Rescue and Reunion

Animal rescue teams have been hard at work since the Fort McMurray fires broke over a week ago and some wonderful progress has been made in rescuing and reuniting pets with their owners. There were some reports that rescue groups had initially been blocked from entering the city by police causing a concern that pets would not be found in time. Fortunately the situation was rectified and soon the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo took the lead on coordinating all pet rescue in the area.

Both the RCMP and first responders were helping out by giving food and water to animals that they came across and transporting them out to animal control facilities when possible.

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A RCMP officers offers food to a cat in Fort McMurray, Alberta on Friday May 6, 2016. RCMP will do what they can to assist pets they may come across in carrying out search and rescue operations. Image calgaryherald.com

To date a multitude of officials, rescue groups, shelters, veterinarians and volunteers have worked tirelessly together to locate, health check, provide care for and return animals to their owners. Hundreds of animals are being housed by the City of Edmonton Animal Care and Control or fostered until they can be returned to their families.

One happy and tearful reunion via Rescued, Reunited, and Unclaimed Pets Of Fort Mac

 

Today the Alberta SPCA reports that the official count from the Fort McMurray People and Animal Reunion Centre in Edmonton is:

  • 955 animals checked in and health-checked
  • 486 animals reunited with their owners
  • 206 animals scheduled for reunions

One cat named Tux, christened the ‘Miracle Stove Cat’, survived in a house that burnt to the ground. Temperatures reached a thousand degrees, but Tux managed to survive by crawling into the stove. They think the glass in the stove broke from the intensity of the fire and he crawled in to hide, the stove fell over and Tux remained trapped until firefighters found him. Another cat named Sky also survived possibly by escaping from an open door, however two other cats from the same household are still reported missing.

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Firefighter Alex Jackson after saving ‘Stove Cat’ and bandaging his paws. Image Alberta SPCA

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Sky the cat rescued along with Tux the Stove Cat

One man who stayed behind in Fort McMurray is being called a hero after he took care of dogs, cats and rabbits that he came across, or that people on Facebook had asked him to check on. In an interview Lee Ellis tells CBC Radio that he visited about 20 houses per day for four days, helping about 80 pets. He went around door to door when the requests started coming in via Facebook and says that the animals were starved not just for food but also for attention. He avoided detection by riding around on a bike for the first three days, then on the fourth day while using a vehicle he was caught by the RCMP and escorted out. Lee says that he did manage to rescue a few more animals before leaving for good the following day.

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Lee Ellis with one of the many cats in Fort McMurray that he fed while remaining in the city after it had been evacuated. (Facebook.com/lee.ellis.980) via CBC.ca

Besides cats and dogs other animals like horses, chickens and even a pig named Marshall have been rescued. Michelle Coutu told CBC News that there was no advance notice of the evacuation and the sight of the flames sent her family scrambling. While she was able to cram her daughter, her grandson and her three dogs into the back of her truck, there was no room for the pig. “All I could do is let Marshall out of his pen and put some food down for him and pray for the best.”

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Marshall the “tough little” beer-loving pig – Image – CBC

Michelle reported Marshall missing and social media did the rest. The RCMP found him alive and tweeted a picture of an officer feeding the lucky pig a watermelon. The very resilient Marshall is now staying with friends and animal control until he can be reunited with his family.

While it could be weeks before residents are allowed to start returning home, for some being reunited with their animal companion is an important first step in the healing process.

Wildfires

By now Fort McMurray Alberta, and news of the massive wildfires that have swept through and consumed an entire city, has made the headlines. It is one of the most frightening and disturbing disasters with the largest displacement of people, that many including myself have ever seen in Canada.

The wildfires engulfed Fort McMurray in what can only be compared to as a hellish inferno. Images are surreal, the stuff made of nightmares and, as of today there appears no relief in sight. The fires have already ravaged more than 85,000 hectares of land, or to put it in perspective – areas large enough to consume the city of Manhattan, a few times over, and wipe out central London. It was reported that without rain and perhaps a miracle, the fire will continue to grow as it moves south. Help is coming in from all over to fight it, but fire crews are expected to have a very long, dangerous and seemingly futile battle ahead.

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A Mountie surveys the damage on a street in Fort McMurray Image – National Post

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Image taken by Sara MacKinnon of Westville as she fled Fort McMurray – MetroNews.ca

Some 80,000 plus residents have been displaced and miraculously no loss of human life has been reported to date, however these people have literally lost everything forced to leave with little to no possessions, the clothes on their backs, and, in many cases without their beloved pets. Thousands of pets have been reported to be stranded and understandably people are desperate to get them out.

These are just some of the missing pets, the majority cats, all from the Fort McMurray Fire Emergency Animal Assistance Facebook page. Their page is updated daily.

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I can wholeheartedly empathize with those who were forced to abandon their beloved animals. The feeling of utter helplessness of not being able to take them with you and not knowing when you will be able to get to them, wondering if they are alive or have enough food/water to last until they are rescued. While some people were fortunate and had time to get their pets, many were forced to leave while at work or, had no chance of returning for them. In any type of disaster whether it’s man-made or natural, animals are often the forgotten victims and the last to receive assistance if any. The reality in most scenarios like this is local authorities have little to no plans in place to help stranded pets and, for pet owners and rescue groups this is distressing and frustrating.

