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A Miscouche woman is still overwhelmed at the generosity of Islanders when it came to helping find the family dog that had gone missing for five days.
“I am totally overwhelmed,’’ said Donna Gallant.
“I just could not believe so many people came together. They were total strangers.’’
Coco went missing on Saturday, March 7, and was captured in a humane trap that had been set up on Thursday, March 12. Gallant immediately posted that Coco was missing on the P.E.I. Lost Dog Network’s Facebook page.
Within hours, more than 40 people who Gallant had never met before drove from all parts of the province and formed a search party The search that continued 24 hours a day until Coco was found five kilometres away.
Gallant and her husband, Shawn Livingstone, adopted Coco – a poodle mix – from the P.E.I. Humane Society on March 5. The dog was part of a large surrender of animals before being placed in foster care for six weeks to help it get used to human contact.
Just two days after the society dropped the dog off to the Gallants, Donna put a coat on the animal and was preparing to take her for a walk when Coco hesitated at the door.
“She’s scared of everything and she won’t even cross the threshold of the door so I kind of pulled it a little bit (to nudge her out) and, sure enough, she slipped out of (the coat).’’
At first, Cocoa stayed in the yard, close to Thor, the Gallants' nine-year-old shepard/shih tzu mix. Then, she bolted, walking down the middle of the highway, dodging vehicles along the way.
“My heart just dropped. I was all alone,’’ Gallant said, explaining her husband was in Halifax and her daughter, Maggie, was attending a youth conference in Toronto.
Just two months ago, the family lost a puppy when it got hit by a car.
“When I saw (Cocoa) on the highway I was having flashbacks of the puppy getting hit.’’
Neighbours sprang into action.
Then, Gallant received a call from Kimberly MacMillan of Vernon River, who provides foster care for the P.E.I. Humane Society. It was MacMillan who cared for Coco for those six weeks.
She was the only human being the dog would recognize and it didn’t hurt that MacMillan has a particular set of skills when it comes to animals – she can track them and has geographical knowledge of where animals go when they’re lost. She’s also part of a search and rescue team.
MacMillan joined the search party while others were busy making posters, flyers and going door to door with them. One volunteer monitored social media day and night for sightings.
There were lots of sightings the first two days but because Coco wasn’t used to being around people, she bolted when anyone got close. The next two days, there was nothing and Gallant feared the worst.
“I was in a daze; I was in shock. I thought, ‘What are we going to do? We can’t lose another dog this soon. Why is this happening to us again'? I was driving around and I was crying, searching by myself. I thought she was suffering and she had already been through enough in her life and my heart just broke for her.’’
MacMillan said after moving the trap around a number of times, Coco caught a whiff of the bacon and Kentucky Fried Chicken they had put in the trap for her, and in she went. The door fell behind her and they had her back.
Gallant said she and her daughter immediately started jumping up and down, screaming with joy.
“It is such a huge relief,’’ MacMillan added.
“It still doesn’t feel real.’’
Gallant said she’ll never be able to thank the more than 40 people who showed up to help a total stranger enough.
“There are no words,’’ she said.
“I’m overwhelmed by their kindness and I want to pay it forward, somehow.’’
The group has maintained a group chat on Facebook. Gallant said when the current pandemic is over and it’s safe to do so, she plans on hosting a pizza party.
“You are all part of Coco’s extended family now,’’ Gallant said of her new friends.
Importance of foster homes for animals
Jennifer Harkness, development and communications manager with the P.E.I. Humane Society, says with the help of donors, foster homes are provided with all of the supplies needed for the animals stay.
This could include beds, litter, newspapers, toys and food.
Foster homes are responsible for transporting the animal to and from the shelter and taking them to emergency care if they become ill.
“Fosters are truly the shelter’s lifeline,’’ Harkness said.
“They raise orphan neo-natal kittens and help adjust under-socialized dogs to living in a home again. They provide so much love and care to the animal while relieving the pressure of overpopulation at the shelter.’’
Harkness added the ultimate goal is to have animals adopted to loving homes and, “foster care get many ready for this".
Anyone interested in fostering can fill out an application at peihumanesociety.com.