LA Rescues: Kaila | Part I

March 10, 2016

The Story of Kaila | Part I

Nothing tugs at my heartstrings more than a “Lost Dog” poster. While most posters of the sort that I come across are usually tacked to wooden power-lines or taped to cement lampposts, peeling and weather-worn, I am left to wonder if that dog is really still missing or if they’ve fortunately been found, posters forgotten about. Such was not the case recently though, as it seemed my social media feed was inundated with posts about a dog named Kaila.

Perusing through my Facebook and Instagram feeds over the weekend, I kept seeing posts from our friends over at Save Our Scruff (SOS) shared by community members and fellow dog lovers with an urgent call for volunteers to assist in the search for a missing dog. Kaila, a short-haired Chihuahua/Whippet rescue from Mexico, arrived at Toronto’s Pearson Airport on March 4th with five other dogs, ready to head to her fosters’ home. However, in the transition from her oversized kennel to the transporter’s vehicle, Kaila got spooked, slipped her collar, and made a run for it. By the time I saw the call to action from SOS, Kaila had already been missing for over two full days and I knew I had to assist in the search in any way that I could.

I followed the poster’s instructions and contacted Maureen Häni to offer my assistance on the ground in the search and rescue (SAR) operation. Häni, as I learned, was the new lead tracker in Kaila’s case, and within hours I met up with her near one of the local hotels surrounding Pearson Airport, to be debriefed on the latest updates, get a lay of the area, and receive instructions as to what was needed of me and where. I was also added into a Facebook chat group for all of us currently on watch at “Ground Zero”, so that we could have constant contact with each other regarding any sightings.

As it turned out, Häni and the other members of the SAR team (made up of other trackers and volunteers – including Kaila’s flight parents) had tracked Kaila to a specific stretch of grassland running between the hotel parking lots and the fence line that separated the lot from the neighbouring major highways. Häni and team had already put two traps into place, where they had previously tracked Kaila’s paw prints and a den she had made for herself. There had a been a few Kaila spottings in this grassland area by the team, but since she had already been chased a few times in the days prior (in an uninformed effort by people with good intentions to catch her), our game plan for the day was to lie in wait until she entered one of the traps.

Once I had been fully debriefed, I took my assigned post inside the monorail station, on the second floor level in front of the floor to ceiling windows and settled in with my borrowed pair of binoculars to keep watch. From my vantage point, I could see nearly the entire length of the grassland area where Kaila was hiding and had a direct sight line of trap number two, tucked just behind one of the parking lots’ snowbanks. I could also see most of the vehicles of the rest of the team members, strategically parked through the parking lots with their focus on different areas of the stretch.

For hours, I scanned along the grassed area and fence line, looking for any signs of movement. Eventually the sun began to set and since we hadn’t had a sighting of Kaila since around the time I arrived at Ground Zero, I was admittedly getting nervous for Kaila and the impending nightfall. We lost our natural light quickly and were reduced to just the light pillars in the parking lots and passing cars on the highways.

Finally, just prior to 9 p.m., I saw movement around trap two. Kaila had appeared from her hiding place and was sniffing around the trap. My heart began to race as I realized I had my first visual on Kaila and she was exactly where we wanted her to be. I hurriedly messaged the Ground Zero group to inform them of my sighting and continued to keep my watch on Kaila. She sniffed around the trap for about a mere 30 seconds before ducking back into her hiding spot within the grass. Disappointment nearly arose out of me, before Häni chimed into our Facebook group, “She is testing to see what threats come running as she ventures around… As she realizes no one bothers her, she will get more adventurous.”

True to her word, Häni was right…


[Part II coming soon.]

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  • Reply Bobby March 11, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    Great account of the day! I can’t wait to read Part II and re-live one of the most stressful yet rewarding times I can remember finding this amazing little dog.

    • Reply Valerie March 12, 2016 at 4:11 pm

      Bobby, so glad you got a chance to check this out! Absolutely a very intense and very rewarding day with Kaila. Thank you for being an amazing person dedicating days and countless hours to the search and rescue operation, an awesome flight parent, and (Spoiler Alert:) a loving foster of the night to both her and Napolean! ;)

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