'Felt like a movie': Woman reunites with her dog after it was lost in northern Quebec for 3 weeks
Lauren Dunlop's dog disappeared after a car crash, but strangers worked to bring them back together
When Lauren Dunlop's car had spun off a remote highway in northern Quebec and rolled several times, her first thought was for her passenger, a beloved mutt named Binou.
"I climbed out the window and started looking for him in the car, and he wasn't there," Dunlop said in a recent interview.
Binou had been Dunlop's constant companion since she adopted him last year. In the Cree community of Nemaska, Que., a community more than 1,000 kilometres north of Montreal where Dunlop teaches, the two were rarely seen apart.
At the crash site, first responders tried to tend to Dunlop. But she waved them off and ran down the road looking for her dog.
Binou was nowhere to be found.
It was July 3. Dunlop had left Nemaska earlier that day to make the 15-hour drive to her parents' home in Shelburne, Ont., about 100 kilometres northwest of Toronto.
She was only a few hours into the drive along the James Bay Road, a highway surrounded by thick spruce and jack pine forest, when she lost control of her car about 60 kilometres from Matagami, Que.
As Dunlop frantically searched for Binou along the highway, two truck drivers pulled over and told her they had seen a dog running but weren't sure where he went.
They urged Dunlop to see a doctor because they were concerned she might be in shock.
Dunlop, 27, was taken by ambulance to the hospital in Amos, Que., and kept there overnight as she was treated for road rash and several cuts and bruises.
When she was released, her parents convinced her to stick to her plan and visit them.
'Someone knows this dog?'
At her parents' house in Shelburne, Dunlop posted pictures of Binou on Facebook, hoping someone would recognize him.
She later drove 11 hours back to the crash site and placed Binou's bed and some dog food by the side of the road, and eventually headed back to her parents.
Meanwhile, a stranger in Matagami, Nathalie Begin, heard about the efforts to find the missing dog.
Begin, who works with animals, was soon managing social media posts and leading on-the-ground searches.
Dunlop returned to Matagami to help look for Binou. She was also checking Facebook "obsessively."
But as the hours ticked by, there was no sign of Binou.
Finally, on a logging road about 200 kilometres from where Dunlop crashed, someone picked up a dog. The area in between is remote, covered in dense boreal forest dotted with a few lakes.
Whoever picked up the dog dropped it off in the nearby Cree community of Waswanipi, where it scrounged for food.
The dog began hanging around Arielle Marleau's place. Marleau, a relative newcomer in the community, noticed it had a collar, so she took a picture and posted it on a local Facebook page.
"Someone knows this dog?" her post said. "He is at our place since yesterday and he seems really hungry ..!"
In the comments below the post, someone pointed out the dog looked similar to one in a picture being circulated by Dunlop's friends.
A flurry of online activity ensued and, finally, a picture of the dog in Waswanipi was forwarded to Dunlop.
"I just started absolutely bawling," she said.
She immediately hopped in a car with her father and they drove 11 hours from Shelburne to Waswanipi.
The kindness of strangers
When they reached Waswanipi, Dunlop barely waited for the car to stop before jumping out. It had been 18 days — almost 432 hours — since she last saw Binou.
The dog that met her was several pounds lighter and walked with a limp, but his tail was wagging excitedly. Dunlop and Binou were, at last, together again.
"It kind of felt like a movie," Dunlop told Quebec AM earlier this week. "It was pretty crazy. That was the moment I'd been waiting for."
Dunlop said finding Binou would never have been possible without the help of strangers.
Some helped her search for the dog around the crash site; social media posts about him were shared more than 200 times.
"I can't believe the people of Matagami and of Nemaska who went out looking tirelessly for this dog they didn't even know," she said.
"The kindness of strangers has just blown me away."
Binou is now back home with Dunlop. A veterinarian expects him to make a full recovery.
With files from Quebec AM