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'Miracle': Dog who jumped ship on Georgian Bay reunited with owners

'We were feeling very sad not to have her sweet presence in the house too. Penny is really an emotional support dog for my husband and I,' says Craigleith pet owner
Penny, the red golden retriever that jumped off its owner's sailboat on Sept. 5 was reunited with her owners on Sept. 11.

Penny the red golden retriever who jumped off her owner's boat last Tuesday offshore of Awenda Provincial Park was found and returned to her owners on Sunday.

"I'm so happy and relieved. I was so worried about her," said Christine Ploeg of Craigleith.

Christine and her husband Jack pulled up anchor at about 10 a.m. on Sept. 5 to sail back home after spending the weekend on their sailboat. Thirty minutes later they noticed Penny wasn't on board. Despite their search of shore and land around Awenda Park and Christian Island they couldn't find their beloved dog.

Jack put out the message to the Coast Guard via his boat radio and a friend sent up a drone the same day. He reported back that there were dogs in the water.

Christine and Jack alerted Awenda Provincial Park officials, Tiny animal control, the Ontario SPCA Midland and District Animal Centre and later Beausoleil First Nation and they put posters up all over the area.

The park warden, campers and volunteers searched the park, calling her name. Putting out the message of the lost dog through local media and community Facebook groups, lots of people helped search for Penny. 

"Dawn at Pawsitive Ground Search, a wonderful volunteer organization, managed to keep me positive even when we were panicking by providing not just actual expert assistance searching but bringing in outside resources, reassuring information, hugs and continuity," said Christine.

On the day Penny went missing, they had an unconfirmed report that a dog was picked out of the water by another boater. That turned out to be true.

A couple from Christian Island saw something in the channel at about 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning and thought it was a deer, said Christine.

"They got closer and she swam right up to them and then flopped down in their boat," said Christine.

Penny had swum into the open channel between Beckwith Island and Giant's Tomb rather than to land.

"It's really a miracle," said Christine. "It never occurred to me that a boater had already seen her before we go back to Methodist Point."

The couple took her home and, according to Christine, spoiled her properly. A few days later one of the people on the boat that rescued Penny saw a poster and told her parents the dog was a wanted dog.

Christine was contacted and they all met on Sunday. Christine brought her other two dogs with her to welcome Penny back.

"She came wagging over to me and then quickly moved onto her dog friends. She seems really happy to be home. She has two girl dog buddies and she's the leader of the pack," said Christine.

Penny is, in essence, an emotional support dog for the couple. Jack is a paramedic in Grey County and Christine left her job as a paramedic in Simcoe Country due to post-traumatic stress disorder.

"There's no denying that having a loving furry friend who is available 24/7 for cuddles as needed is a huge comfort," said Christine.

The couple who found her are now interested in adopting a dog from Dawn of Pawsitive Ground Search who has Irish setter puppies.

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Gisele Winton Sarvis

About the Author: Gisele Winton Sarvis

Gisele Winton Sarvis is an award winning journalist and photographer who has focused on telling the stories of the people of Simcoe County for more than 25 years
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