Families who boarded their pets at a St-Lazare, Que., kennel are now facing the grim task of retrieving their dog's remains after a fire at the facility killed 18 animals on the weekend.
"I can tell you there's been at least two days of crying," said Michel Cohen, who was on vacation with his family in the Dominican Republic when they got word that their four-year-old Goldendoodle, Dexter, was among the dogs who perished in the fire.
"My children are extremely upset. My wife is extremely upset. I'm upset. We’re just trying to understand if this could have been prevented… We’re very sad. We’re very, very sad."
St-Lazare Fire Chief Daniel Boyer said no one was in the kennel when the fire broke out at Family K9 on Saturday.
The cause of the fire hasn't been determined, but it is not considered suspicious.
Cohen said he has been told the owner of the kennel had left the facility unattended while he went to a Christmas party. It was neighbours who actually called the fire department, he said.
By the time firefighters arrived, the dogs had already died.
Cohen didn't learn about the fire until the next afternoon when he received an email asking him to call the kennel's owner.
"My first response was,'How could you leave them unattended?'" he said. "And his response was that he frequently left them unattended."
The owner of the kennel did not immediately return calls from CBC News.
Cohen said he paid about $40 a day to board the family's beloved pet at the kennel and expected that someone would be watching at all times. The family had left the dog in the care of the kennel for the past three years.
"He was a special spirit in the house," he said of Dexter. "He was very friendly. He was such a special dog."
Cohen said the dogs' owners are still trying to piece together what happened and that he's retained a lawyer.
"Once I have all the facts, I think that the important part is this never happens again."
A previous version of this story mistakenly said the kennel charged $100 a day to board dogs. In fact, it charged around $40.Jan 02, 2014 11:51 AM ET
A previous version of this story mistakenly said the fire at the Family K9 kennel was considered suspicious. In fact, fire officials do not consider the fire suspicious.Dec 31, 2013 2:20 PM ET