I hope you had a pawesome weekend!
I’m super excited about today’s post. That’s because we all have a rare opportunity to help produce a new, beautiful documentary: Finding Kai.
Michael Buday, the movie’s producer, is our guest writer today, and he’ll tell you more about this unique, touching and beautiful project. But first – the movie’s trailer.
Michael spent over 20 years in the film industry as an editor and consultant, and eight years in Silicon Valley as co-founder of a high-tech startup. But he wasn’t prepared for the effect a 75 pound, chocolate Labrador named Molly would have on his life when she died back in May of 2012. He’d never experienced the sense of loss and sadness that flowed over him for weeks after her passing. Not long after Molly died, while throwing back margaritas with a good friend at a local taco dive, Michael vowed that he would dedicate the next chapter of his career towards bringing wonderful stories about people and their beloved dogs to the screen.
At Molly Dog Films, we’re producing a feature documentary called FINDING KAI. It’s a heart-wrenching, but ultimately heart-warming story about a young, female Marine and the nearly year-long search for her missing German Shepherd service dog named “Kai.” Anyone who owns and loves a dog knows how catastrophic it would be lose their best friend. But take that a step further—and imagine what it would be like to lose a dog that “saved you,” a dog you depend on, day in, day out—just to get through the day.
When we stumbled upon this story two years ago in the news, it felt like a perfect fit for our new company and our mission to “produce documentary and narrative films that focus on the emotional connections we share with our dogs and social issues that bring humans and dogs together.” Though it took several months of negotiations, we eventually convinced the subject of our story, Alexandra Melnick—to allow us to intrude into her life to document her fascinating story.
In 2009, Alexandra—an attractive, extremely bright 19-year-old with two years of aeronautical engineering under her belt, suddenly dropped out of college to join the Marine Corps. She served two deployments during her four years of active duty; 12 months at Camp Fuji, Japan, and 8 months in Musa Qala, Helmand province, Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, she was one of four females serving with 500 males.
She returned home in 2013, and after several months of anxiety, depression, flashbacks and insomnia, was finally diagnosed with PTSD by the Veteran’s Administration. An emotional support animal or service dog was recommended to help her cope.
Enter “Kai,” a stunning German Shepherd puppy. She purchased Kai to train as her service dog, and over the course of 15 months, Kai became Alex’s lifeline, her best friend, and gave her reason to wake up each morning. With Kai’s help, she was able to ween herself off a plethora of VA prescribed psychiatric drugs that were numbing her into a foggy existence.
But on Thanksgiving Day, 2014, tragedy struck. Kai disappeared—into thin air. Alex’s life fell apart. Her best friend, a dog that protected her, woke her from nightmares, saved her—was now gone. And worse, there were no clues. No one saw anything—Kai just vanished into the night.
Initially it was thought he jumped the fence of her backyard, but that wasn’t likely given his training. After spending weeks calling or traveling to every shelter within hundreds of miles, it was becoming more likely Kai had been stolen.
There were suspects. Some of the Marines Alex deployed with hated her. As she put it, “Some male Marines just don’t want women serving in the Marine Corps, and for that they’re going to treat you like shit… I was sexually harassed, day in, day out, relentless. I often had to become a bitch.”
A list of names was drawn up, but there was another possibility: about a year prior to Kai’s disappearance, Alex ended a regrettable three—month marriage to a fellow Marine. She was so embarrassed about this “stupid decision,” this “quickie marriage” and subsequent divorce, she told almost no one. She asked her Ex directly if he knew anything about Kai’s disappearance, but he denied any knowledge. Further, he was checked out by the detective handling her case and was quickly ruled out as a suspect at the time.
But Alex did two things during the course of Kai’s disappearance that became critical elements in her search for her best friend, Kai — she started a “community” Facebook page called “Bring Kai Home,” and she alerted the media. Within one month, she had almost 20,000 Facebook followers sending in hundreds of leads, and scouring North America for any signs of Kai. And most importantly, several women from across the country, total strangers—came to her rescue and offered their help to a woman who was falling apart in full public view. These women became known as, “Team Kai”, and for ten months, they helped Alex administer the Bring Kai Home page chase down all the leads that were streaming in daily.
If not for these strong women and Facebook, Kai would never, EVER have been found 10 months after his abduction, 1400 miles away from his home. As it turned out—it was the “Ex” after all, despite claims of being deployed overseas at the time and a legal defense stating it was nothing more than a “custody battle.” Evidence produced by Alex and the Vista County DA handling the case proved, without a shadow of a doubt — those claims were blatantly false. Kai had been stolen and secretly transported across state lines, plain and simple. Kai was chipped, the owner was Alex — case closed.
Two felony charges were levied against the defendant, and the DA was ready to prosecute those charges in court. But after ten months of desperate anguish, not knowing if Kai was dead or alive, the thought of a court case dragging on for potentially several more months was more than Alex could handle with her PTSD, physically and emotionally. She agreed to allow Kai’s abductor a guilty plea to lesser charges—which ended the case immediately.
FINDING KAI delivers an emotional ride as viewers follow the twists and turns of the search for Kai across county and state lines, and on the pages of social media. It is a true story of devotion and resilience in the face of abuse, cover-ups and trauma but at its heart, it is an inspirational and uplifting tale.