While returning from spring break in Florida to the University of Arkansas, where she was a student, 19-year-old McKenzie Catron crashed her car into a utility pole in Dothan, Ala., last weekend. Catron, who was from Bentonville, Ark., was killed. Her 19-year-old passenger and her Pit Bull, Kai, survived.
But, spooked by the crash, Kai ran off.
Sgt. Jonathon Whaley and another sergeant were the first to arrive at the scene of the accident. “We felt we needed to find the dog,” Whaley told FOX 5. “We were going to do whatever we needed to do to reunite this dog with this family.”
Whaley and other officers, along with firefighters and dozens of other community members, volunteered their time to search for Kai. A local law firm offered a $1,000 reward for Kai’s safe return. A “Help Find Kai” Facebook community was created.
Two days after the crash, Benjamin Irwin — the attorney who had offered the reward — and another volunteer found Kai, but the dog ran off. Irwin’s wife and other volunteers pursued him “for over a mile and up and down too many city streets,” Irwin wrote on Facebook, “and made multiple attempts to catch Kai, until we finally created a loving wall when she went inside a person’s shelter in their backyard. … We apologize to all the cars and other people we cut off or just plain ignored while we focused solely on recovering Kai.”
A veterinarian who examined Kai said that except for being dehydrated and fatigued, the dog was in good shape.
The next step — and it was a big one — was to reunite Kai with her family in Arkansas, 770 miles away.
Whaley quickly volunteered to make the trip with his family. “I felt God impressing on me that we needed to make this trip,” he told FOX 5.
Kai returned home Tuesday night. “For us, [Kai] was just a part of her. And we found it. And now we can kind of start healing,” Catron’s mother, Kendra Mulherin, told KHBS.
The name of the “Help Find Kai” Facebook page has been changed to “We Found Kai.” Irwin said he’s donating the reward money to the Rogers Animal Shelter, from which Kai was adopted.
“Dotham, Alabama, you guys are God’s gift to Earth,” Catron’s family wrote on Facebook. “You will always have a special place in our hearts.”
According to her obituary, Catron worked as a lifeguard and did volunteer work to help make the world a better place. While her death is tragic, it’s heartening to know her spirit of giving continues to live on.
Photos via Facebook