It’s been days of searching, trudging through the woods in the cold and handing out flyers for a young Kingston couple. Alicia Fleet and Alex Choiniere have been going to great lengths to look for their dog Leo who escaped from a Kingston kennel on New Year’s Eve.
Leo is a year-and-a-half-old German shepherd and Aussie border collie mix. The couple dropped him off along with their two other dogs at Thousand Islands Dog Resort on Dec. 31 at 10 a.m. and left town to visit family in Montreal.
According to both the couple and the owner of the kennel, Dave Sly, the dog escaped just hours after Fleet and Choiniere left.
For the young couple, who just started dating three months ago but who have known each other for years, it’s been a heartbreaking and frustrating experience.
“Very emotional, I feel like I won’t see him again,” said Choiniere, fighting back tears. “I’ve never had my dog in boarding before, so I kinda trusted it — you put your dog in a boarding for 48 hours, you kind of expect him to be there when you get back, but that’s not the case.”
Sly, whose family has run dog kennels for 45 years, says he understands the couple’s distress and has himself been unable to sleep since it happened.
“It’s terrible. People trust us to take care of their pets and we have not done the job in this instance.”
Sly claims it was a freak accident that led to losing the dog.
Sly says Leo was kept in a smaller penned area with Choiniere and Fleet’s other two dogs and explained that he was trying to move all three dogs from the pen when Leo ran off.
Moving the first two went well, but Sly says Leo was nervous and started jumping around the pen. While Leo was jumping, Sly claims the dog hit the gate about five feet up, which caused the lock to open.
“The dog was trying to jump over the fence and he hit it and it popped open and he was gone,” Sly said. “The gate has been there for 12 years. It’s never opened before.”
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Sly added that after the dog escaped he and his staff tried to figure out how Leo could have opened the gate.
“As I played with it, I hit it at three feet, it stays closed. But if I hit it at five feet, it opens.”
According to Fleet, when Sly called them on Monday to tell them Leo had escaped, he originally said that Leo must have chewed through the lock. When they arrived at the kennel, Sly said the dog had actually knocked the gate loose.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me, looking at it I don’t understand, it’s definitely not safe, it’s not locked. I don’t see how he would have knocked it out and just ran,” said Fleet.
Sly said that at first he was confused about how Leo had escaped because he was shocked that the gate opened. It wasn’t until later that he realized that hitting the gate at five feet caused it to open.
The kennel owner said all of his gates will be replaced or redesigned.
He and his staff have also joined the search, spending the last three days looking for Leo in the heavily wooded area and sub-divisions around the kennel.
But it’s too little too late for Leo’s owners, who say they are “outraged” that their dog was lost.
“I want my dog back, I miss my dog and I want him home,” said Fleet.
Despite their distress, both Choiniere and Fleet, who have taken to social media to look for Leo, said they’ve received a tremendous response from people in the area.
“We’ve had an outpour of help from the community. The amount of messages offering support, even just their thoughts and prayers, is unbelievable,” said Fleet.
If anyone sees a dog that may look like Leo, the Kingston couple is asking to please reach out to them or officials like the humane society. They also said Leo may not respond to his name because he may be too afraid of humans after being out in the wild for so long.