MEDINA, Ohio - Retired Ohio dog breeder Jutta Kulic can't stop thinking about "Larry," the Italian greyhound.
An Air Canada employee lost the dog last week, triggering a swell of international reports and viral social media response.
Kulic used her car to personally drive the 13-pound dog from her Medina, Ohio home to San Francisco International Airport in an effort to get "Larry" to his new owners in Campbell River, British Columbia.
Kulic told 9 On Your Side Scripps sister station NewsChannel5 she had "Larry" appropriately loaded into a locked carrier, hoping to get him onto a flight to Canada when the Italian greyhound was allowed to escape.
"An Air Canada employee took it upon herself to take him out of the carrier that he had been zip tied into," said Kulic. "I had sealed the carrier and gave very specific instructions that the dog was never to be removed from the carrier under any circumstances."
Kulic explained the Air Canada employee tried to walk "Larry" without the proper leash, allowing the greyhound to slip out and run loose through the airport terminal.
Witnesses confirmed the dog then made his way to the highway just outside San Francisco International Airport, she told NewsChannel5.
"It's very easy for a dog to just slide onto the 101 northbound freeway entrance ramp at San Bruno Avenue, said Kulic. "We have reliable reports that he was hit by a car there and that was approximately 25 minutes after the dog was lost by Air Canada."
Kulic reports witnesses told her the dog was still alive when he was taken by a couple who got out of their car, presumably to take him to a San Francisco veterinary hospital.
But Kulic explained the situation got even worse when Air Canada first tried to respond to the situation.
Kulic said Air Canada accidentally sent an internal memo on the search for "Larry" to a Sacramento, Calif. television station.
Kulic was stunned by the Air Canada response.
"The response from the spokesman at Air Canada was 'I would just ignore this. This is the local media doing a lost dog story. Their government is shut down and about to go into default, and this is how the media chooses to spends its time,'" Kulic said.
"I'm paraphrasing out of memory. And then he said 'I don't belong on this planet.'"
Kulic reports Air Canada quickly apologized for the internal memo and has been extremely responsive in the on-going search for "Larry."
"Air Canada's President of North American Cargo Operations is in contact with me every day," explained Kulic. "They are keeping me updated on the search. I'm still hoping "Larry" is out there and is still alive.
The release of the Air Canada internal memo has launched a series of international media reports and a viral response on social media from people who are upset with the air carrier's insensitive initial response.
Air Canada issued the following response to NewsChannel5 with regard to our story:
"We continue to remain hopeful that Larry will be found and we have no news at this time. Air Canada’s US Cargo team on a daily basis continues to check in with area animal organizations and hospitals and is following up on any and all leads received regarding Larry. We are in regular contact with our customer, Larry’s handler regarding our efforts."
"Air Canada’s San Francisco team had Larry’s well being as first priority when initially caring for him during the lengthy flight delay when he unfortunately escaped. On learning Larry was missing, Air Canada contacted Larry's handler and immediately instituted a search, with both cargo and airport staff."
"We have reached out to local groups involved in animal rescue. Additionally, we have broadly alerted the airport community and posters are up."
"Air Canada transports thousands of animals safely each year - our employees are pet owners and animal lovers and have animals’ primary interest in mind when handling them."
"Air Canada has been providing the best available information to media on this matter. Air Canada acknowledges and regrets the unfortunate remarks in a misdirected email related to a reporter’s follow-up questions which have been taken out of context regarding Larry’s handling."
"These remarks do not in any way reflect Air Canada’s standards, nor the efforts to search for Larry, nor the professionalism of Air Canada employees, particularly those who are directly in contact with customers."
Meanwhile, Kulic has now set up a Facebook page for "Larry," as dozens of people across the country show their support during the search for the lost greyhound.
"I really appreciate how so many people are pulling for "Larry" to be found," said Kulic with a smile. "Social media is really an amazing thing."