BAR HARBOR, Maine — As investigators continue to look for possible causes of a fatal fire Wednesday afternoon, many residents of Mount Desert Island are expressing sadness and sympathy on social media for the tragic and sudden death of a local veterinarian in the blaze.
Melissa Watership, 46, worked for several years at Acadia Veterinary Hospital in downtown Bar Harbor, providing care for scores of cats and dogs and empathy to their worried owners.
Watership was found alone Wednesday in the kitchen of her Center Street home when firefighters responded to the midafternoon fire, according to a statement released Wednesday night by the Maine Department of Public Safety. She was taken to Mount Desert Island Hospital, one block away from her house, but later died.
Watership was married and had two children. Her husband and children were away when the fire occurred.
Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said in a statement Thursday that the department had no additional details about the fire to release. He said investigators hope to determine a cause for the blaze on Friday.
The staff of Acadia Veterinary Hospital posted a statement about Watership’s death Thursday morning on the clinic’s Facebook page.
“We sadly mourn the passing of Dr. Melissa Watership,” the statement indicated. “Melissa died tragically in a house fire yesterday. Her beloved dog, Jake, also perished. All of us are shocked and deeply saddened by this news.”
Watership’s two children “meant more to her than anything in the world,” they added.
“Melissa’s cat, Zippy, survived the fire, thanks to great efforts by the Bar Harbor Fire Department, and he is doing well and being cared for at Acadia Vet,” the statement continued. “Although Melissa has not worked with us for several months, she was a valued member of our team for four years and will forever be part of our Acadia Vet Family. Her love of animals and great care she gave her patients touched the lives of many in our community. She will be missed by everyone who knew her.”
Zippy the cat was given oxygen by the local fire department through a mask specially designed for cats, according to Dr. Marc Fine, the owner and operator of the animal hospital.
Melissa Carroll, another veterinarian at the clinic, said Zippy’s future is secure. Depending on the wishes of Watership’s family, Carroll said, the cat may live with them, she may adopt Zippy, or he might end up becoming the resident feline at the clinic.
Zippy was at the veterinary clinic on Thursday afternoon, where staff said they are trying to absorb the news of Watership’s sudden death and simultaneously care for Zippy and other patients.
Fine said that Watership was dedicated to her profession and established lasting bonds with her patients and with their owners.
“She was really dedicated to her patients,” he said. “She took each case personally.”
Many more people posted their condolences on Facebook. Dozens of comments were posted below the clinic’s statement and on other similar Facebook posts from pet owners whose animals were treated by Watership.
“My cat, Newton, and I are so sad to hear this,” one commenter wrote. “She was a caring and competent vet when he was hit by a car. My sympathies to her family and the staff at Acadia.”
“Hard to wrap my head around this tragedy this morning,” local resident Peter Beckett posted on Facebook. “The veterinarian who performed my [dog] Jacky’s life-saving splenectomy three years ago died yesterday in a house fire here in town along with her dog. She leaves behind her husband and young twins and a legacy of townspeople whose pets she helped save, heal and comfort. I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to hug her and thank her for saving my dog.”
Sloan Patterson, a veterinary technician who has worked at the clinic for several years, said people have been calling the clinic or stopping by on Thursday, some with flower bouquets, to offer their sympathies. She said they plan to give the flowers to Watership’s family.
The clinic staff has heavy hearts, she added, but remained open on Thursday because they still have animals to care for and wanted people grieving over Watership’s death to be able to come in.
“I know that is the way she would have wanted it,” Patterson said of her former colleague.