Nfld. & Labrador

King's Point father and son stage all-night rescue for lost dog

Jason Penney and his son Dylan are being hailed as heroes after their efforts to get Touton the retriever out of the woods to safety.
King's Point father and son rescue lost dog. 0:36

If Touton the retriever could talk, undoubtedly she'd want to say a huge thank you to Jason and Dylan Penney of King's Point, after the father and son staged an all-night rescue to get the lost dog out of the woods alive.

Lucky for Touton, her owners have found the words to express their collective gratitude.

"From the very bottom of our hearts, we can't say thank you enough to the Penney family. Their kindness will never be forgotten," Jennifer Koops of Botwood told The Corner Brook Morning Show.

Koops, her husband, two young children and Touton were out hiking in King's Point Sunday when Touton disappeared.

The family searched for her to no avail, and as they headed back to Botwood in low spirits, they checked in at the local diner to leave their contact information with the woman manning the counter, Debbie Penney.

"We were devastated that we had to leave Touton behind," said Koops.

Good thing Debbie Penney knew exactly who to call.

Jason Penney and his son Dylan had to take turns to carry the 108-pound Touton to safety. (Submitted by Jason Penney)

Penneys to the rescue

Penney called her husband to post the missing dog information on Facebook, but Jason Penney and their son Dylan, armed with extensive local knowledge, decided to do one better.

"We've been hunting in there for a few years, coyotes and stuff, so I knew the country. And my young fella wanted to go, so I said, 'let's take the flashlights and go,'" said Jason Penney, estimating the two walked into the woods around 8:30 at night.

"We were actually calling, calling his name, Touton. We walked so far, we'd call out, and then we'd whistle, and we'd call, and we'd take a break."

The snow was deep, and he couldn't walk no more. He had given up.- Jason Penney

An hour later, Touton barked, and the Penneys found the exhausted retriever.

"He was just too tired. He got arthritis, and the snow was deep, and he couldn't walk no more. He had given up. I actually thought his hips had given out," said Jason Penney.

The big problem to getting her to safety? Touton isn't exactly dainty. She weighs about 108 pounds.

Backbreaking effort

"Jesus, we didn't know what we were gonna do," said Penney.

He and Dylan decided to cut down a small fir tree with a pocket knife, and try a makeshift sling.

"We took our jackets off, and we put his two paws through the arms of my jacket, and his other two paws through the arms of my son's jacket. So we cradled him, and then we put the fir tree right through the jackets and we carried him on our shoulders," said Jason Penney.

The Koops family - including Touton - together in happier times. (Submitted by Jennifer Koops)

That only worked for a little while, and soon the Penneys switched to carrying Touton on their shoulders, which made for slow going in the deep snow.

"You get four or five hundred yards, and you got to stop and take a break, cause he's heavy," said Penney. 

"I'm 280 [pounds]. With 108 pounds on my back, Now I'm almost 400 pounds. I walk, I fall down, I tip over."

Despite the almost literal backbreaking effort, the Penneys were determined to get Touton to safety.

"A couple times we were gonna give up, and go out and get a sleigh and come back in and maybe bring help," said Penney.

"But we heard coyotes once that night while we were in there, howling, and we said 'well, we couldn't leave him.'"

Eventually the three made it back to the Penneys' truck, around 2:30 a.m, six hours after they had started out.

"We all cried"

Safe and sound back at home, Jason Penney called Jennifer Koops with the good news.

"She cried, and I cried, and my young fella cried — we all cried. But it was a good feeling," he said.

Jennifer Koops, four-year-old Norah Koops and baby Jane, together again with Touton. (Submitted by Jennifer Koops)

Koops said she almost couldn't believe it.

"We were overjoyed that Touton was OK and fine, because we were very very worried. And just in shock that complete strangers would go into the woods for us after dark to look for our dog."

Koops bundled her daughters up the next morning and drove out for a reunion.

"[It's a] feeling of joy. It's indescribable. Your dog is a part of your family. and unless you're a real pet lover, you don't understand that, but Touton is a very significant part of our family."

Penney said most of all, he'll remember four-year-old Norah's reaction to seeing her beloved 'Touty'.

"It was worth a million dollars just to see her smile," he said.

As for Touton, Koops said she's a little tired, but otherwise on the road to recovery — thanks to her rescuers.

"She's just a little stiff. But with a little TLC, I think she's gonna be just fine."

With files from Cherie Wheeler