One group of small volunteers decided to ignore the evacuation order and went in to try to save as many pets as they could. Wyatt Colquhoun-Rivard and his group, members of Western Canadian Powerstrokes, a group of “truck enthusiasts who do charity work” got tired of waiting and worked as quickly as they could, rescuing about a dozen animals, before the police shut them down. In one apartment they busted down a door to retrieve two terrified cats “After we broke the door down there was hair everywhere,” he said. “You could tell the cats were scared, and they just didn’t know what to do. It was a total apocalypse area.”

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Image CBC.ca

The pets and animals who were lucky enough to make it out are getting help from the many animal rescue groups across Alberta, but there is little these groups can do right now for those left behind. “At this point there is no one who is going into the homes because it hasn’t been declared safe yet,” said R.J. Bailot with the Alberta Spay Neuter Task Force — the Calgary organization coordinating the relief effort. Many people, businesses, shelters, rescue groups and pet food companies have offered help and are doing whatever they can with those they can. Some flights evacuating people welcomed pets on board to fly with their families including Canadian North Airlines who tweeted this photo of Meow Meow the cat. After one of the Fort McMurray evacuees went into labour Canadian North said that their flight team would be looking after Meow Meow for the time being.

 

In the meantime volunteers on the ground are on standby waiting for the go ahead to go in to get the pets left behind. Evacuees forced to leave their animals behind in their homes in Fort McMurray are asked to fill out an animal assistance request form through the Fort McMurray Fire Emergency Animal Assistance Community on Facebook. This page was created as a resource to help those affected by the fire to place their animals in short-term care.

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Another request form has been included for those forced to abandon a pet during the evacuation the Fort McMurray area. This form can be found HERE where you can provide Pet Rescue details to allow a field team to respond. Home entry will be facilitated by a locksmith as a last resort.

A lost and found Pet Map was also created where people can locate lost or found animals this covers the many cats, dogs, bunnies and even livestock. The majority of stranded pets are cats, which by their nature are usually difficult to rescue due to the fact that they will often hide and remain out of sight.

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How to help

If you have family or friends in or near Fort McMurray please share this information. There may be someone out there who has lost a pet or simply isn’t aware of how to connect to rescue groups or get help.

Temporary homes for displaced animals are also in desperate need at this time, if you are in a position to provide housing for cats, dogs, or livestock please let any of the these rescue groups listed here know, and they will set it up or point you in the right direction.

If you are able to help out monetarily, outside of the Red Cross, donations specifically for animals are being collected by:

As this situation continues to develop, there will no doubt be tragedy and not every animal will make it out, the though of this is literally breaks my heart for the precious lives lost and for their humans who will have lost a beloved companion. I have to hope that there are still many more amazing rescue stories waiting to be told and reunions to be made.

My thoughts are with all those animals who have already perished, those still waiting for rescue and all people devastated by the wildfires.

A good reminder is to be prepared as best we can, that includes having a pet emergency preparedness kit ready, and in cases were you can’t get to pets to evacuate them, information and pet photo’s on hand to provide to rescue groups. Ensuring your pet is also licensed, microchipped or tattooed, and your contact information is current will help get your pet home should you be separated!

Lucky Number Six

When a black and white stray cat turned up in a southwest Edmonton neighborhood, concerned residents quickly called the local cat rescue and TNR group Little Cats Lost. Pauly, as he would be later named, was a stray cat with a very unique feature.

Lucky number six

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Pauly the six-legged cat

Pauly, who was estimated to be about seven years old, was discovered to have six legs, two of which were attached to his sternum. Little Cats Lost realized that he would need them removed and ran a fundraising campaign to pay for his surgery at Oxford Animal Hospital where he would be treated. The fundraiser, which raised nearly $4,500, more than double its $2,000 goal, covered the costs of two surgeries for Pauly and was helped by a donation from Edmonton’s International Cat Festival.

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Image – Pauly’s Journey Facebook

Dr. Tamer Mahmoud, owner and veterinarian of the clinic, examined Pauly and said his condition was very rare and that there were likely two kittens in utero, and Pauly had absorbed the other one.

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The surgery  lasted about 90 minutes and was performed by veterinarian Ignacio Tan. -Image  Edmonton Journal

Besides his extra legs Pauly also had hip dysplasia and what looked to be an extra kidney. The ‘kidney’ actually turned out to be another pair of testicles. Dr. Ignacio Tan did a lot of research and consulted specialists prior to performing the straightforward procedure which was made easier due to the fact the legs weren’t connected to other organs.

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Pauly’s xray – Image Pauly’s Journey on Facebook

Video of Pauly can be seen here

Pauly underwent the surgery at the end of August and is currently in a foster home where he is reported to be making progress and taking it easy. He has gone through quit an ordeal living that long with his impairment and being abandoned on the streets. Once he is fully recovered and rehabilitated he will be ready for adoption.

For more on Pauly, and to check out his progress, be sure to head over to Pauly’s Journey on Facebook.

Cats Are Lucky

It’s never too late for a Caturday Post…I was doing a little clean up and found this.

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My sister sent me a text (poor quality pic) with this. She found it a gas station in Alberta.   Lotto “Scratch n’ Win” tickets called Pet Talk – Cat Chat! The ticket can win up to 9 times!

I immediately replied “You have to bring one back for me! Wait, do they have different cats? You will have to collect a few for me then.”  It was then followed by “So why don’t we have these in Ontario? Seriously we love pets and cats here why doesn’t Ontario Lottery Corp have these?” I feel completely ripped off.

She couldn’t find them anywhere other than the gas station, but I did end up with this handsome kitty 🐱

Pet Talk, Cats, Cat Chat, Scratch n Win

Cats are lucky…I completely forgot I had it! It’s still unscratched….do you think its a winner?