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  • Writer's pictureCeleste

How Boomer Became a Toronto Celebrity

Boomer the rescue dog on CTV News

Once upon a time in the early days of the pandemic March 2020, we adopted a beautiful dog named Boomer from a local rescue. They had just picked him up from a shelter in San Antonio, Texas where he was scheduled to be euthanized, and drove him all the way to Canada.

We saw his sad photo and immediately decided that he was our dog. When we went to pick him up from his foster in St. Catharine's, he was so scared he wouldn't approach us. He did laps around his foster's backyard shed, came out to peek at us, then would run back to hide again. His foster told us that his skittish behaviour had scared away other potential families, but we had already decided that he was our dog and were up for the challenge.

pencil drawing of a dog by Canadian artist Celeste Gillis
Sad, scared Boomer pencil sketch when we first met

Boomer was a street dog and had never been properly socialized with humans. He spent his first few months with us mostly hiding under the dining room table and occasionally coming out motivated by treats and general curiosity about the human creatures who had taken him (hostage?) into their den.

Eventually with a lot of patience and time respecting his boundaries, he warmed up to us and would start licking our faces and even cuddling up on the couch. He was even starting to smile. We were grateful and assumed the worst was behind us.

Feeling optimistic, we decided to introduce him to our new Toronto house & surroundings.

pencil sketch of dog by Toronto artist
Happy Boomer pencil sketch

The first visit he was nervous but seemed to settle down. The second visit we left him in the living room while we were carrying his things into the house and then boom! He just bolted. He pushed through the door past us and just kept running. To this day we don't know what triggered him. Was it the thought of being left behind? The sound of the furnace kicking in? The sound of fireworks that someone was lighting off in the neighbourhood several blocks away on a non-holiday? (more on my annoyance with residential fireworks in a future post). Whatever it was, he ran and wouldn't stop running.

We dropped everything immediately and chased after him as fast as our human legs could, which of course, can't compete with his four. After about twenty minutes of running and long after he vanished over the horizon, we grabbed the car and drove around for what seemed forever with no luck, then paced up and down the streets calling his name for several more hours. Eventually we got home and I immediately started posting missing dog photos in every online community I could find. Then I got a random message from someone from Eddie's Network who had seen my post and offered to help.

Eddie's Network is a group of volunteers all across the Toronto and surrounding areas who specifically help to bring lost dogs home. They immediately provided us with guidance and made sure we were doing everything possible to find Boomer. They helped us design a poster and recruited volunteers to start plastering them around the city for us in a very strategic way. Nobody in the organization accepted money for their services, it was just fellow dog owners with big hearts.

So our days and eventually weeks were fully tied up with making posters and plastering the neighbourhood with them. Several of our friends and family members joined with the volunteers and would spend their free time postering and handing out flyers. My phone was also constantly flooded with messages of either potential sightings or neighbours just checking in for an update and wanting to help. It was all very touching how many friends and even strangers cared so much for the wellbeing of our dog.

Six long weeks went by, and we were starting to worry that we'd never see our Boomer again. The guilt was unbearable, and we were doing whatever we could to keep optimistic and not give up.

Then one morning I woke up to a phone call from a construction worker at the subway about 3km away. He said his boss had seen a dog that fit the description of mine in the poster, and it had been hiding in the new subway tunnel they were working on for the past four days. I immediately rushed over and met with Scott at the site.

When I got to Scott's office, he mentioned he had contacted Toronto Animal Services and they were on their way to help. The dog was stuck in a dangerous construction zone, and he had contacted both of us that morning. He tossed a hard hat and protective vest at me, and when Sally from Animal Services arrived, we all made it down to the underground tunnel together.

Dog Boomer found at construction site in Toronto
Photo I snapped during my sobbing state when we found Boomer

As soon as Sally shined her flashlight on the scared dog at the end of the tunnel, I immediately recognized him and dropped to my knees sobbing "That's our boy!". I had suppressed my feelings of sadness, guilt and anxiety for so many weeks that it all came gushing out at once. Needless to say, I wasn't very helpful. Scott & Sally did all the work capturing our scared boy while I barely gathered myself together just enough to snap a photo and send it to my partner, showing him we found him and he's fine.

Rescue dog Boomer found in tunnel at Cedarvale subway site.
When Boomer recognized his Mama

When Boomer was first pulled out of his hiding spot by Sally & Scott, he was thrashing around terrified. When I called his name, he paused and looked at me wagging his tail, just a little. It's like his memory had suddenly just kicked in and he calmed down.

We managed to get ourselves and Boomer safely out of the construction zone and into Sally's truck who took him back to my house. When we arrived I asked if she needed proof of ownership, but when she looked at my sobbing face and the hundreds of missing dog posters scattered across my porch, she gave me the benefit of the doubt.

Crosslinx & Toronto Animal Services rescue dog.
Sally & Scott, heroes after a job well done

Boomer was skinny and smelled awful beyond description, but he was fine. He had an emergency appointment with his vet followed by an emergency bath and then settled down on the couch like nothing happened.

I will forever be grateful to Scott, Sally, our friends, family & neighbours as well as the amazing volunteers at Eddie's Network for donating their time and energy to helping us bring our Boomer home.

The entire adventure has humbled me to the extent of human kindness, especially while everyone was going through their own personal suffering during the height of the pandemic.

charcoal pet portrait of a French Bulldog
A charcoal portrait gift to our hero

So many neighbours reacted to Boomer's story online that it caught the ear of a reporter at CTV news and Boomer and his Daddy were interviewed, which you can watch HERE. It was amusing to see a picture of our dog blown up on the Six O'clock news after everything had settled down.

As a thank you to Scott for being our hero, I drew a portrait of his French Bulldog, Gus. I hope he'll look at it and remember how his kindness and caring impacted our lives.

Boomer rescue dog Toronto
Happy Boomer safe at home

So that's Boomer's story. Over the past three years he's become one of the sweetest and most loyal, loving dogs we've ever known. Of course, he now has a tracker on his collar when he leaves the house, even to pee, because we're not taking any chances.

We are so grateful for our beautiful dog though, and hope that more families will give rescue dogs a chance. Keep in mind that Boomer has an extreme case of social anxiety and doesn't represent the average rescue. Just make sure you do your research and are prepared before you adopt. With love and patience, they can be the most rewarding addition to your family.



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