By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A fire on Thursday morning claimed the lives of more than a dozen dogs near St. Francis. The dogs were part of a kennel of award-winning Australian Shepherds that competed across the country.

“This is the greatest, smartest dog you’ll ever meet. He will run in the yard with you all day and then lay by your feet by the fire,” Phil Organ said.

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To Phil and Jodi Dovel, Australian Shepherds are the very definition of “man’s best friend.” Jodi Dovel has bred them, raised them, and trained them for more than 20 years.

“They’ve won awards all over,” she said.

But just before noon on Thursday morning, while they were working, Phil Dovel got a call that their home was on fire.

“I called her and raced home but by the time I got there the house was engulfed in flames. There’s nothing we could do,” he said.

Twelve of their Australian Shepherds were inside, along with a friend’s dog. Despite firefighters’ best efforts, there were no survivors.

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“When you see everything you’ve worked for go up in flames, it grabs your heart,” Phil Dovel said.

“It’s not something you’d ever expect. It’s not something you’d wish on your worst enemy,” Jodi Dovel said.

Two of their dogs weren’t home during the fire, they were with a handler in Oklahoma. The Dovels said they plan on rebuilding in more ways than one.

While the fire marshal investigates what happened, they are mourning the loss of dogs that ranged in age from 8 months to 11 years.

“To know they couldn’t get out was really heart-wrenching. A house is just stuff, but they are irreplaceable. That’s our family,” they said.

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A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the Dovel family.

John Lauritsen