Posted on 31 October 2012 by Keith Lacey
Thanks to the incredible generosity of a large group of strangers, most who he met through social media on Facebook, a senior who just moved to retire in Osoyoos and his beloved dog have been reunited after some truly remarkable acts of generosity and kindness.
A talented Hollywood script writer would have a difficult time coming up with the scenario which brought Sonni McLaren and his beloved 18-month-old longhaired Chihuahua-Jack Russell terrier mix named Tim back together again after an amazing, 3,300-mile cross-country journey.
“Tim is my best friend and all I have,” said McLaren, 69, who spent most of his life in British Columbia and decided to call Osoyoos home one month ago after visiting the community a couple of times with his parents while growing up in Burnaby.
This wonderful story of McLaren and his dog being reunited starts in Gatineau, Quebec, where McLaren was visiting a friend and his family back in September.
McLaren has numerous serious health issues, including a bad heart and emphysema, and when he visited a doctor in Gatineau, McLaren was told the beautiful climate in southern B.C. would help him recover from recent surgery and help his emphysema.
“I decided I was going to move back to B.C. because I still had my B.C. medical insurance and I chose Osoyoos because of the weather and fact I had been here several times as a kid growing up,” he said.
Without a lot of money, McLaren decided to jump on a bus and leave his dog with his friends in Gatineau.
“I left Tim with my supposed friends and I asked them to take care of him until I got to B.C. and then I would pay to ship him out west,” he said. “I thought this guy was a good friend and there wouldn’t be any problems.”
But things quickly changed as McLaren was on a bus in Manitoba two days after leaving Quebec when he received a text from his friend that he wanted Tim picked up that night or he was going to take him to the pound.
“They have two huge cats and two young kids and I guess that caused some problems … that’s the only thing that made sense to me because Tim is such a loving dog,” he said.
Despite pleading to hold Tim for a couple more days until he arrived in B.C., McLaren got another text the next day saying his dog had been brought to the pound and had been put down.
“I was devastated, even though my gut told me Tim was still alright,” he said. “I had the feeling this was just a way to try and get me back to Quebec to pick up my dog.”
Not knowing exactly what to do being so far away, McLaren got on his laptop computer during stopovers on the bus trip and told his story on Facebook – which drew immediate response.
“I didn’t know what to do so I went on Facebook and asked people what I should do … and that’s when things started rolling,” he said.
A woman from Missouri responded within minutes and told him to relax.
“She told me to take it easy and we’ll see what we can do,” he said.
The same woman offered to contact his friend and have Tim sent to her or she would make the long drive to Quebec and pick him up.
“I had never met this woman before and she was offering to do this for me,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. But I knew how far away that was and told her thanks, but I couldn’t let her do that.”
The woman, named Reggie, also went on Facebook to share the story and told her daughter, a champion barrel racer, about Tim’s plight and within 12 hours,he had dozens of Facebook friends willing to do whatever was needed to rescue his dog, said McLaren.
“The only thing I knew is someone had to get to that house and rescue Tim,” he said.
He posted another Facebook message asking if anyone in the Ottawa-Gatineau region would be willing to pick up his dog as quickly as possible.
The next day, a woman named Laurie Cassidy Moir, who is a professional dog trainer who lives near Gatineau, responded to his request, said McLaren.
“This total stranger told me she would go to the house and demand they give Tim to her,” he said.
He sent a text to the family holding Tim and the wife confirmed Tim was still alive and had not been brought to the pound and her husband was just upset because they couldn’t afford to feed the dog.
“She texted back and told me to come and get Tim right away,” he said. “I contacted Laurie and she and her husband Leo went to get the dog … and sent me a text that Tim had been rescued and was safely at their home.
“I was euphoric. All the people at the bus stop probably thought I was crazy because I was crying and sobbing, but from that moment on I knew everything would be alright.”
Over the course of four or five days, all the new Facebook friends he had met were donating funds through Pay Pal and helped raise almost $1,000, said McLaren.
Cassidy Moir and her husband, who kept Tim at their residence for four days, received the money and arranged to fly Tim in the cargo section on a WestJet flight from Ottawa to Kelowna the evening of Oct. 3.
Another generous woman, named Sheila Sutton, who is the owner of the Spotted Spa Dog Retreat in Kelowna, had also read about the story on Facebook and volunteered to meet Cassidy Moir at the Kelowna Airport and transport Tim to Osoyoos.
“She volunteered to use her canine van and drove three hours to get him here,” said McLaren.
When Tim arrived at the apartment he’s renting, it was a moment McLaren will never forget.
“He looked at me sideways a couple of times, then realized it was me and his tail started wagging and I knew it was all going to be OK,” he said. “He had been through so much, but he was the same loving dog I had left behind a few days earlier.”
McLaren offered to pay Sutton for her kind gesture, but she refused.
“She just told me the smile on my face was good enough for me, she kissed Tim goodbye and drove all the way back to Kelowna,” he said. “There were a lot of tears I’ll tell ya, but I was pretty happy because I knew Tim was home and safe. “
Tim has quickly adapted to his new home and life here in Osoyoos, he said.
“He just loves the beach,” he said. “We go for four or five walks a day and he couldn’t be happier.”
Ironically, a woman, Sandy Pires, who helped arrange the WestJet flight from Ottawa, was born and raised in Osoyoos and sent him an email saying she was glad the airline she works for could help reunite Tim with his master, said McLaren.
“I just wanted to tell this story to let the people of Osoyoos know that there are some very good people in this town and the Okanagan Valley,” he said.
Having so many strangers come forward to help him and his dog is remarkable, he said.
“Words can’t describe how much I appreciate what all of these people have done for me,” he said. “A bunch of total strangers came together and made sure Tim got back to me and I will never forget them.”
McLaren has started a Facebook Friends Rescue Pet Group last week to try and do what others have done for him.
A five-minute YouTube video called Sonni & Tim’s Facebook Story has also been posted online.