“It’s one of those stories that gives you hope.”
This is what Louisa Garza said, and while she is referring to hope for owners of missing pets, the story also gives you hope in humanity.
This is because without a lot of people willing to go the extra mile, the story of Mila the dog and her owner Brian Collins could have been very different.
Collins and Mila were staying at a tree planting camp near Takla Landing in May of 2013, where Collins was support staff for the camp.
Mila had been chasing rabbits and wandering too far from camp, and so Collins had been keeping close tabs on the dog, shutting her inside his cabin more often.
But at 3 a.m. one night, the cooks for the camp could not get the generator started, and so Collins was called in to help fix the generator. Mila wanted to go out, and he debated but finally decided to let her out to pee.
After fixing the generator, Mila was nowhere to be found, and he couldn’t call her right away and wake up the camp, so he hoped she would come back.
She never did.
Eventually, Collins went home after the camp was done, having left messages with Nahounli Kennels in case she turned up, but with no sign of the dog.
Home for Collins is all the way over in North Bay, Ontario. He thought he probably wouldn’t see her atain.
Near the end of February 2014, Collins received a phone call from his local humane society.
They asked him if he had a dog, he said he did, but he knew the dog he had gotten since Mila’s disappearance was inside his home and without a collar on at the time, so he was confused.
They asked him if he had a dog named Mila, and he said he no longer had her.
They told him she had been found and the person who found her had called the number on her tag, which was the humane society in North Bay.
But getting a dog back halfway across the country from somewhere as remote as Takla Landing is not so easy, and so Collins began trying to figure out how to make it happen.
He put an ad on Kijiji and got in touch with the person who found Mila.
The man said he had seen the dog around and had put out food for her for about eight months before he managed to get her to trust him enough to read her tags and get the number.
After getting the call and confirming it was his dog, Collins then got in touch with the Fort St. James Humane Society, calling Garza himself and beginning to make the connections to bring his dog to him.
“It was great for me to be able to help this guy,” said Garza, humbly giving credit to all the others who helped in the elaborate process.
When arrangements were made to bring the dog into town, Monica Grill of Nahounli Kennels agreed to help and to keep the dog until it could be taken to Prince George to be flown to Ontario.
She met up with Garza and they waited for an hour for the man from Takla to bring the dog in on the agreed day.
He did not show up, and when Garza called him again, someone at the home said the man had been unable to catch the dog, but Mila was often seen around the nurse’s station, so she could try there.
Garza contacted the nurses, who said they had noticed the dog hanging around starting in November and said they would try and catch her if they could and would bring her to town their next trip.
“They were thrilled to be helping, which was awesome,” said Garza.
She met the nurses at around 9:30 p.m. on March 4 at the Petro Canada and received the dog, which Garza said was beautiful, with a very gentle nature.
She then took the dog to Nahounli Kennels where Grill was going to look after the dog for the humane society until it could be taken to Prince George to be flown out.
“I can’t even thank her enough,” Garza said of Grill’s help.
Garza then worked with Collins to arrange for a crate and she got in touch with Angela McLaren of the Prince George SPCA, who agreed to take care of Mila until the flight details could be worked out once someone could take the dog into Prince George.
Garza drove Mila there herself, and handed the dog over to McLaren.
Collins then arranged a flight from Prince George to Toronto, Ontario, where he drove down to pick her up.
When she arrived, he had his mom go out and put her on a leash and bring her into the airport, he said when she realized he was there, Mila began jumping around and whining.
He recorded the reunion on video and sent it to Garza.
“Really, I could cry, it’s just beautiful,” she said of the video.
Collins spoke to The Courier on Mar. 18 and said Mila was at home sleeping in North Bay for the first time as we spoke.
She was getting reacquainted with his new dog Pepper and figuring out how to share.
He said Mila has a bit more of a wild streak in her than she did before, guarding her food more aggressively than she had in the past, but she is doing well.
Hopefully the Treeing Walker Hound will be able to resist chasing rabbits for the near future.