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Local canoer rescues scared dog stranded on island off Redwood City

Local canoer rescues scared dog stranded on island off Redwood City

On the afternoon of July 6, under the beating sun in one of the worst heat waves to hit the Bay Area in recent years, Roger Dunn was canoeing in the water off Bair Island near Redwood City when he heard what sounded like a howl.

“I thought, is that a coyote? It can’t be a coyote,” said Dunn, a retired product photographer and outdoor enthusiast from Mountain View. He canoes in the area often and knows there’s usually not much wildlife on the island except for some migratory birds.

It turned out to be a pup, an 8-month-old Goldendoodle named Leilani.

Good samaritan Roger Dunn, left, talks with Kevin Dalonzo after rescuing Dalonzo’s 8-month-old Goldendoodle named Leilani on Bair Island on Saturday, July 6, 2024. Dunn was canoeing when he heard what sounded like a howl. It turned out to be Leilani, who had been missing since being frightened by the sound of fireworks at a 4th July event at Redwood Shores. (Roger Dunn/FaceBook) 

“I looked all the way across onto Bair Island, and I see this dog running. Something is not right, so I paddled across the canal to the edge of the mud and started calling her,” Dunn said.

The dog was muddy and wet and tangled in her frayed green leash. While not aggressive, Leilani, who was understandably nervous, growled slightly at Dunn, who floated there patiently, waiting to gain her trust.

“I just sat there for a while. She reached out and sniffed me again,” Dunn said. “She kind of came up and I scooped her up in the mud. She was very calm and I held her with my right hand so we didn’t flip over.”

Dunn gripped the dog with one hand, and his paddle in the other. Slowly, but careful not to tip the boat, he paddled back to shore with a muddy — but grateful — Leilani[.

Unbeknownst to Dunn at the time, Leilani’s human, real estate agent Kevin Dalonzo, had been frantically looking for her since the 4th of July.

He took his two dogs, Leilani and Coconut, a Korean Jindo, to an event in Redwood Shores, where the sound of fireworks frightened the young Goldendoodle.

“That night, the dogs were all smiling, socializing with the people next to us,” Dalonzo said. “And so the concert ends. And we’re sitting on the lawn there. Both of the dogs were leashed up. And as soon as the first firework goes off, Leilani freaks out and jets off.”

The next two days were a rollercoaster of emotions for Dalonzo, as he searched up and down Redwood Shores for Leilani.

“We were looking everywhere,” Dalonzo said. “I was looking for her from 6:30 in the morning (on July 5th) all the way until 11:30 that night.”

He also posted missing dog alerts online and checked shelters to no avail. Unable to find Leilani that night, Dunn, a devout Catholic, turned to his faith.

He prayed that he would find his beloved pup while tightly clutching his St. Christopher medal, a pendant his mother gave him when he was 16, before she passed away.

The next day, his prayer would be answered.

Dalonzo didn’t hear the six missed calls on his phone right away due to exhaustion from the search. But he soon realized he had voicemail.

“It was Roger. And I started crying as soon as I started listening to the voicemail,” Dalonzo said. “I was in tears.”

By that time, Dunn had already brought Leilani to the Adobe Animal Hospital in Los Altos, where Dalonzo would then be reunited with his dog.

“I was just full of emotion and just very grateful. I think that’s the main word. It’s just grateful to Roger,” Dalonzo said.

Denise O’Brien, a public relations professional and founder of Silicon Valley Watch Dogs, a pet sitting business, was there when Leilani and Dalonzo were reunited.

O’Brien, who happened to be at the animal hospital for one of her clients’ dogs, posted the story of Leilani’s rescue on social media. In the video, she talks to Dunn as Leilani’s head rests snugly on his lap. The heartwarming video has picked up thousands of views on TikTok.

“I was so glad that I was there in that lobby to hear the story and be a witness to the miracle that was unfolding,” O’Brien said. “Roger was so humble about it.”

Leilani, who went for almost two days without food and water, is home now. The veterinarian reported no illnesses or injuries following the rescue.

And after getting some rest, she is back to her energetic and friendly self, Dalonzo said.

Dalonzo, who has been adopting dogs since he was young, is grateful to have Leilani back home.

He named her after a restaurant in Hawaii. It’s the place Dalonzo first told his wife, Elizabeth, he loved her.

“It means a heavenly garland of flowers in Hawaiian. She’s just the sweetest dog,” Dalonzo said.

Dunn, who happens to be from Hawaii, said he feels an affinity not only for Leilani, but for the Dalonzo couple as well.

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“Leilani’s a real sweetie and so is this couple,” Dunn said.

Dalonzo feels the same way and plans to continue his friendship with Leilani’s hero and even hopes to bring them to Hawaii one day.

“The best thing I can do is to just have their company,” he said. “He’s such a sweet gentleman. People like him need to be recognized for sure.”