Kenny Robinson was working in his Seattle office on Feb. 1 when a co-worker rushed in at 11 a.m. with urgent news: The Dog Resort, a day care and boarding facility next door, was on fire.
When Robinson saw dogs racing back and forth in the fenced run next to the building, he put down his phone.
“I thought, ‘I can sit here and watch, or I can go over and see if I can be of help,’” said Robinson, 42. “I knew there could be fire on the other side of that wall, next to the dog run.”
Robinson was thinking of his own family’s dog, Cody, that had died of cancer in November, he said.
“There was no way I could save Cody, but maybe I could help these dogs,” he recalled thinking as he saw more than a dozen people from surrounding businesses also rushing over to help before firefighters arrived.
Employees at the dog care center were putting terrified dogs outside, Robinson said, as he and other neighbors began grabbing the dogs by the collar and bringing them to PSR’s fenced parking lot and loading dock across the street.
They realized the parking lot wasn’t completely secured, so one of his co-workers found some plywood to place along the bottom of the chain-link fence so the smaller dogs wouldn’t get out, he said.
Within minutes, they had moved more than 40 dogs of all sizes safely into the fenced-in area.
“It was really chaotic and traumatic — firefighters arrived and some of the dogs were struggling from the smoke and needed oxygen,” Robinson said. “Another dog got away from me and I had to chase him down. But we got them all out.”
Other businesses took in dogs too, he said, including a Mexican restaurant and a popular bar, the Hellbent Brewing Company. In all, 115 dogs were rescued as firefighters hosed down the building and knocked holes into the roof of The Dog Resort to allow the smoke to vent.
Although the fire caused more than $300,000 in damage, the rescue mission was a success: All the dogs got out and none of the employees were injured. A few dogs needed medical care, but they are now back home, Robinson said.
The fire was accidental and broke out in a dryer at the facility, probably due to excessive lint in the vent, firefighters said.
“When our firefighters arrived on the scene, they were met with multiple dogs trying to get out of the building,” said David Cuerpo, spokesperson for the Seattle Fire Department, noting that four dogs received CPR and oxygen and were transferred to a veterinary clinic for emergency care.
All of them made a full recovery and have been reunited with their families, he said.
“People really stepped up — this was a community effort to save these dogs,” Cuerpo said. “It’s incredible that everybody jumped into action.”
Lonnie Caraveo, general manager of Classic Collision, an auto body shop near the doggy day care, said one of his employees backed a truck up next to the fence so the dogs could run inside the truck and be taken to safety.
“We ended up with 27 dogs in our shop — five littles and 22 big dogs,” he said.
Caraveo, 52, said he and his employees kept an eye on them for the next three or four hours before they were reunited with their owners. Some of the dogs were boarding overnight, and they were taken to temporary shelters.
“As you can imagine, they were all pretty amped up and bouncing around,” he said. “There were five dogs in one corner, seven dogs here, eight dogs there.”
“We all had a lot of fun petting the dogs and giving them some extra love,” Caraveo added.
At Hellbent Brewing Company, Jack Guinn was getting ready to open for the Wednesday lunch crowd when he smelled smoke and saw that The Dog Resort was on fire directly behind his building.
“One of my co-workers grabbed some bolt cutters and we ran outside,” he said. “We cut a hole in our fence and the doggy day care people started putting dogs through.”
Guinn opened a side door to the bar and shepherded the dogs inside, three at a time.
“We ended up with 35 dogs inside the bar for the next three or four hours,” he said. “We got them some water and held a couple of the dogs for a while.”
“Once everyone realized that all of the dogs were safe, we relaxed and had a lot of fun with them,” he said. “It was a huge relief to learn that all of the dogs got out.”
About 75 dogs were eventually taken to other animal boarding facilities until their owners — who were at work or out of town — could pick them up. The rest were reunited with families during the fire response, Cuerpo said.
Mona Elassiouti, owner of The Dog Resort, said she is deeply grateful to her staff and everyone who jumped in to help. She has started a GoFundMe as she works out what her insurance covers and tries to establish a new temporary location in the neighborhood.
“In the end, it’s just a building,” she said. “We’re giving thanks that every one of the dogs is now fine and healthy.”
Robinson said he wouldn’t hesitate to jump in to help in an emergency situation again. But if there is a next time, he said, his phone will stay firmly in his pocket.
“The sensory overload was intense, but I’m glad everyone pitched in,” he said. “You know that Mister Rogers’ saying, ‘Look for the helpers?’ That’s how I felt. I didn’t want to be the guy standing around watching. I wanted to be a helper.”