Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Long-lost pooch out of the cold, back home

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Pooch Talia, who'd been lost in the barrens (or Winnipeg, as we call it) since Dec. 27, was reunited with her emotional family Thursday night.  Here Carolina Villa, 11, poses with Talia and with Lois Reid, who stopped in traffic to scoop up the lost and disoriented Colombian pup.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Pooch Talia, who'd been lost in the barrens (or Winnipeg, as we call it) since Dec. 27, was reunited with her emotional family Thursday night. Here Carolina Villa, 11, poses with Talia and with Lois Reid, who stopped in traffic to scoop up the lost and disoriented Colombian pup. Photo Store

TALIA, the Colombian dog that went missing Dec. 27, survived almost a week's worth of subarctic weather conditions to be reunited with the Villa family Thursday night.

An exhaustive search by the Villas, volunteers with the Winnipeg Lost Dog Alert team and concerned members of the public finally brought the lost golden retriever/cocker spaniel cross back home to her owners, Carolina, 11, and her mother, Lourdes Villa.

Talia disappeared in Elmwood after arriving from Colombia on Boxing Day. The family had immigrated to Winnipeg four months earlier.

The efforts of one particularly brave Winnipegger, Lois Reid, are ultimately what brought the pooch home to its loving family.

Reid spotted a dog darting through traffic on the Louise Bridge on Thursday afternoon.

Having seen news about Talia on the Winnipeg Lost Dog Alert and Facebook, Reid said she recognized the mixed-breed pooch immediately.

"I had a gut feeling it was her," said Reid. "I put my four-ways on and stopped in the middle of the bridge."

'She crouched down and basically said "I'm done" '

Reid hadn't heard about the Winnipeg Lost Dog Alert's warnings to not chase the dog -- in case she were to run away -- and so she followed Talia, dodging through cars on the icy street.

The dog wouldn't come easily, but Reid finally cornered her with the help of another pedestrian walking on the bridge.

"(Talia) finally got so scared she jumped over a snowbank onto the sidewalk. She looked like she was going to go under the fence and onto the river, but then she realized that was a silly idea. She crouched down and basically said 'I'm done,' " Reid remembered with a laugh.

From there, Reid corralled Talia into her car and called Villa.

Villa had got false-alarm calls from others claiming to have found her dog, so she wasn't immediately sure Reid had found the right dog.

Once Reid told Villa the dog's hip was shaved, that's when she knew it was really Talia.

"They did that in Colombia for her to come here, (they shaved her) to take some samples. I didn't want to put my hopes up at all, but I lost control. I was driving and I stopped the car and called my sister. I said, 'Please call this lady and tell me that it's true what she's saying,' " said Villa.

An emotional reunion between Talia and her family took place shortly thereafter at the Pembina Veterinary Hospital Thursday evening.

"I came here waiting anxiously, and after 10 to 15 minutes (Reid) came and the minute that I saw Talia I knew it was my dog," said Villa. "I hugged her, kissed her and made sure, you know, that it was her -- I even smelled her."

Carolina was just as thrilled to be reunited with her lost pooch.

"I'm really excited to see her. I was surprised (when I heard), I was like, 'Mom, is it her? Let's go right now and see her!' " she gushed.

"We waited for 10 minutes and the lady came and Talia was shivering a little bit, but when she saw us she was so excited, she was running around us," said Carolina.

"She has frostbite on one leg and has lost weight, according to the veterinarian, but she's doing good. She's a strong dog, I didn't know she was that strong." said Villa.

The Villas are grateful for the help of the Winnipeg Lost Dog Alert team and the concerned members of the public who flooded them with calls and emails showing their support.

A group of 25 to 30 volunteers helped search for Talia on Monday night alone, and many more helped poster and door-knock throughout the week.

"It's a beautiful, beautiful group of people and that they're so organized, it's incredible," said Villa.

"It's amazing how in a situation like mine, how people can help other people, especially since they didn't know me. They didn't know Talia and they still went out there in the very cold weather to help us."

Reid, a frequent cat-rescuer herself, didn't think twice about whether to help.

"Even if (Talia) would have bit me, unless it was so excruciating, I would have still hung on to her," she said.

After repeated thanks and dog kisses, the family and Reid parted ways.

"All the thanks I need is knowing she's going home," Reid said.

jessica.botelho-urbanski@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 3, 2014 B1

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