Fort McMurray puppy rescued from burning home reunited with family
After days of worrying, evacuees elated to get a call from 'hero' who retrieved their beloved pet
When the evacuation order came, Stephanie Greene and her family had to flee Fort McMurray without their puppy Max.
Unable to return home and retrieve their beloved pet before being forced out of the city by the encroaching flames, all Greene could do was post desperate messages to Facebook, pleading for help from anyone who might be in a position to rescue the dog.
Marty Frost heard that call.
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With a background in firefighting, Frost had stayed behind in Fort McMurray to assist in any way he could, and ultimately ended up rescuing dozens of pets stranded in abandoned homes under similar circumstances. His Facebook wall is now littered with thank-you messages and people calling him a hero.
But he remembers his search for "Abasand Max," in particular.
Frost said finding the pup was no easy task because of a bizarre numbering pattern on the streets in the city's Abasand neigbhourhood, which had been hard hit in the early days of the fire.
"The street signs are melted, and all your reference points are gone," he said.
"Nothing looks the same."
Frost had no luck finding the right house on his first several attempts but didn't give up, knowing Max was in there somewhere and the sections of Abasand that were still standing remained in harm's way, if the wind shifted even slightly.
And that's exactly what happened.
Early Friday morning, Frost heard a block of townhouses in Abasand was starting to catch fire, so he raced back up to the community, thinking only of Max.
This time, he managed to find the right house, where he discovered firefighters on scene and one of the patio doors smashed in.
He found Max and the family's pet rabbit, as well — both alive and safe with the first responders on scene.
Family had nearly lost hope
Meanwhile, Max's family had nearly lost all hope, after having been separated from their pup for nearly 72 hours.
The twist and turns on their emotional roller-coaster were amplified by conflicting reports about the extent of the damage in Abasand and an earlier, mistaken phone call from someone who thought they had found Max.
It turned out to be a different dog, with similar colouring.
So when Greene's phone rang at 3 a.m. last Friday, she answered it skeptically.
On the other end of the line was Frost, who had found her number on a tag attached to Max's collar and decided to call her immediately.
"He said, 'Yeah, I rescued your dog, and I got your rabbit,'" Greene recalled. "But it's actually probably bittersweet for you, because your house was just starting to catch fire when we rescued him.'"
"I don't care about the house," she said. "We got exactly what we wanted."
After nearly three days of being stuck in his kennel, the dog was in surprisingly good shape. He needed some food, water and a bath, but was otherwise OK.
Greene said her daughter was elated to be reunited with Max, and the family couldn't thank his rescuer enough.
"How many people are out there like us that don't have their pet, that were praying for a person like Marty to come along and save the day?" Greene said.
"To me, he's a real hero."