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'He was more than just my dog': Pet owner shares heartbreak of losing puppy after Ponderosa fire

Georgia Quiroz says her 7-month-old puppy, Goose, helped her cope when she recently experienced a tragedy in her life.

GEORGETOWN, Texas — Blue eyes, soft cuddles and extra hugs – these are the memories Georgia Quiroz and her puppy, Goose, created during the short six months they had together. 

Goose was one of the 75 pets who perished in the fire at Ponderosa Pet Resort over the weekend. Quiroz sent him there for a few weeks of training.

Quiroz said those six months were more than enough time for Goose to leave a paw print on her heart, especially when she experienced tragedy recently. 

"There are times where I didn't want to get out of bed or I didn't want to go outside because how traumatic the past event was, and Goose just kind of made me do those things," she said.

Goose was the reason she saw the sunlight and got fresh air. Now, she is trying to process the pain again – this time, without him.

Quiroz is just one of the 59 families impacted by this tragedy who want answers.

"I felt like Ponderosa was a good facility. I trusted them," she said.

The process of returning pets to their owners started on Monday, KVUE confirmed with Georgetown Vet Hospital, which is donating its time to help families reunite with the remains of their pets.

Rainbow Bridge Pet Crematory, as well as its neighbor company, Rainbow Bridge of Texas, is also offering free cremation services to the families involved.

The Georgetown Fire Department deemed the fire an accident and is investigating the cause. Ponderosa also hired an independent third-party investigator to help in the investigation, according to an email the facility sent to pet owners.

In a video released by Georgetown Fire Department on Monday, Fire Chief John Sullivan explained the building did not violate any local, state or national fire codes. However, that does not excuse what happened, he said. 

"We are looking at ways we can try to encourage change, not only here locally but across the country. So we will be reviewing some amendments with our council later this fall," Sullivan said.

The International Fire Code, or Red Book, provides consistent standards across the country. However, according to Sullivan, the code is "silent" when it concerns animal occupancies, which fall under business occupancy.

"We see that a normal business occupancy, such as a bank, is much different than it would be for an animal shelter," Sullivan said.

Georgetown Fire will review amendments with the city council this fall to improve fire standards.

Carl Wren, a fire protection engineer with the City of Georgetown for a year, who has 30 years of experience in the field, will help lead these efforts.

In the same video posted on Monday, Wren explained the International Code goes through a development and modification process every three years.

The International Code Council will meet this week to vote on the 2024 fire and building code. Wren plans to represent the City of Georgetown Fire Department in the process.

As a pet owner, Quiroz hopes this facilitates change, including the requirement of fire alarms and 24/7 surveillance at pet facilities. 

While officials push for change, for now, Quiroz just wants one last reunion with Goose. 

"I want proper closure with my dog," Quiroz said.

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