After a long, strange plane trip that began in Halifax and should have ended in Newfoundland, Terri Pittman has finally found her lost labradoodle Cooper — near Hamilton International Airport.
After enduring torrential rains overnight, Cooper was found wet and hungry by a group of residents early Friday. He was cold and scared, but otherwise in good condition.
Pittman, a Halifax resident who took a flight to Hamilton on Thursday after learning her dog was missing, said she was grateful for Hamilton residents' help and enthusiasm in finding her pet.
"Knowing that people were spotting him running in the same area gave me more hope," said Pittman, holding Cooper and surrounded by the people who helped track him down.
"Thousands of people helped me. With all the [social media] shares, and people searching and calling. Random people messaged me asking how they can help, and they're out around at three, four in the morning, looking around."
Pittman started getting calls about her dog around 7:30 a.m., from neighbours near the airport who had spotted him running through their backyards. They tried to approach him, but he ran off, scared.
Louis Atkinson, who lives in the area, first spotted Cooper running across a parking lot near a Tim Hortons.
"He was running, looked scared," said Atkinson.
"I was coming out of Timmies, and I saw it run across the parking lot, so I chased it down to where it ran down this road."
Put on wrong flight
Cooper's adventure began Wednesday.
Pittman's pet was supposed to travel from Halifax to Deer Lake, N.L., to be with her family while she and her roommate headed to Jamaica for a wedding.
Instead, WestJet put Cooper on a flight bound for Hamilton.
WestJet told Pittman that Cooper arrived in Hamilton about midnight on Wednesday. Some time after, airline workers lost Cooper.
"I got a call saying they'd put my dog on the wrong flight to a totally different province," she said. The airline told her Cooper escaped from his collar when airline staff let the dog out for a potty break.
Westjet says it has offered to pay for Cooper's vet bill, and will work on getting everyone back home as soon as they are rested.
"Our primary focus was reuniting Cooper and his owner, and we are in touch with Terri to make sure he is okay," said spokesperson Lauren Stewart in an email.
At one point Thursday, Pittman asked WestJet over the phone to put Cooper's crate, left open and with familiar-smelling things inside, by the road so that he might return to it. The crate was there for several hours, "but someone stole it a few hours ago," she told CBC Hamilton on Thursday evening.
Pittman took a flight to Hamilton in the middle of a massive rain and thunderstorm to look for her dog, calling Thursday "one of the worst days of my life."
But soon, people in Hamilton came to help.
"The community of Mount Hope and Hamilton have been amazing," Pittman said. "Random people have messaged me saying they want to help."