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‘That he survived is a miracle’: How a community rallied to rescue Kenzo the Wonder Dog

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Cathy Dobson

Kenzo’s rescue is nothing short of a miracle.

The little terrier was visiting Sarnia with his foster mom on Thanksgiving weekend when he dug his way out of the yard and headed for the highway. For eight days, he eluded trackers despite being sighted many times along Highway 402 be-tween Indian and Murphy roads.

He was hit by passing vehicles twice, including one time when motorists stopped and thought he was dead or unconscious. But the scared pup got back on his feet and ran away before he could be captured.

That’s when Margarita MacDonald got involved.

By that time, Kenzo’s story had become an internet sensation and many Sarnians were following the search and offering assistance.

“I helped with a ground search on the Friday after he’d been hit,” said MacDonald. “But it’s really P.J. Wilson and her group of guardian angels who put in 12 to 16 hour days that deserve the credit.

“It’s such a positive thing and it should be shared.”

Kenzo’s story begins in Turkey one month ago when a rescue group took him off the streets and shipped him to Toronto to find a foster home. In Turkey, the two-year-old terrier mix had lived by the side of a highway. Apart from an animal shelter, that’s all Kenzo knew. Rescuers say that’s likely why he was drawn to the highway when he got loose in Sarnia.

Once word got out that he had escaped a yard near Lakeshore and Indian Road, Sarnia’s P.J. Wilson was called in to help. She’s a certified tracker/trapper that has spent the last five years voluntarily locating and rescu-ing dozens of missing cats and dogs.

“I’ve had difficult cases but not ones when the dog is running the highway,” said Wilson who has taken courses on finding runaway animals and says she approaches it with experience and logic. Kenzo’s case was even more challenging because he wasn’t bonded to any person or animal, and he wasn’t that interested in food, she said. He wasn’t a pet. He was a street dog.

“I found the hole that Kenzo dug to get out and I knew the direction he took,” said Wilson.

A canvas of the neighbourhood revealed several sightings and took her to the Exmouth and Indi-an area.

“Some people tried to catch him but that doesn’t work. It just scares them and they run even farther,” Wilson said.

It was a holiday weekend, but numerous people abandoned their turkey dinners and offered to help. Wilson credits a core group that included Dana LaPlante, Tim Vale, Krista Riley, Madison Dunn, Mary Morneau, Maria Bucci and Margarita MacDonald for their untiring effort. Together they watched entry points to the highway for a solid week, searched the ditches, moved large dog traps, and trudged through thick brush.

“It felt like the whole community came together, be it through driving or walking around looking for sightings, giving searchers access to back yards and praying,” said MacDonald.

“We all fell in love with him because of his story,” said Wilson. “That poor little rascal came to a strange country and to a home he didn’t know. His whole life was topsy turvy.”

Against all odds, Kenzo was found without severe injuries on Sept. 16. That morning Wilson called in her friend Mary Morneau, a trapper from Windsor, to help out. They began knocking on doors in the Berkshire/Ennisclaire area immediately north of the high-way.

“I just had a gut instinct he’d gone north again,” said Wilson.

Where Kenzo was found wedged between a fence and garage on Ennisclaire Drive. (Submitted photo)

The second house they knocked at, Kenzo was found curled up in a narrow passage between a fence and a garage too small for any person.

“There is just no feeling like it when you find them,” Wilson said. “But we had to figure out how to get him out of there.”

The women were joined by several other searchers and spent four hours trying to convince Kenzo to come out. He was too frightened. Finally, a couple of fence boards were removed and Kenzo was coerced into a crate. Dr. Vasantbhai Barot of Discovery Animal Hospital in Petrolia examined the dog and found severe cuts but no broken bones.

“When I look in Kenzo’s eyes, I can see sadness but also relief,” said Wilson. “That was eight days of sheer panic and terror before he got in the crate.

“That he survived is a miracle.”

She believes he will make someone a good pet but needs a home where there are other animals. It’s possible one of the rescue team will permanently adopt Kenzo, Wilson said.

“We’re all very hopeful.”

Volunteer Dana LaPlante with Kenzo. (Submitted photo)

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