5 January 2024

Paws-ing to help: how the Canberra community rescued Winx the cavoodle

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Murtagh, she wrote

Katrina Gillogly and Winx – reunited at last (with the help of thousands of Canberrans). Photo: Supplied.

When Katrina Gillogly left her young cavoodle, Winx, with her mother for a quick trip away, she had no idea a saga would unfold engaging dozens of active helpers, hundreds of supporters and thousands of Canberrans, all trying to find one small lost dog.

At the same time, they’d show Canberra’s beating heart, its generosity and community strength.

It all began when Katrina dropped off Winx and older cavoodle, Milo. It was Winx’s first time away from home and she escaped on 28 December, squirrelling through a gap the other dogs hadn’t seen.

Winx’s trek ended on 4 January, after what Katrina estimates was a 100 km journey for the small, frightened dog.

In between, Winx was sighted across half a dozen Canberra suburbs. She was seen running along – and up the middle – of some of Canberra’s busiest roads. She was followed through drains and escaped into thick scrub, her flight response pounding, her fear palpable to everyone who spotted her.

Katrina took to social media. Dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of people liked Katrina’s posts on Facebook, sending in sightings and offering support.

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Katrina feared Winx had been taken when she disappeared between Calwell and Theodore. Then Winx was sighted running along the Monaro Highway.

“That was battle stations,” Katrina says.

“We had family, friends, a Facebook appeal, anyone who could help – we were all out trying to rescue her.”

Winx pushed through thick bush and jumped a fence to appear in Gilmour and then Chisholm. By this stage, Katrina and her husband were beginning to crack, running on a few hours of sleep a night.

There were sightings in Wanniassa – her home suburb – and Greenway. Winx was seen on Athllon Drive but disappeared two minutes before Katrina arrived and a thunderstorm came through. Katrina put fabric with familiar scents and food stations out for her on advice that might keep her in relatively familiar territory.

Murtagh, she wrote

Winx was found in the bushes at the back of Calwell ambulance station, exhausted. Photo: Supplied.

The Canberra Lost Pet Database and Missing Pet Investigators Australia, both volunteer organisations, gave Katrina practical advice and desperately needed emotional support. She also paid a small fee to Lost Pet Finders ACT which produced a flyer that was sent around to all the vet clinics.

“Gill from Missing Pet Investigators was my rock. She spoke to me at 1 am when I was staking out Greenway. She could tell my husband and I were at the end of our ropes.

“I was on my scooter doing laps around Lake Tuggerannong, asking everyone exercising if they’d seen her, and sobbing. Everyone knew about Winx; everyone wanted to help.”

Winx was seen in Oxley, on Clift Crescent in Richardson, and running up the middle of Johnson Drive. People sent messages after spotting her from public transport. When Winx was spotted again in Calwell, 30 people responded to Katrina’s call for help, fanning out across the area.

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Then, a phone call on 4 January – a very quiet voice saying Winx was in bushes at the back of Calwell ambulance station, exhausted.

“She had crazy eyes when I arrived. She was in flight mode and didn’t recognise me. I pretended to be an animal, got down on her level in the mud, pretended to eat and I could see her demeanour starting to change.

“I started talking softly and using phrases she recognised. On advice, I’d kept my hoodie on all week without washing it so she’d recognise my smell, so I took that off and threw it gently towards her.

“I didn’t realise there were dozens of people there – people had pulled over in their cars to help if they could. She started to move forward. She realised it was me and started grizzling and licking my hand. It was pure relief and very, very emotional.”

Winx is recovering at home, not leaving Katrina’s side. Remarkably, her feet are in good condition. The Tuggeranong Vet Clinic prescribed antibiotics for a small infection and she’s on two-hourly feeds for now, something Katrina says she’s resenting after losing half a kilo.

“It’s like, ‘I’ve been out there for a week and you’re giving me a quarter of my normal food?’ She’s not happy about that!”

Beyond relief, the biggest message from Katrina is that Canberra can be extraordinary.

More than 6000 people engaged in social media. The RSPCA was involved, including a search volunteer, while others took time off work to help. On Sunday (7 January), there’s an informal gathering at the Calwell Club at midday to thank everyone involved.

“Finding Winx was a collective effort,” Katrina says. “A lot of this story is about the unconditional love we have for our pets, but it’s also about who we are as a community here in Canberra.

“I’m a Canberra local. I grew up here and I know we get bagged a bit, but this community brought Winx home.”

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Yep, my guy has an airtag on his collar.

Beautiful story – thank you for sharing it.

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