Carmen brought in from the cold thanks to community

Alexis Sweeney was reunited with her rescue dog Carmen last week. The three-year-old Italian Greyhound bolted from Springside park Jan. 24 and spent six nights in freezing conditions. A social media campaign and vigilant volunteers played a part in the rescue. Photo by Desirée Decoste.

Jason Parks
For the Beaver

A local woman has been reunited with her dog thanks to a caring Napanee community.

Local woman Alexis Sweeney explains her life changed course forever this past October when she discovered Carmen at the Napanee Society for the Prevention for Cruelty to Animals. A rescued Italian greyhound estimated at about three years old, Carmen was taken from horrible conditions along with about 60 animals. Carmen had allegedly been used as a breeding animal, neglected and traumatized.

Carmen was the name provided by the staff at the SPCA and, after the little black bundle of trembling fearfulness was fostered at Sweeny’s home and eventually adopted for good in December, the John St. resident undertook the daunting task of trying to wash the terrible and caged existence of a puppy mill away.

“It was a challenging but wonderful experience of learning about her and gently guiding her and showing her all the love I could. She slowly started opening up in her behaviour and trusting me,” Sweeney told the Beaver.

Then, everything changed on Friday Jan. 24th.

Sweeney explained that after frigid weather, pleasant conditions led to an outing at Springside Park.

“I carried through the same routine and we were walking enjoying the weather and the sunshine in the day. As we were walking on the path along the falls, another little dog happened to come along and Carmen was spooked,” Sweeney remembered.

Carmen frantically pulled back on her lead and slipped out of her harness, “dashing away like a bullet.”

Running up and down the parking lot of the park, up to the train trestle and back down to Sweeney several times, it was clear the dog was scared.

“Our attempts to try to grab her were futile and calling out to her we’re just as futile as well,” Sweeney said. Finally Carmen ran one last time up to the trestle and disappeared.

The dog’s owner notified animal control and the SPCA immediately and franticly thought of what to do next.

Knowing that Robyn Holt from Second Debut clothing store and boutique is a supporter of the rescue animal initiative but not knowing what to do next, Sweeney reached out with her plight.

“I met Robyn one day a few years ago while shopping in her store. Her generous spirit and kind heart, particularly towards animal creatures of cats and dogs and any mistreated animals made such an impression on me,”

Sweeney said. Soon, a social media campaign was launched from the store’s Facebook site and not long after, My FM 88.7 Napanee started running community announcements for the lost pet.

More and more community members started to hear about Carmen’s story and felt inspired to head out into the cold and look for the animal. Flyers went up at grocery stores and people started to volunteer to drive through the streets of Napanee in search of Carmen.

“They drove tirelessly. They were the wings beneath my tired feet and feelings of hopelessness.  When I would voice my fears picturing my 12.5 pound dog out in subzero temperatures, they would be my pep coaches of positivity and reassurance stating Carmen is a survivor. I was reassured that a tough little dog that through years of abuse and neglect would make it through,” Sweeney said.

Carmen would be seen on Jan. 25 trotting up Champlain St. and two days later, at 2 a.m, on Main St, a dedicated seeker spotted Carmen.

As the search went on, the Napanee cab company, the town’s snow plowers, the vet clinics and Paulmacs, Pet panache, Critter comforts, grocery and variety stores were told as the story of this lost dog, out in the Napanee night, shivering and cold, struck a chord with dog lovers and pet owners.

Finally, on Thursday, Sweeney received a 10 a.m. voicemail from Rebecca Wilkinson at MyFM: She had spotted Carmen on John Street but the dog ran when someone tried chasing her to Mill street.

“No sooner did I play that message another call and text came in to my cellphone: Did you find your dog yet? I just rescued a dog on Centre St. Might be yours?”

A picture confirmed that Carmen had been brought in out of the cold by a person named Tony who asked not to use his surname in publication.

“If it wasn’t for Tony I don’t think my dog would of made it another night,” Sweeney said. As the pet owner reflected on the six nights Carmen was out in the January night, she thinks of all the Napanee residents and businesses who helped in the search and is incredibly thankful for their efforts.

“I think of their kindness and generous lending of their time and energy and I am forever grateful and amazed at our community and its compassion and altruistic reaching out to help, Sweeney said. “This town saved my dog’s life. This town is alive with people who in a matter of a few days pitched in together for a cause. The life of a little dog named Carmen.”

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