The Story of Jean Luc and the Mile 26 Dogs

Earlier we blogged about the efforts of many volunteers and rescues to help the dogs stranded in the bush at Mile 26, near Cochrane, Ontario.

Loving foster homes are needed urgently for these dogs as soon as possible, so that the four co-operating rescues can go in and bring out more dogs.

Here is the story of Jean Luc Levesque, who lived at a remote train stop and who, on May 21, 2010, died attempting to save puppies in his care.

The following account is copied from the Moosonee Puppy Rescue website:

A man named Jean Luc Levesque had lived by himself in the bush north of Cochrane for years. When he retired from the Ontario Northland Railroad, he took in dogs no one else wanted. Some dogs were taken to him and some he found himself. He was well known in the area and was known as “the man at train stop number 26”. The only way to reach his property was by train and and since there is only one Polar Bear Express, that meant being dropped off at 9 am and waiting for the train’s return from Moosonee at either 10 pm that night or the following day if it was a stop over.

Over the years, Jean Luc had accumulated close to 200 dogs. In the beginning, he just took females but in the end he somehow had five or six males. The unwanted dogs given to him would not have been spayed or neutered, and he could not have afforded that many procedures himself, not to mention the logistics of transporting that many dogs to and from a vet. His colony of dogs grew.

Several people had complained to the SPCA about the number of dogs he had. Even the best of intentions can get out of hand and that is what was happening at “mile 26”. The Ontario Northland Railroad had reported to the SPCA that, on too many occasions, dogs had been hit by the train as it passed, and other individuals were concerned that adequately managing over 100 dogs was simply too much for one person. The SPCA did not share the concerns of others so, year after year, Jean Luc was left to do the best he could with a growing number of dogs.

On May 21st, Jean Luc died when his cabin caught fire. The train had stopped to offload supplies for him and the conductor saw him running in and out of his cabin while it burned all around him. Authorities were notified and Jean Luc was found just outside his cabin lying face down in the dirt with an armful of puppies. He had tried to save as many litters as possible before they perished inside the cabin. His body was burned badly.

The cabin fire started a bush fire so planes had to fly overhead to drop water bombs in an attempt to to extinguish it. Close to 200 dogs were being terrified by fire and traumatized by planes dropping water bombs on or near them. Even then, the SPCA did nothing.

I heard of Jean Luc’s death and waited to hear what needed to be done. Originally the SPCA said they would go in to the property but, since it was a long weekend, they decided to wait until the following Tuesday to do so. We knew the dogs had separated into two packs – one friendly and one feral. The feral pack was attacking the others now that there was no one to stand in their way. Because the friendly dogs were in mourning, as well as feeling fear they would have shown weakness to the more wild dogs. Bears had been seen coming in as well so many of the dogs were mere prey to them as well.

The train had always meant their master’s return or food being brought in so when they heard it they instinctively ran to greet it. The problem was that it no longer slowed at their stop so when they stood on the tracks as they always had they were hit and killed.

All this was taking place and still the SPCA saw no need to go in immediately. On Tuesday May 25th, a representative of the SPCA and an OPP constable flew over the property to observe the dogs. They determined that all the dogs and all the puppies were feral so there was no reason for a rescue effort. Rescue organizations that had been waiting to help with the dogs were told the matter was now an investigation and that no information would be shared. All the while, the dogs waited.

Moosonee Puppy Rescue, Northern Ontario Animal Welfare Society and two other rescues in the North rescue and care for the Mile 26 dogs. They have taken out, as of July 21, 2010, approximately 60 dogs.

Please go to their Facebook page, (search Mile 26 Dogs) and see photos and video of the dogs as they have been brought down to the rescues. They have been helped tremendously by Ontario Northland Railway.

If you can help by fostering, adopting, contributing funds or food, please get in touch with the rescue group, Northern Ontario Animal Welfare Society.

What can you do to help?

Email: adoptions
Office: 1-519-541-9945 (Lydia – Mile 26 Rescue Contact)
1-705-360-0930 (NOAWS)
Address: Box 51, Iroquois Falls, ON, P0K 1G0
Facebook – Look up “ Mile 26 dogs”


12 responses to “The Story of Jean Luc and the Mile 26 Dogs

  1. We have just adopted one of these dogs. Leggo was hurt at some point and saved by Jean Luc. Our new addition is very loving and we feel fortunate to now be able to offer him a home. We encourage anyone to adopt an animal from a shelter. These animals need your love and will give you unconditional love back without question. Welcome home Leggo!

