Canada's largest evacuation was the wakeup call Fort McMurray resident Tony Bussey needed in order to lose 330 pounds!
Why I came to Fort McMurray? It’s pretty simple… opportunity. I got tired of what I was doing in Ontario and felt that I had gone as far as I could in my career. I was itching to do something new, something I could get excited about, something to reset my career.
I had consistently heard praises about Fort McMurray from my father-in-law and it sounded like the change that I may be looking for. So in 2008, I finally bit the bullet and took a position with Northern Lights Health Centre as a security supervisor for the hospital here in Fort McMurray.
At first, I didn’t know if I was ready for what I signed up for! Downtown Fort McMurray use to be “just crazy” on Friday and Saturday nights. There was a place called “The Oil Can on Franklin Ave” that was the hot spot for action. Specifically, after every UFC fight that was broadcast, there was always someone coming into the hospital because they were “Bottled” or “beaten up”!
About a week into my first shift I remember calling my wife and saying “What did we do”!
At that time, the infrastructure on the highway was non-existent, so if you were coming from either Timberlea or Thickwood, you had to be on either one of those hills by 6:00 am. or you’d be stuck in traffic. Traffic didn’t flow nearly well as it does now, there was always tons of people on the roads and the traffic was absolutely ridiculous! Back then I use to smoke; I could smoke three and a half cigarettes before I got home, that's how I use to gauge how long I sat in traffic!
But now I feel like it was “destiny” that we moved here and that we were meant to be McMurrian’s, everything in our lives has just blossomed since living here.
I believe in this city and our leadership, they’re proactive and responding to the demands of the populist because of how it was in the past. I think they’re on the right track, their trajectory is heading towards something really good. Especially now that the leaders are talking about a waterfront development! Their emphasis is now on families; family settings and things for families to do and less and less on the transient population. We have a great community that's engaged and we have leadership that's even more engaged than previous leadership and I think good things are to come in the future.
As McMurrian’s, we need to show the uniqueness of Fort McMurray, it's a diverse place and we have many different cultures that help this city prosper and grow.
I would like to see a greater emphasis on keeping everything local and supporting the local businesses. I don’t know what’s down the road or around the corner for me, but I can confidently say that going back to Ontario hasn’t entered my mind! Fort McMurray is where I want to be, this is where I want to stay, my daughter was born here and this is now home to me.
By Samantha Venator
Koni Critch doesn’t go to work at Redi Energy in Fort McMurray alone. Her two dogs a cocker spaniel and Yorkshire terrier follow her into the office most weekends.
Koni works as an administrative assistant and says “Sitting at a desk for nearly twelve hours a day isn’t so healthy, having my dogs with me gives me a reason to get up move around and go for a little walk while they do their business”
More and more workplaces are allowing employees to bring their loyal companions to work with them. Terena Gunderson from Tazi Electric brings her one and half-year-old Havanese cross named Lexi with her almost every day “She’s kennel trained, but I just feel so bad leaving her in a kennel if she can come to the office with me.”
Terena makes sure to ask any visitors to the office if they have pet allergies, Havanese are considered a hypoallergenic breed but Terena likes to let visitors know she has Lexi with her.
“She’s very friendly and loves people and other dogs, every once and awhile others will bring their dogs into the office as well.”
Having your dog in your workplace has been shown to boost morale, increase productivity, and keep employees motivated. It also provides employees with a reason to step away from their desks and get outside for a workday break.
Even global companies like Amazon are getting on the “bring your dog to work” bandwagon. Amazon spokeswoman Michele Glisson says “At Amazon, all dogs are required to be on-leash except when they’re in an office with the door closed or behind a baby gate.”
It’s important to keep in mind, not all dogs are a fit to bring to the workplace and not all workplaces are a fit for dogs. If you work in a busy office, a yappy or loud dog probably won’t fit in and will most likely be seen a nuisance. Keeping this in mind workplaces should consider certain protocols before implementing a dog-friendly environment. Dogs should be up to date on their shots and not have a history of aggression towards people or other animals, to start.
Kassandra Heap a Registered Provisional Psychologist from Calgary states “The benefits of having pets in the workplace are immense. Research shows that the presence of animals has a calming effect, not only for the owner but also for the office as a whole. When employees are happy, less stressed and more comfortable, you’ll see greater productivity as an employer. I have seen first hand the power that pets have on those who experience mental health issues. Pets have an amazing ability to help us regulate our nervous system, which is inextricably linked to our mental health. When our nervous system is in overdrive, we experience things like anxiety, panic, and angry outbursts to name a few. There are some logistics that would need to be worked out, but overall the benefits of having healthier and happier employees outweigh the downsides in my mind.”
