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How It All Unfolded: The Story

When you evacuate almost 90,000 people from a community, there’s a story behind each of them.

We have gathered a timeline of events, walking through the days before and after the evacuation. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Greg Halinda has shared a photo essay to tell the story when there are no words left. There are stories from those who stepped up when we needed them the most, and stories from those who had to flee. We have stories from heroes, and stories thanking them.

These are the stories that make #FortMcMurrayStrong


Pursuing Lifelong Passion - MacKenzie Boarding Kennels and Animal Rescue

(2 votes)

What are you passionate about? Have you asked yourself lately? For a lucky few, they’ve found their passion and if they’re even luckier, they’re able to pursue that passion every day of their life.

For Randy and Carol MacKenzie, their passion is animals and that passion has manifested into a successful local business, MacKenzie Boarding Kennel and Animal Rescue. 

Since 2007, MacKenzie Boarding has provided animal accommodations and rescue services to the Wood Buffalo region.

Randy’s passion for animals is undeniable, stemming from early childhood. 

“I’ve done animal rescue pretty much my entire life. I’ve rescued not only domestic animals but wild animals as well. Probably everything from mice to moose,” says Randy. 

He goes on to share his many animal-oriented hobbies.

“My hobbies include dog training, working with dogs, including having agility dogs of my own that I work with,” says Randy. “I also have a team of sled dogs that I compete with, and have been doing that for about 23 years.”

For Randy and Carol, opening MacKenzie Boarding was not only about pursuing a passion, it was also about providing a much needed service to the community. 

“When I first moved to Fort McMurray, people quickly found out that I was involved with animals, and began asking if I could take care of their dogs,” he says. “At that time, there was really no facility in Fort McMurray to do such. It was something I always wanted to do though, so from there the kennels opened up.” 

For many local pet owners, the mandatory evacuation of Fort McMurray due to the recent wildfires was a real testament to Randy and Carol’s passion for animals.

In the days leading up to the mandatory evacuation, Randy and Carol, along with their friends, spent three days straight on high alert, transferring animals to and from different locations to ensure their safety. 

On the day of the evacuation, and through the following 12 hours, they managed to evacuate every animal in their care, custody and control, out of Fort McMurray. They even picked up a few extras along the way.

“We had a convoy of six vehicles loaded up with animals leaving the community. The evacuation itself ended up taking two days, because we had so many animals,” says Randy. 

In the end, they safely evacuated 64 dogs, including 34 sled dogs, 15 boarding dogs, 11 pet and foster dogs, and four wolf hybrids. Along with the dogs, six cats, three turtles, three parrots, two sheep and two lizards were also evacuated.

We stayed in Egremont, near Redwater, where a host family of complete strangers took us in with all the animals. It was unbelievable,” he says. “They found out at 2 p.m. that we were coming and by the time we arrived at 8 p.m., they had room set up for 10 people, along with clothes, food and everything we needed.” 

All of the animals were reunited with their families, with the exception of one dog who stayed with Randy and Carol during the entire evacuation.

When asking Randy why it was so important to evacuate all of the animals, the answer was simple: “we value an animal’s life as much, if not more than our own,” he says. 

Throughout the month of May, Randy returned several times to clean the facility and to ensure it was ready for clients upon re-entry to the community.

“It was important to make sure we could do our part in helping the community get back in and transition as comfortably and as easily as possible,” he says. “We wanted to make sure our clients knew we were back there to help.”

According to Randy, many families are in need of animal care as they return to Wood Buffalo.

“For instance, we’re getting a lot of people who are having their homes cleaned and need to have their dogs out while that’s being done. We also have friends that have horses they’re needing care for.”

Randy concludes with a strong message to the community moving forward: “Stay strong. Stay united. Keep the compassion alive.” 

For more information about MacKenzie Boarding Kennels and Animal Rescue, visit their Facebook page or call 780-215-1234.


Amelia Schofield is a marketing and communications professional based in Fort McMurray, AB. She’s currently the Marketing and Communications Officer with the Northern Lights Health Foundation and a regular contributor to YMM Magazine.  Amelia is also the Owner + Creator of Amelia Emily Design, a local business specializing in knitted goods.

Follow Amelia on Twitter at @AmeliaSchfld