FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — Five-year-old Isaac Leamon woke up sobbing from a nightmare half way through his family’s month-long evacuation from fire-ravaged Fort McMurray.
He wanted to go home.
“I’m so worried about my hamster … He must be really, really hungry,” the boy told his father.
Dorman Leamon said his son’s words broke his heart and he had to resist the urge to jump in his car and head back to the city to rescue the furry rodent.
Instead, the construction worker and his wife reached out to the Fort McMurray SPCA.
Within two days, bylaw officers were at the family’s downtown condo and phoning to say Isaac’s hamster, Jack, along with his six-year-old sister’s hamster, Peanut, were just fine.
The kids heard the whole conversation on speaker phone, and jumped up and down with glee.
“It basically lifted a huge cloud off of us and the kids,” Leamon said.
More than 80,000 people were evacuated May 3, when a huge wildfire spread into the oilsands capital and destroyed about 2,400 homes and buildings.
As the first wave of residents were allowed back into the city Wednesday, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley told reporters there have been many stories of human kindness during the evacuation, and gave the hamsters’ story as an example.
She then visited the Fort McMurray SPCA and cuddled with a cat before meeting the Leamon family’s pets.
“You’re apparently a star now,” Notley said as Jack clung to her arm.
Bylaw officer Stacey St. Germain said that when the two hamsters were found, one was dehydrated and fed drops of water until it perked up. The animals are now staying at the SPCA until the family returns to the city.
It felt amazing to help, said St. Germain, and the owners were incredibly thankful.
“They were just elated that we would take the time to go and care about, not just dogs and cats, but every creature — bearded dragons, birds, fish, hamsters,” she said.
“They all matter.”
Leamon said he had given the hamsters piles of food and left them with full water bottles, thinking the evacuation wouldn’t last more than a few days.
He now realizes how much his son and daughter have been affected by the fire and being away from home, he said.
The family is staying with friends in Tofield, east of Edmonton, but the kids miss their school, their things and their first-ever pets.
“I know it’s just hamsters,” said Leamon.
“I never would have expected anyone, in a situation like this, in an evacuated city with so much going on, to do that for children. Fort McMurray is amazing.”