Local Fort McMurray business owner Kathy Bowers says her two small dogs Charlie and Macie can be found any day of the week happily greeting visitors to their office. Kathy wholeheartedly believes in the healing powers dogs offer, saying “We are a busy office and with the daily struggles in life, these two have comforted more people than anyone can imagine. Whether it’s cuddles or a pat on the head, they also love the attention!”
Kathy isn’t the only one to see their dog offering emotional support to not just themselves but others too. Fort McMurray resident Hamoudi Haidoura’s German Shepard named Charm is almost always by his side, lounging in her designated spot on a love set next to Hamoudi ’s desk while he’s working on clients electronics in for repair. Hamoudi’s works in a busy office building full of medical clinics, he sees his fair share of people walking by that stop to say “Hi” to Charm “complete strangers are steadily becoming repeat visitors. She brings comfort to the people...”
Are you one of the hundreds of Fort McMurray residents that are lucky enough to bring their dogs to work with them? Please share your stories in the comments, feel free to post pictures of your puppies at work!
We moved from Edmonton to Fort McMurray in 2010, my family and I decided we wanted a change in life. So, we changed careers and moved here, at the time, on a two year contract with Canadian Tire.
My wife agreed to move here, even though she had no job prospects but we figured Fort McMurray had many opportunities available and we were confident she would easily find a position.
What keeps us here in Fort McMurray, is that we’ve built our life as a family here. We raised our daughter here from a young age, Fort McMurray has become her hometown.
We feel like we’re part of the community and have many different roles within it, including my current role with Some Other Solutions. We now feel like we’ve invested personally into the community and its become part of us, its our home.
The thing I love most about living here in For McMurray is the long evenings in the summer, I get off of work and it’s like I have a whole other day of just doing the things for my self.
The camaraderie, within the club at Bowmans is also a huge part of the friendship and community for me.
The friends that we have made since living here is why we cant see our selves leaving anytime soon.
I arrived in Fort McMurray in October of 1977. My cousin was working as a welder, he was a contractor when the Syncrude site was being built. He convinced us to move here. My husband and I were newlyweds and my cousin thought it would be a great idea for us to start our life’s here. Which incidentally, Fort McMurray was not even on the map at that time!
It was October when I landed here from Toronto, and the temperature was about -40. I thought we had just stopped to do a fuel top-up and we were going to continue on, but then I saw my cousin and husband in the airport terminal (which was a trailer at the time!) The two of them were waving happily as I was coming down the tarmac. It was cold! I thought “oh-my-gosh” this is really happening! I’d came from Toronto, I was wearing a light-brown leather, full-length coat with styling leather boots! That was my first impression of this place, it was a cold & desolate-what had I gotten in to?
Early the next morning, when my cousin and husband left for work, it was just me in the townhouse. I didn't see a peep, nothing was crawling (well nothing should be crawling at -40)! I thought to myself, I should go and look for a job. So on my second day here I was brave enough to venture out. When I turned the key to the ignition, the car sputtered, it just wouldn't turn over. I was in tears because I was so cold and my fingers were so cold on the wheel! So I thought to myself "no this isn't working". I went back inside and warmed myself up, then I got back out and tried again, the engine finally turned over and the car started to move, but it sounded like I was driving a “Flintstone” car, the tires were just so hard! I was in reverse, so I put the car into drive and it didn't move! The wheels just started spinning because the road was solid ice! I left the car right where it was and went back home.
My neighbor probably saw what was going on because he came over and ask if I needed help. He told me to just let it run for a while and it'll be ok. So I did and drove out into the road very slowly, (thank goodness we didn't have the population we do now!). The first job that I applied for wasn’t offering a good wage so I told the recruiter that I couldn’t possibly live off what he was offering and that I had just left a great job in Toronto and to call me when he had a better offer. He called me the next week and let me know he found a job for me.
I worked in the Mind Maintenance Department at Syncrude, for the superintendent. We had people from all over the world in my group at work; one was from Manitoba, Saint Paul’s, Newfoundland, Ontario, Jamaica, Australia, Germany and myself from Guyana. Being from Guyana, my English language skills haven’t always been that great, (my children would attest to this!)
One time while at work, I was hungry for a snack, they had great food in the cafeteria, but what I really loved was those little cracker packages and little jam jars. I was working hard and didn’t want to interrupt my work but I was starving, so I yelled out "does anybody have those nut butter and biscuits to share with me?" No one answered, so I yelled it again, finally an Australian fellow I worked with, stood up and yelled " Its peanut butter and crackers you idiots!"
We had a tight group, just the 8 of us - from all over the world. The relationships that we had developed were just amazing! We all wanted to be here, we all wanted to work- so we made the best of the situation. We developed great friendships and looked out for each other- Everybody took care of each other. Even though we’ve grown much bigger, we’re still a great community and that’s why I call Fort McMurray my home.