Sunday, May 08, 2016

Rescuing the Abandoned Pets of Fort McMurray

When I saw all those people trying to escape the fire they're now calling The Beast, I tried to imagine how they must have been feeling.

Not only having to flee their homes, and worry whether they'd still be there when they returned.

But also in many cases having to leave their pets behind.

And wonder whether they would survive the flames or the smoke, or whether they would ever see them again.

So I'm glad to see that a major pet rescue effort is underway. 

With the human evacuation complete, a high-tech animal exodus is now in full swing. A band of volunteers, both authorized and unauthorized, have swept into the restricted area to remove a menagerie of pets by any means necessary.

Because I can imagine the pain of their owners at having to leave what in many cases are members of their families behind.  And how happy they will be to get them back.

At 7 a.m. Friday, Louise woke up in her hotel bed to a blinking phone. “My phone was blowing up,” she said. “I had messages from all kinds of friends of family and I saw this picture of a lady.”

It was one of the rescue volunteers holding Atlas. By Friday afternoon, Atlas was in Edmonton waiting for the family to pick him up.

“I was finally able to breathe. I was like ‘Okay, he’s not hurt,’ ” Louise said. “We all cried tears of joy.”

And I can understand that reaction, especially since this week end is the third anniversary of the day my beloved pet left me...

And I still miss that gentle, incredibly friendly dog, I think I'll miss him forever.

So I don't know what I might have done if I had been ordered to leave him behind. I doubt I could have obeyed it, because we went everywhere together.

I stuffed him into a haversack when he was a puppy, or into a hockey bag when he was a little older. 

He travelled beside me in cars, buses, trains, and even helicopters.

And although he loved that, he hated having to be stuffed into a crate to travel doggy class on a plane. And would be led away, half zonked on an animal tranquilizer, looking like he was being led to his death, quietly whimpering as if to say "Simon how could you do this to me?"

So I was glad to see that some of the pets of Fort McMurray got to travel cabin class. 

Like most airlines, Canadian North has stringent guidelines when it comes to travelling with pets, but in light of the recent Fort McMurray wildfire, they've made some exceptions.

The small northern airline is one of several servicing Fort McMurray to evacuate residents, and they've made accommodations to have several cats and dogs travel in the main cabins, with no need for a carrier or kennel.

What an amazing sight it was, how it must have comforted their owners, who have so many other things to worry about, to know that their beloved pets would be safe.

And would help cheer them up...

For who could resist a smile like that one?

Good for Canadian North for helping keep families together.

Just one more heartwarming story, in the midst of this nightmarish Canadian catastrophe.

That is bringing out the best in us.

How happy and proud I am to see that.

But oh boy do I miss him...

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  1. Renzo, who is also a black bro, sends purrs - do you realize that you haven't mentioned your canine friend's name?

    Yes, I always worry about pets - and other animals - in disasters and in wartime. I'm relieved that at least some brave humans are trying to save them.

    1. hi lagatta...that's funny I didn't notice. But his name as some of you know was Kerouac or Kerry as most people called him. Now that I have though about it a bit I'm pretty sure I would not have been able to leave him behind. And I feel terribly sorry so many had no choice, and so glad that help is on the way...

  2. Anonymous8:01 AM

    Sorry for your loss Simon. Animals are always there when we need them the most.

    1. hi anon...thanks a lot, I am a bit sad this week end, even though it has now been three years. He was always there for me, he made me laugh all the time, he never met a human he didn't like or didn't want to lick. He could turn a grim senior's home into a happy place in an evening's work. And during the Montreal ice storm when I refused to leave him alone and move into a shelter, he slept next to me in bed, and kept m from freezing to death. ;)
      So yes I am sad, but seeing all those happy dogs and their owners is a big consolation...

  3. Your post put me in mind of my own beloved pet, a rescue Newfoundland that we had for seven years (he was about five when we got him). Even though it is almost 20 years since he left us, I still think, and occasionally dream, about him. A more noble and human companion I have never had. Thanks for a very heartwarming piece.

    1. hi Lorne...thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed the post. And I can understand why you can miss your beautiful pet twenty years later. I'm afraid I'm going to feel the same way. I have had several dogs and I loved them all, but that gentle lab was truly special. Everybody in the neighbourhood loved him, and would cross the street to pet him. He brought joy to many lonely seniors in both Montreal and Toronto, and the only ones who didn't love him were squirrels, for whom he had a special fascination, although he never harmed any of them either...

  4. Anonymous10:14 AM

    Love in his eyes in last photo is amazing. Love it when human can catch this in photo of their beloved pets. I can see why you miss him <3 He looks like he's romping up there with my Toby, a Malamute rescue who left us 9 years ago. His spirit is still with us.

    Dogs do keep us humble.


    1. hi TS...I'm not sure that look in his eyes is all love. I think he's concerned that I might grab his beloved bunny. He wouldn't growl or bite but he would try to grab it and run. But yes like your Toby, dogs do keep us humble. And what I like best about them is how they live life to the fullest, with every day being a new and exciting adventure. We humans can learn a lot from them...

  5. e.a.f.5:06 PM

    The passing of a pet can be an enormous emotional up heval, which can stay with you for years. Its a huge loss.

    It was wonderful to see all the pets on the flight. It was the best laugh of the day to see them all sitting in the cabin. Good for the airline.

    1. hi e.a.f...yes it was a great picture wasn't it? Although I wonder what the cats thought to be stuck at 33,000 feet with so many dogs...;)

  6. Anonymous9:41 PM

    It's coming up to 3 years since I lost my mini-panther, who I loved best of all cats I've ever had. His brother consoled me and still helps me through the worst times, but it takes a long time to recover.
    Thanks for posting this. I'm amazed at so many stories. The rescuers of animals and people alike are truly magnificent.

  7. hi're welcome, I enjoyed writing it. I'm sorry about your pet, but I love the word mini-panther. I'm glad you still have his brother to keep you company, and I'm happy that the pets of Fort McMurray are being rescued from that nightmare....

  8. I do have to say that the volunteers looking after all the pets in Lac La Biche are absolutely amazing. They took in a number of strays as well and I did see one gentlemen who had a cat and 5 kittens enquiring about adopting a young kitten around the same age as his kittens which had no known owner. A great gesture of humanity in a world frought with hate.