  2. Congrats on getting Leggo. If he is the Leggo my wife and I know you got him from All Heart’s Pet Rescue in Powassan. We also have brought home a puppy from A.H.P.R, Moonshine. Moonshine is a puppy from Moonbeam who came from Mile 26. She was born on July 22 and she was the only pup in the litter. We got her on Oct 24, likely just before you got Leggo and our home will never be the same (for the better).

  3. Both of you are so lucky to have these dogs in your life, I’m watching this story, and having a rescue dog myself ( from Moosonee Puppy Rescue, but not from Mile 26 ) I know the joy that you are in for. If I had room I would be lined up to get one of these dogs. They truly are amazing!!

  4. My wife and I also got a puppy from the mile 26 group . His name is Woody and he is now almost 6 months old and growing like a weed . He is an excellant young pup who went through his own little story as well . The OSPCA dropped the ball and is now trying to take credit for those dogs saved . Even tried to tell there lies on a Hamilton t.v. station a few weeks ago but the public outcry was so strong that the truth came out afterwards . Needless to say that organization needs provincail oversight which will hopefully happen on Nov 18th at Queen’s Park regarding a bill to be presented over this idea . This Liberal government dropped the ball a couple of yrs ago by passing bill # 50 into law which gave that organization sweeping powers which they have been abusing for yrs now . The hard working people who have actually been going up there day after day , week after week are those animal sescue groups who deserve a metal from this government instead of road blocks from the OSPCA people . Woody has been a wonderful addition to our family and he has three cat’s to hang out with and play . Getting Woody and supporting these organizations have been something special for me and my wife . Check out the mile 26 dogs on facebook as well , and purchase a 2011 calendar for only $ 10.00 dollars with the mony going towards the help of these animals ……………… Michael.F

  5. I adopted Iceland, now known as Honey in August. She was dog number 10 rescued from Mile 26. She is by far the most appreciative, well mannered, humble little girl that I have met and I truly adore her. There is nothing more joyful then to see this timid little girl wiggle her body, wag her tail, smile and ” squeek” when she is overcome with excitement and happiness. She has opened my eyes to a much larger problem with abandoned, defenseless, abused dogs waiting for rescue and loving homes. They all deserve a chance. I am so happy to have Honey in my life.

  6. Please avoid tragedy. Do NOT let any of your Mile 26 dogs off leash as they will likely bolt and are high flight risks given how they ran free once upon a time.

    It is NOT worth the pain and suffering in your heart and the danger posed to your puppy. It is our responsibility to keep our animals safe from harm.

  7. I am looking for an adult dog of medium size who gets along with other dogs. I currently have a 10 year old neutered poodle. Can you tell me if there are any of these dogs still left needing homes.
    Jan in Elora (near Guelph)

  8. Jan, you can contact the Northern Ontario Animal Welfare Society to see if they have available dogs. Some dogs were also shipped south to Clarington.
    You can also follow their Facebook page: Save the Dogs at Mile 26.

  9. There are also a couple of the Mile 26 dogs at All Heart Pet Shelter in Powassan and a couple at Petsave Rescue in Sudbury. All adults.

  10. I adopted Ginger aka dog #60 – the last dog they took out of there. She’s a handfull I tell ya! Taking her to dog training. I love her sooooo much. Thanks to those who rescued these lovable pups.

  11. Denise Cochrane

    Hi! I did not know this story until now. I adopted little Cocco at 5 weeks old from the Clarington Animal Shelter in September 2010. Her mamma was Sophia and we are thinking that her dad might be Gardiner. I have been trying to find out what breed her father might have been, and in talking to the staff at the animal shelter, the full story of Cocco’s background has come to light. She will be turning 1 on July 18th, and is a very welcomed addition to our family. She is full of beans, super intelligent, friendly, and just wants to please. She is a little nervous, and will not leave my side. Since she has been a pup I have been able to walk her out back of our house, if she gets to far ahead she will look back and wait for me to catch up. I have no fear of her taking off on me….she is my little shadow! She loves our 13 year old male dog, and our 2 little boys. She gives us endless kisses!! She is very nuturing. She hounds our cat like crazy, sometimes I think she thinks he is her chew toy! But he tolerates her, and leaves when he has had enough! I think she just looks at him to play with her as our older dog is passed the play stage in life (although he will play tug of war with her!). This story breaks my heart, and I hope that the dogs, feral or not can be helped. They all deserve a chance. They are mans best friend!

  12. Ella Blue of Mile 26 joined our pack in September 2011. She had been adopted out in December 2010, but was returned to the Timmins and District Humane Society in September 2011 by her adopters. Ella Blue has been welcomed into our home by Honey (aka Iceland of Mile 26) and my other dog Roxy. She is the sweetest girl ever and my family and I are very lucky to have her come into our lives. Our family is now complete.

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