A man some have dubbed Canada's dog whisperer and his wife appear to have died a fire at their home, with police not ruling out arson.
Jerry and Eve Cudahy have not been seen since fire razed their Beaverton farmhouse, about 110 kilometres north of Toronto. Two bodies were found in the smoking ruins and were sent for autopsy and identification, according to Durhamregion.com.
The fire early Sunday morning was spotted by a passing motorist but by the time firefighters arrived "the home was fully engulfed and partially collapsed," said Bryan Fischer, fire-investigation supervisor with the Ontario Fire Marshall's Office, which is investigating the blaze.
Durham Regional Police are also involved in the investigation. Police have not ruled out arson and homicide detectives have been assigned to the case, Sgt. Nancy van Rooy told the National Post.
“The cause of the fire and the cause of the deaths have yet to be determined,” she said.
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An undetermined number of dogs also died in the fire, while others that were being kept in a barn were rescued and taken to an animal shelter.
Jerry Cudahy was a highly respected dog trainer with a list of clients among the great and good of Toronto, as well as police dogs and drug- and bomb-sniffing dogs. He also trained dogs for both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, the Post said.
“He was someone who could fix all the ills of a dog, whether it was jumping up or chewing or biting. No matter what they were like, when Jerry got there — without him using any force — they listened to him. He never advertised yet everyone seemed to use him,” Bob Godfrey, chairman of the Ontario SPCA, who was also a client of the Cudahys.
Other clients who had dogs at the Cudahy training facility converged on the rural property after word of the fire spread. They included hockey broadcaster Neil Smith, former New York Rangers general manager, whose 12-week-old chocolate lab Aston was there.
“What my hope was is that he hadn’t perished, that there was some hope of finding him,” Smith told the Post, but said that hope vanished once he saw the smouldering ruins.
“It was destroyed. It was burned to the ground. All that was left was like what you see in the fireplace after a fire. My first thoughts were for Jerry and Eve, and then my own grief.”
Toronto home developer Craig Gagliano lost his 16-month-old yellow lab, Charlie, in the fire.
“Jerry is kind of like Canada’s dog whisperer and is very dedicated,” he said. “It is tough to lose a pet but envisioning the sheer terror she faced, locked in a cage with this inferno, is horrible."
But Cudahy apparently had his critics in the dog-training community.
“I’m sorry he is gone," Mike McConnery, who operates Baden K-9 and was involved in an online feud Cudahy had with other trainers some years ago, told the Post. "I don’t know him personally, I never met him. I feel terrible for him and for his family.
“He argued with a lot of people, he was a very passionate man. But I’m sure he was good at what he did or he wouldn’t have lasted in the business for so many years.”
Cudahy's brother, Thomas, said the tragedy has touched a lot of people.
"Sitting here watching this, it's really hard to compute," he said, gazing at the remains of his brother's home. "Whatever they find here isn't going to change the outcome.'