Furry Fort Mac evacuees fly to safety aboard Canadian North

Nineteen dogs, 5 cats and 2 turtles mingled with human passengers in a memorable, teary flight taking evacuees from a Fort McMurray-area oilsands camp to Edmonton this week.

19 dogs, 5 cats and 2 turtles mingled with human passengers in memorable, teary flight

Canadian North made room for several pets belonging to evacuees flying out of an oilsands camp near Fort McMurray this week. The attendant even conducted a pet count. (submitted by Wanda Murray)

Northern airline Canadian North made room for some extra passengers this week to help the people — and the pets — affected by the fires in Fort McMurray.

In the massive evacuation Tuesday, many Fort McMurray residents were directed to flee north of the city to oilsands camps. 

Canadian North has since flown thousands of evacuees out from the camps and at least one flight last Thursday made sure no one was left behind.

'I know what these people have left and they may not have anything to go back to,' said flight attendant Wanda Murray of the decision to let evacuees take pets on board. (submitted by Wanda Murray)

In addition to 130 human passengers from the Albian oilsands camp, Flight 1515 to Edmonton also welcomed aboard 19 dogs, five cats (including one named "Meow Meow") and two turtles.

With not enough space for the animals in the cargo hold, pets lay on people's laps and in the aisle during the 53-minute flight.

Flight attendant Wanda Murray said it was an emotional flight. 

"I know what these people have left and they may not have anything to go back to," she said. 

Not that Murray forgot her professional obligations. She still conducted a safety demonstration, passenger count and, yes, a pet count.

Pets sat in the aisles or lay on people's laps. (Wanda Murray)

"We had a Great Dane. I was standing over top of a dog doing my safety demonstration," she said.

"They were all well behaved. No accidents."

A flight that 'will always remain in my memory'

Canadian North spokesperson Kelly Lewis admits it's unusual to have so many large animals free in the cabin.

"There really were no other options," he said. "We weren't going to let people leave their pets behind. We know how much they love them and we love animals, too."

Despite the crowded conditions, Murray said the pets and their weary owners appreciated the help.

"When we touched down, we got a standing ovation. It brought tears to our eyes. They are the heroes, not us.

"It's a flight that will always remain in my memory."

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