4 Uplifting Stories of People and Animals Coming Together During the Wildfires

Rescues, miracles and comfort dogs demonstrate the healing power behind the human-animal bond.

Posted in , Oct 1, 2020

Kerith the golden retriever and firefighters

As active fires continue to burn throughout the western U.S., families and communities face immense hardship and stress. Thousands of residents in California, Oregon and Washington are being forced to evacuate their homes and flee extreme danger brought upon by dry conditions and high winds.

The fires have not only brought strangers together to spread support and kindness, but also highlight the special human and animal connection through the many rescues and miracles that have taken place in recent weeks.

Here are four of our favorite uplifting animal moments worth sharing.

Golden Retriever Therapy Dog Offers Comfort to California Firefighters

A 2-year-old golden retriever named Kerith is providing emotional support to firefighters as they take on the 2,500-acre Woodward wildfire in California. The certified crisis response therapy dog visits the Woodward and Creek Fire base camps, two heavily impacted locations, where she greets and interacts with the emergency responders daily, according to reports.

Kerith, who was raised as a guide dog for the visually impaired, proved to be a great therapy dog at 14-months-old instead, thanks to her affectionate and energetic personality. She began visiting patients and medical staff at a local hospital, where she formed a bond with firefighters who invited her to visit their stations.

She now visits the base camps every morning at 6 a.m., while crew members prepare for their 24-hour shift ahead and as others are returning from the previous day's shift. Her visits are captured on her Instagram account, which currently has over 12,000 followers who often comment how grateful they are to Kerith for her daily dose of joy and inspiration. According to Heidi Carmen, Kerith’s owner, the dog matches the firefighters’ energies by rolling a ball or playing with an excited firefighter or simply staying calm and sitting closely to somebody who seems stressed or withdrawn.

"She makes people feel loved, special and important,” Carmen told CNN. “One firefighter told me 'Kerith has the uncanny ability to make me feel like I am the most important person in the world.'"

Facebook Group Becomes Dispatch System for Oregon Farmers

As wildfires continue to close in on homes and farms in Oregon, thousands of people are forced to evacuate, having no choice but to leave their animals behind. That’s when Katie Schrock, the Vice President of Benton County’s Rodeo Committee, stepped in to help. Inspired by Cowboy 911, the group created to assist with the California wildfires, Schrock created Cowgirl 911, a Facebook group serving as a dispatch system to save Oregon livestock.

“We think we’ve helped over probably 20,000 animals at this point,” Schrock told an NBC affiliate in Portland, Oregon. “It’s mind-blowing.”

The Facebook group currently has over 19,000 members who either post about their need of assistance or offer help for displaced animals. Cowgirl 911 has relocated nearly $10 million worth of livestock while also supplying forage, grain and facilities or hauling resources to those in need. 

20 Horses Miraculously Survive California Wildfires

Patty Hyslop was forced to evacuate her horse sanctuary, Hyslop Horse Haven, due to the Valley Fire that spread to 17,665 acres in San Diego in a span of 11 days. Hyslop tried to get as many of her 24 horses out before the property was engulfed in flames but was forced to leave some behind. The following day, Hyslop returned expecting to find her horses severely injured or dead, but was surprised to find each horse alive and well.

“I think it was a lot of luck. I think the horses, between that and God blessing us with horse angels,” she told an ABC affiliate in San Diego, California.

After losing her sanctuary to the blaze, which destroyed eight sheds containing thousands of dollars worth of food, medication and equipment, Hyslop is relying on a GoFundMe to purchase supplies and rebuild her operation. She hopes to continue operating the sanctuary and helping animals affected by the fires.

Man Rescues Over 1,000 Animals Left Behind During Evacuations

Blake Cadigan, of Clovis, California, is using his skills and transportation equipment for good by evacuating animals left behind in the River Fire of Monterey County. With the help of volunteers, Cadigan is bringing animals of all shapes and sizes, such as horses, pigs, sheep and donkeys, to safety. He transports horses for his business, Evolution Quarter Horses, and is using his own trailers for transportation and paying out of pocket for the animals’ food.

"If you're able to come help and have the experience like we do, how are you going to sit at home? You can't do that,” Cadigan told an ABC affiliate in Fresno, California. “You got to go out here and help these people. Help your friends and families.”

In just three days, Cadigan has saved more than a thousand animals from the wildfires. Although resources are running thin, he hopes that through donations made at the Evolution Quarter Horses Facebook page, he and his team can continue saving animals and reuniting them with their owners.

“That’s the best part of it, when we see their owners that are so thankful that, I know it kind of sounds corny, but it kinda of melts your heart a little bit and that’s what makes it all worth it,” he told Your Central Valley.

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