The owners of a dog that has become a Kingston celebrity are elated to have their family pet back at home.
Leo the dog had been missing since New Year’s Eve after escaping from the Thousand Islands Dog Resort. The pup’s owners, Alex Choiniere and his girlfriend, Alicia Fleet, were reunited with Leo on Saturday.
“We’re relieved, really, that he’s home safe and healthy, which is a good thing,” said Choiniere.
The couple had been searching for days around the area where Leo went missing nearly two weeks ago, with several people spotting the dog over that time.
“It was tough, especially over the last two days there,” said Choiniere. “Without spottings recently, we were just anxious to get him back.”
The couple launched a massive search for their family pet, even getting help from a few pet detective services. But it was when Lost Paws Inc., a non-profit organization out of Kitchener, came up to help that they were finally reunited with the wayward pooch.
“They came at like 4:30 in the morning Saturday,” said Fleet. “It was unbelievable, seeing him and walking around the corner and seeing his face for the first time … It’s just a completely unbelievable feeling.”
Susan Oldford with Lost Paws Inc. says the group had been tracking Leo throughout the day and found him in an abandoned barn, just down the way from the kennel where he escaped. Oldford said the dog had been staying there for the last several days.
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“They spent hours out there just walking around,” said Fleet. “It’s just, he wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for Lost Paws.”
The dog has led his owners on quite the chase over the past two weeks. Leo was spotted a number of times while out on the lam, but experts say the family pooch most likely went into survival mode after being away from his owners, making it hard for people to catch him.
When Choiniere and Fleet walked into the barn where Leo was found, they say it took a second, but the pup remembered exactly who they were.
“When we got to him, he just loved us and kissed us and opened up right away,” said Choiniere.
Leo garnered quite the following over his time out in the wilderness. His story was shared far and wide, with hundreds of volunteers coming to the aid of Fleet and Choiniere. At one point, even local businesses like Food Basics and a local Tim Hortons stepped up to help those who came out.
“Just the support we got, I couldn’t believe it. Everyone likes him, everyone loves him. I’m so grateful everyone came to help out,” said Choiniere.
His owners say Leo has lost more than 20 pounds since he escaped and has a number of scratches, along with a frostbitten nose. Choiniere says now that Leo has gotten a taste of the wilderness, they will have to keep a close eye on him.
“I hope he will go back to his good old self. He’s pretty much there, but confidence may take a bit to get back,” Choiniere said.
The couple says they will remember all the help they have gotten to find their family pet, especially the next time someone else needs help.