June 21, 2017TRI-CITY AREA — The search for the Leader Dog for the Blind that went missing last month ended on a sad note on Monday, June 19.
On Monday, Rachel Kniffen, director of marketing and communications for Leader Dogs for the Blind says the body of Brinkley, the yellow lab at the center of the search, was found.
"It is with a heavy heart that we report that the body of Leader Dog Brinkley has been recovered," Kniffen says in Monday's press release.
The the 18-month-old Leader Dog had captured the hearts of the community and made headlines across the metro-Detroit area when she was spooked by a lawnmower and took off from her home near Bristol and Washington streets in Almont.
Unbeknownst to Brinkley's handler—Jackie McKeon, the dog's leash had been sliced by the mower. McKeon had been working with Brinkley for almost a month at the Leader Dog facility. Brinkley was getting to know her new surroundings and home in Almont for about 10 days before the mishap occurred.
A local search team led by animal advocate Paula Alfonsi immediately ensued. Alfonsi urged residents to report any sightings to narrow down the area Brinkley may have been frequenting. Though several sightings were reported, Brinkley remained elusive to rescuers.
The search was turned over to Lost Dog Rescue, a professional search and recovery team. They blanketed the area with flyers and posters, and continued to encourage residents to report sightings, but not approach the dog.
Along with deep sorrow, Kniffen's press release expressed gratitude to all who participated in the search for the 53-pound lab.
"We would like to thank everyone, especially the Lost Dog Search Team of Michigan, for their tireless efforts in searching for Brinkley. Through this trying time those close to Brinkley have been comforted by the outpouring of support from both the Leader Dog and local communities," Kniffen says.
"We ask that the privacy of the Leader Dog client be respected during this time."
While Tri-City Times respected those wishes, on Tuesday the McKeon family reached out to the paper via a written statement.
"I have no words for how devastated and sad our family, her 'puppy raiser' Pam, and all the people involved in her search are feeling," Jackie McKeon says.
"We have nothing but praise and love for all that helped to search for her, especially to Lynn at Lost Dog Search Team."
She says they are grateful to live in such a caring community and feel blessed by all the love and support.
"I cannot possibly thank everyone...from the local volunteers, the many people who took time from their lives to call in tips, sightings or just prayers and comfort," Jackie McKeon says. "We are very blessed to live here.
She also offered special thanks to area police departments, bus drivers, postal workers, and Leader Dogs for the Blind.
"We are truly thankful for each and every one of you," she says.
Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.