When Lee Ellis decided to wait for the rush of people evacuating Fort McMurray to finally calm down, he kept himself busy — feeding and giving water to dogs, cats and other pets which he came across or that people on Facebook had asked him to check in on.
Using only a bicycle to get around the city, Ellis says he visited about 20 houses a day over a four day period to feed and care for the dogs, cats, rabbits, birds and fish that had been left behind when the wildfire sparked mass evacuations on May 3.
“They weren’t only starved for food and water, they were starved for attention,” Ellis said to host Chris Walker on Daybreak South.
“They were right on me. They were rubbing up against me.”
He checked on friends’, strangers’ pets
Ellis, who divides his time between homes in Kelowna and Fort McMurray, said that he was at work just an hour north of the city when the evacuation order went out.
When he went back to his house which is located in the city it was “mayhem,” so he decided to wait for before leaving.
“The next morning my friend asked me to go check on his cat, because he was stuck up north, so I went to his house, fed and watered his cat, and then on the way back I heard some dogs barking in a backyard,” Ellis stated.
“So I went and knocked on the house. No one was there, so I proceeded to take those three dogs and I brought them to my house.”
Ellis posted his adventures on Facebook, and before long people were sharing his posts and reaching out to him.
“They would give me their door codes. They would tell me where the food was. There were only a couple of incidents where I had to feed them out of my own supply,” he went on to say..
“The support and the thanks were overwhelming on my Facebook page. It was unbelievable. It helped me keep on going when I was too tired to go.”
He mentioned that at the same time he was caring for pets, he also took photographs of people’s homes so that they would know they hadn’t been destroyed by the fire.
“It gave people a lot of great hope at a time of despair,” he tated.
Ellis said he and some friends of his went around the city on bicycles to avoid being found and kicked out of the city — but said after the fourth day “we had bruises on our butts.”
That’s just when they decided to use a car to get around, but were stopped by the RCMP and taken to the check-in point for evacuees.
Ellis, who was actually in Kelowna May 12, stated he will be back at work on Monday, but won’t have access to his home in Fort McMurray and will be staying in a work camp north of the city instead.
He said his experience helping pets was truly “surreal”, and said that a house that stands out in his memory was one that they discovered had four dogs inside.
“We went to the garage door and it slid open, and then all the four dogs ran from the house into the garage and they were happy to see us,” he concluded.