Canadian Community Clinics: Fires, Friends and Transitions

Unsettled weather and uncertain smells on the night we found out about the fires.

Northern fires.  Lots of them and big ones.  If you have been reading the paper or listening to the news, you will have heard about the fires that have been raging in northwestern Ontario.  Thankfully, most are now under control or out.

The second night we were in Summer Beaver, an elder told us there were fires on three sides of the community… which, to be honest, turned our nice evening stroll into a less enjoyable one.  Fire is always scary and I worked on fires in the north; I have an idea of what they are all about and how they can move.  It was more than a bit intimidating to know that if the fire did get close we would have to be flown out along with everyone else, but even more complicating is the fact that we have…. MuckMuck with us!

Going back to our last night in Cat Lake, Muck’s owner decided that he would be better off somewhere where he could have more attention and care so he flew into Summer Beaver with us along with Pups, a year and a half old black lab cross!  That made my trip.

But when I thought of flying out of Summer Beaver, I figured we could get out but our canine contingent… I highly doubt it.

You could see the pinkish/brownish glow in the sky and when we did fly out two days later to go home, you could see lots of fires.  Smokey fires, full flame fires, burnt out areas and soon to be burnt out areas.

And it is dry.

We have had an extremely hot, dry July which means the forests are like kindling and lightening is like a match.  We were happy to be out safely but definitely concerned about the communities and the dogs.

The Friends of Animush team drove two and half days back with Muck, Pups and Mittens and Misty -- sisters who had been abandoned but were being looked after by the previous owner’s brother.

Muck and Pups playing with each other for the first time.

He said when the bag of dog food was gone, the dogs were gone.  So gone they were but safely gone to the south. To me, driving home with dogs destined for a new life is always uplifting and there are always lots of stories about outrageous dog behaviour to tell.  By about the end of day one, they honestly seem to know they are going to a safe place and they relax.

But as soon as Ann touched her feet in southernOntario, she was trying to get back in touch withCatLakewhere the fires were reported to be within 10 km.  Most of the people had been evacuated but there were 50 or so people who were still in the community to take care of the water treatment plant and other stuff and they felt unsupported and somewhat afraid.

Ann quickly organized a lift of food (people and dog) to be delivered by the next plane that was going in with instructions to people in the community to make sure that the dogs were fed. IFAWEmergency Relief was on call and ready to either go in and feed the dogs in situ or have the dogs flown out to shelter them and then fly them back when the fires were over.  I was liaising with Dick Green who runsIFAWER and he was ready with a plane and pilot if need be.

Ann talked toCatLakeevery day and I talked to Ann and Dick.  The community contact said you couldn’t see the lake for the smoke and our concern was that dogs would remain tied up with no way to escape the smoke and the fire if it came that close.  For four days we went back and forth and then voila, on the next day we were told they were flying people back!

It was a serious whirlwind of guessing and hoping and snippets of information but all the same, the best news was hearing that people could safely return to their homes andIFAWER could stand down.

Extra, extra good news is that MuckMuck quickly found new people (not surprising).  A month ago he could only stare out over a lake from his chain, and now he’s splashing around in one.  Not a bad transition.

-- JH

For more information about the International Fund for Animal Welfare effort to save animals around the world, visit

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