Lost animals turn up quite often, but for Maggie, a five-year-old shih tzu cross, her story verges on a Christmas miracle.
Rescued two years ago from a puppy mill by the Nanaimo and District SPCA, Maggie was out for a walk with her owner, Lorraine Burley, in Bowen Park Nov. 11 when she was attacked by four small dogs.
Already timid from her time in the puppy mill, Maggie slipped her collar and leash and fled deeper into the park.
Burley filed a lost dog report with Coastal Animal Services and the SPCA, put up 130 signs and searched the park daily.
“I even went out after dark with a flashlight walking the trails thinking she might come out at night,” she said.
But Maggie was never seen again.
Cheryl Zanchetta, an animal control officer with the Coastal Animal Services, received a phone call of a dog stuck on a ledge on a hillside in Bowen Park near the duck ponds.
A man and his daughter crossing a bridge over the Millstone River spotted something they thought might be a cat or dog and worked their way to it.
When they discovered it was a dog, they put a blanket on it, left it alone and then called the shelter, said Zanchetta, who rescued the dog.
“As soon as I saw her, I knew it was Maggie,” she said. “I started crying and got up the hill pretty quick to get her to the vet.”
While only Maggie knows what happened after being attacked 40 days earlier, Zanchetta believes the dog fell down the hillside and was stuck on the ledge.
“She had been there some time because she was covered in feces and leaves, and the ledge was covered in feces,” she said. “She had a pretty significant eye injury we think she received during the fall, and I don’t think she could have made it back up by herself.”
Burley had given up on seeing Maggie again, and was fostering another small dog for the SPCA which became sick and had to be put down on Monday.
“Monday was a horrible day and then I get home, the phone is ringing and they’ve found Maggie,” said Burley. “I cried, got back in the car and headed back to the vet.”
Burley isn’t sure how Maggie survived for 40 days.
“She is too timid to go to anyone but she was a little overweight when she got lost so that might have been a blessing,” she said.
Maggie undergoes surgery Friday (Dec. 23) to remove her injured right eye, and was lethargic, emaciated and suffering from hypothermia when she was rescued.
“I don’t think she would have lasted much longer. She could barely lift her head,” said Zanchetta. “I’ve never seen anything like this … not 40 days. It’s quite a Christmas miracle.”
A lost cat is also back with its owner after three weeks on the run.
Miss Em, a 12-year-old feline, was reported missing from her downtown Nanaimo home earlier this month, but was located Monday in Lantzville.
“A gentleman found the cat in Lantzville but had a really difficult time reading the tattoo in its ear. But we finally identified her,” said Cheryl Zanchetta, an animal control officer with the Coastal Animal Services. “She’s an indoor cat who got out and the owner thinks she must have got into a vehicle to end up in Lantzville.”