CALGARY – Clients of a Calgary dog sitter are rallying behind the woman after a fire in her home killed eight of the nine dogs in her care.

Kelli and Marty Lapointe say they have been sending their dog to stay with Karen Zerr for days at a time. They believe she’s received some unfair online backlash and wanted to set the record straight. The Lapointes say Zerr loved the animals as if they were her own.

The fire department responded to the 1000 block of Ranchlands Boulevard in the northwest around 11 p.m. Monday after a woman returned home and found heavy smoke.

"She risked her own life to go in," said Kelli Lapointe. "She told us she didn't even care to find out where the fire was, if there was one, she just wanted to get the dogs out."

When fire crews arrived they found the blaze had put itself out due to a lack of oxygen but the house was filled with smoke. Officials say seven of the nine dogs inside at the time were killed and two others were taken to an emergency veterinary clinic. One of the animals later died, while the other was returned to its owner. 

"As much support as Karen has gotten online from some people, you know they can feel and identify with her pain, there are others who don’t and have made inferences around the fact that there’s so many dogs, and it must be a crazy dog lady," said Marty Lapointe. "We really wanted to help set the record straight that that’s not the case."

The Lapointes say Zerr had left her house to pick up her daughter and care for another dog when she returned home to find her house full of smoke. 

Kelli Lapointe says they’d actually picked up their own dog hours before the blaze broke out and received a frantic call from Zerr shortly after returning home. 

"She’s just such an unconditional person and for us, no matter what happened, regardless of what happened, we wouldn’t hesitate to take our dog back to Karen to look after him because we know that she can be trusted."

According to the Lapointes, four of the dogs that died belonged to Zerr and her family, while the other four dogs belonged to clients.

The Lapointes started a GoFundMe campaign to help Zerr as she can’t return to her home or work for now. 

Investigators believe the fire started in the kitchen but the exact cause has not been confirmed.