Amid catastrophe in Fort McMurray, the loss of a beloved pet adds to heartbreak
'I see so many angels around here,' woman says of support at evacuation centre
Sometimes it's the tiniest losses that cause the greatest heartbreak.
And in the wake of the devastation of the Fort McMurray fire, Chantal Giroux-Boutin is struggling to hold back her tears.
While it's not thought anyone was killed or injured when fire roared through the city, Giroux-Boutin says her beloved dog, a terrier named Buddy, died as they escaped.
Their ordeal started Tuesday night as fire swept into the Fort McMurray neighbourhood of Beacon Hill.
Giroux-Boutin, a Quebec-born nurse who has lived in the city for three decades, was on duty at the city's hospital when they were warned Tuesday night the fire was bearing down on her home.
"It was a monster," she recalls, watching the flames close in on her home.
Her husband, Louis, gathered up a few belongings and put them in the couple's car before dashing back to get her terrier, Buddy, and his twin, Mocha.
"He had fire behind him," she says of her husband's rescue effort.
"But he had time to rescue him [Buddy] from the house."
Giroux-Boutin says the relief was short-lived.
After arriving at the nearby Anzac emergency shelter, Buddy wasn't doing well.
"He was stressed out. He hyperventilated and he had a stroke."
She says volunteer staff comforted her — and then fulfilled a request.
Staff put Buddy's tiny body in a box for them to take with them.
"He's with us in the car, on ice," she says, wiping tears from her eyes.
"We are going to bury him in Edmonton."
The couple still have Mocha, to keep them company on the trip.
"I see so many angels around here," she told CBC News at the evacuation centre at Lac La Biche.
Among the many amenities offered to fire evacuees are pet food and dog treats, which she says are greatly appreciated.
"Pray for this fire to stop," she says.
With files from Chris Corday and Mark Gryski