‘Lost without him’: Alberta evacuation shelter allows dog to stay with displaced owner

While hundreds fleeing the Fort McMurray wildfire continue to make a temporary home at an evacuation centre northeast of Edmonton in Lac Lac Biche, there’s one displaced resident getting some extra attention.

Click here for our ongoing coverage of the Fort McMurray wildfires

Three-year-old Russell Terrier Jake is on a four-legged mission to warm hearts.

He’s the only dog at the Bold Centre that doesn’t have to wear a leash. And while dozens of other dogs stay in a pet room set up by the Humane Society at the shelter, Jake has been given special permission to stay with his owner on a couch in the upstairs lobby.

Jake is the only dog at the Lac La Biche evacuation centre not required to wear a leash.

Sarah Offin / Global News

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    “Jake was so well-behaved, and they just kind of seem to need each other and have a very special relationship,” said Julie Macisac, a volunteer at the shelter.

    “So in this one circumstance it was decided they could stay together.”

    “I’d sleep on the sidewalk first. I’m not ever abandoning my boy… he’s my life,” Jake’s owner Kevin Sturge said. “He is my total life.”

    Seven years ago, Sturge’s 30-year-old daughter died from cancer. Jake is the only family he has at the centre.

    READ MORE: Fort McMurray SPCA spent the weekend rescuing pets—in secret

    They are among over 4,600 evacuees who fled to Lac La Biche for safety, as a wall of fire raged towards their homes.

    “I opened the balcony door and panic struck,” Sturge recalled. “I was in suspense and didn’t know if we were going to make it out.”

    “It’s kinda sad,” 11-year-old evacuee Emma Vanduinkerken said. “I really miss my home.”

    The room at the Lac La Biche evacuation centre set up by the Humane Society, accommodating dozens of dogs, cats and other animals.

    Sarah Offin / Global News

    She has been one–among many–getting affection from an all-too obliging Jake over the past week.

    “He’s been kind of a mascot for sure for everyone,” Macisac said.

    For Sturge, having his best friend by his side has helped him deal with a great deal of uncertainty. He still doesn’t know whether his home is standing.

    “If I didn’t have Jake… I don’t know. I would be lost without him. He’s a wonderful companion.”

    READ MORE: Fort McMurray wildfire – 1 week after mass exodus of 80K people, fire grows to 229K hectares

    Watch below: Global’s ongoing coverage of the wildfire in Fort McMurray

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