Finding Leo

The miraculous journey of Leo the dog, who survived frigid temperatures and was found after an impressive search.

Leo went missing on Jan. 29, and is now reunited with Ty Sinnett. — Charles Sennott

Finding Leo, a small Bali terrier mix who went missing for two weeks through frigid cold and the rising peril of coyotes, was an epic journey that traces from Indonesia to Chilmark, and it all came to a conclusion Saturday with even some of the most skeptical of Islanders wondering if perhaps they do believe in miracles after all.

The dog’s owner (although she would not use that phrase) is Ty Sinnett, who rescued the dog in early 2020 at the height of COVID. Leo was then a skinny, mangy puppy from the streets of a village called Changgu, in Bali, Indonesia. 

She was traveling in Indonesia, and good friends had offered to take care of Leo while she was gone. The dog ran away two weeks ago, at the end of January, and a search party set out that included at least three or four dozen Islanders, the Chilmark Fire Department, a good Samaritan with a small surveillance drone, and the animal control officers in Chilmark and West Tisbury. 

Almost every day for the past two weeks, the team searched high and low between Hewing Field, where the dog was staying with friends, to fields on Middle Road along Cancelle Lane, where it was spotted a week ago. 

On Saturday, I was on our property off Tabor House Road when I spotted Leo running through a field about 100 yards away. The dog was skittish, and had been on the run, so my wife and I quickly called Sinnett. She came right away to our home, and we began a patient, quiet search. 

With this spotting, we were all given hope that Leo had survived a frigid cold spell that sent temperatures plummeting to record lows; he had foraged for his own food, he had dodged the increasing number of coyotes that have been spotted, and he evaded the menacing buses and trucks that drive too fast up-Island. 

After a few hours of quiet searching, he just suddenly appeared on the edge of the field near a line of thicket and thorns. Sinnett knelt down on the ground and put out her hand, and he slowly came up. 

“It was as if he was the one looking for me. He was just licking me and looking at me like I was the one who was missing,” Sinnett said.

It was all quite a journey for Leo, as was most of his life. Ty Sinnett found him when she lived in Changgu for several years; it is where she buys clothing and imported goods to sell in her store, the Seven Sisters, in Vineyard Haven. 

Back when she first found Leo, he was just a street dog, and she cared for him as a puppy, brought him to a vet, and fattened him up, and then brought him from Indonesia to her family home here on Martha’s Vineyard in January last year.

His miraculous return has touched off a storm of hundreds of comments on Islanders Talk on Facebook and posts on Instagram.

As one of the searchers, Alexandra Styron, a writer and lifelong summer resident, put it, “I don’t believe in miracles, but I think I might have just witnessed one.”