Danielle Mario, The StarPhoenix
Published: Friday, March 28, 2008
There was a wagging tail and plenty of sloppy dog kisses at the Saskatoon airport Thursday, after Leya the Bichon-Shih Tzu cross was reunited with her 78-year-old owner.
Calgary airline technician Russell Humphreys was there to hand the dog to her eager owner. He rescued Leya, who was separated from her Saskatoon owner, Kay Gall, in Calgary. Gall's car had rolled on Deerfoot Trail Monday. The two doggy passengers, Leya and Angel, fled the wrecked Volkswagen Westfalia, leaving their owner trapped in her seatbelt waiting for help. By the time Gall was freed, the dogs were nearly out of sight.
"They were way down in the field quite a ways. They were just scared I guess," said Gall. "One of the guys that stopped to help me after the accident went down there to see if we could catch them. . . . He came back and said he couldn't get them. So I wanted to go get them, but the ambulance came and once they got a hold of me they wouldn't let me go."
Gall, who suffered a bruised knee and elbow, was forced to leave the damaged vehicle and lost dogs behind, taking an overnight bus home to Saskatoon.
A day after the crash, Humphreys, a Westjet employee in Calgary, spotted one of the dogs in a fenced-off area while he was driving around the airport.
"She was just a little spot . . . light against the dark background," said Humphrey, who caught the dog in 45 minutes, after recruiting five others to help with the capture. "She's a fast little dog when she gets going . . . It was like the OK Corral."
After the dog was reported to animal control in Calgary, a quick check for a licence showed the dog belongs to Gall.
She received a call from her daughter in Calgary, with both good and bad news: Angel was dead after being hit by a car, but Leya would be returning to Saskatoon on Thursday.
The expectant owner was at the gate at the Saskatoon Airport, waiting for the flight to arrive. She stood as the plane pulled up to the airport, smiling and murmuring she'd "wish they would hurry."
Leya and Humphreys came down, making their way towards Gall, as she called her dog's name over and over. Gall picked up the dog, whose tail was wagging but who was shaking under the scrutiny of local media.
"So you're the man that found her," said Gall.
"Thank you very much."
Humphrey, who owns a Shih Tzu himself, said he requested to come back with the dog, to meet the owner.
"I thought I might as well put an end to the story," he said. "I'm a pet owner myself, so I understand what (Gall)'s going through. I don't get to be in the limelight very much, so this is really nice."
He said the dog put on a whole new front when reunited with Gall.
"She's been scared all morning," Humphrey said to Gall. "Now she's really excited. She's a whole new dog."
Although Gall and Leya were reunited, the dog's owner couldn't help but mourn the loss of her other canine.
"It's nice to know that I still have the one, but it's heart-breaking because we don't have Angel anymore," said Gall.
WestJet spokesperson Gillian Bentley said using the story for promotional material is a "considerable" option.
"I think this fit right in with our caring campaign," she said. "But we'll most likely use it internally."
As the media fray and onlookers departed, Gall was left standing with the pup. She said she plans on going for a walk with Leya when they get home, but Humphrey said the relieved dog will probably want a little break after such a long week.
"She'll sleep like a baby tonight. That's for sure," he said.