migration.
“I don’t know,” said Ali, her eye visibly twitching. “I don’t really like camping and I don’t really know what McFogg has to do with anything, but I really want my degree. I mean, I’m 99% sure that the picture was forged anyways.”
Ali won’t have to worry too much as the team will be camping in style. The team is equipped with military-grade tents, three first aid kits, mosquito spray so strong that it hasn’t been approved for use in North America yet, flashlights, protein-rich ration packs, water filters, rope, deer urine (to attract McFogg), bear spray, and surveillance equipment imported from Russia.
“The support has been outstanding, and we’re very hopeful that we’ll find McFogg,” said Brennan. “Interest in the project seems to have skyrocketed, with #bringhimMcHome trending across Canada. I am confident that my team has all the expertise required to bring him home.”
However, the project still leaves many questions unanswered. Free McFogg activists are protesting the alternative geography department’s project, as the club’s leader Hanna Bernstein says.
“McFogg’s breakdown was a statement,” Hanna said. “He’s done. He’s over this. He’s had enough. Keeping McFogg tethered to SFU is unfair. Let him be free. Free from Petter, free from the SFSS, free from the bureaucracy, free from our failing football team, free from the pain. FREE MCFOGG!”
Fellow protesters rallied behind her began chanting, “FREE MCFOGG, FREE MCFOGG, FREE MCFOGG.”
Brennan doesn’t let these protesters dampen his spirits.
“Once McFogg is back, they will see,” he said. He looked out his window, towards the woods and the mountains, sunshine on his brow. His face hardened in determination. “They will see.”
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