A resident in Mathias Colomb Cree Nation is staying behind in the community to help care for pets left behind amid wildfire evacuations.
“So for the seven days within the fire evacuation – three days prior was very hectic when it came to evacuating all the community members. It wasn’t up until day four when everybody started wondering if their pets are going to be okay because they didn’t know how long they were going to be out there,” Castel told Global News.
“And that’s when I kind of jumped on and told myself that these animals need help. These animals are going to need to be looked after.”
Castel says he has three dogs of his own, but with no kennel he wouldn’t have been able to take them with him during the evacuations. He stayed behind along with a few family members, driving throughout the community to check on and feed pets that were left behind. It’s more than just dogs they’re helping.
“So far I’ve got nine cats, three birds, six Guinea pigs, and one turtle named Shredder,” he said.
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But spending the time looking after hundreds of animals in an evacuated community, also takes it’s toll.
“Lately, since day 14, I’ve been crying myself to sleep just to get myself a good night’s sleep,” Castel said.
“Every night I got to hear those dogs barking and crying all night. So it’s very restless for me to try and stay up and get every dog fed within this community.”
Castel is working alongside the Manitoba Animal Alliance, who have been flying in food and supplies for the animals, and have even flown a few weaker animals out of the community. About 17 of which have been reunited with their evacuated owners.
Debra Vandekerkhove, the managing director of the Alliance, says having Castel on the ground as a point of contact has made the world of difference for them.
“It’s hard, it’s really hard. I mean he’s got more than a few hundred animals to maintain everyday,” Vandekerkhove told Global News. “He should get some sort of a medal from Manitoba from what he’s doing up there.”
“Without him up there, we would be extremely stressed out and upset right now because there would be no way for those animals to survive as long as they have.”
For Castel, helping four-legged friends in need makes it all worth it.
“It’s very heartwarming to see them come up to me and walk towards me,” he said. “They feel like they’ve found somebody that’s willing to help them.”