There’s nothing worse than losing a pet, and the thought of a beloved animal being alone in an unfamiliar or even dangerous place is one that no pet owner can bare. Most of us would give anything — even risk our lives — to protect our furry friends.
That’s why a California woman who lost her two dogs amidst the chaos of a natural disaster enlisted the help of a local hero to search for her pets after the crisis had passed. But when the rescuer started her search, not even she was prepared for what she found…
In November of 2018, the most destructive wildfire in California history ripped through the Golden State, decimating everything in its path. The blaze, known as the Camp Fire, destroyed 153,336 acres of land and caused between $7.5-$10 billion dollars in damages.
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The Camp Fire was also the deadliest in the state’s history and the sixth-deadliest U.S. wildfire overall. After scouring the rubble of the almost 19,000 buildings and structures consumed by the fire, authorities reported a staggering 86 casualties.
Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times
Of the communities ravaged by the blaze, however, none were more affected than the town of Paradise. All 27,000 residents were evacuated from their homes as the fire proceeded to destroy 95 percent of all buildings in the community.
During the mad dash to escape the flames, the citizens of Paradise had little time to gather their possessions. Yet while the choice made by many to leave behind clothes, furniture, and even cars was surely a difficult one, there were others forced to sacrifice far more than just their valuables…
For Andrea Gaylord, the decision to abandon the home that had been in her family for ten generations was one of the hardest she’d ever made. But even as she watched as the century-old home went up in flames, something else made her heart ache more.
As the Camp Fire made its way through Paradise, Andrea’s guard dogs, Madison and Miguel, had taken off and vanished without a trace. Though she and her husband had searched tirelessly for their beloved pets, the encroaching blaze forced the couple to flee, leaving the fate of the dogs unknown.
Andrea and her husband fled to a nearby shelter, where, alongside hundreds of other evacuees, they waited for the fire to be extinguished. All the while, thoughts of Madison and Miguel never left her mind.
Finally, after 17 days of non-stop firefighting, the raging Camp Fire blaze was contained. Like her fellow Paradise residents, Andrea was eager to return home, hoping somehow her dogs had survived. But when she and her husband attempted to leave the shelter, they were told that Paradise was still too unsafe to return to.
That’s when she contacted Shayla Sullivan of K9 Paw Print Rescue, who had actively been rescuing lost pets from areas affected by the Camp Fire. After learning of the situation, Shayla vowed to do whatever she could to reunite Andrea with Madison and Miguel.
Shayla Sullivan / Facebook
However, as soon as Shayla began her search, she received word of a dog matching Madison’s and Miguel’s descriptions wandering through the small city of Citrus Heights near Sacramento. The city was 85 miles south of Paradise.
Shayla drove down there, and when she arrived, she was stunned to find the dog described to her was, in fact, Miguel! Unbelievably, the dog had traveled from Andrea’s home in Paradise and had been picked up by another local rescue organization.
Andrea was overjoyed when she heard the news about Miguel, but Shayla wasn’t satisfied with finding just one of the two pooches. And so, loading up her car once more, Shayla headed for Paradise.
The roads were barely navigable as Shayla made her way through the once-vibrant town, a graveyard of charred homes and vehicles peering out at her from beneath the ashes of burnt treetops. Forget dogs for a second: with so much destruction, was it possible anything could’ve survived out here?
Upon reaching Andrea’s burned-down property, however, Shayla got her answer. As she surveyed the scorched earth, Shayla noticed movement in the pile of rubble that was once the hundred-year-old home. She approached, her heart beating wildly…
It was Madison! Apparently, the faithful guard dog had returned after the fire had been extinguished and was now sitting watch of his former home! But even with the dog alive and well, there was still one challenge that Shayla would have to face.
Being that Madison was no lover of strangers, the wary dog immediately took off when Shayla approached him (some guard dog!). Shayla knew, if she wasn’t able to catch Madison, the dog would surely perish from a lack of food and water. Shayla needed a plan.
So after leaving some fresh water and a bowl of food out for Madison, Shayla returned to Andrea to share the good news and relay her difficulty in catching him. The pair was stumped over the predicament but devised the perfect method for luring the protective pup back home.
Using an article of Andrea’s clothing, Shayla used the smell to calm Madison and draw her back to the property. And when the guard dog returned, he found his owners and brother waiting there for him!
The tearful reunion was marked by excited licks and yelps from Madison, who was then fed a hefty bag of his favorite treat — Wheat Thins. Even in the face of catastrophe, Madison stayed loyal to his family and protected the home at all costs.
Animal loyalty combined with their intuition is one of the strongest forces on Earth. And those natural instincts are exactly what is needed in a pressing situation. Just ask this California mom…
When Nana Chaichanhda of Stockton, California brought a baby pit bull named Sasha into her home, she initially had reservations. With her seven-month-old daughter Masailah also in the house, Nana was nervous about how the dog would behave around her baby girl.
aree rodriguez / Flickr
But Nana was convinced that, with the proper training, Sasha would grow to be the perfect playmate for Masailah. As it turns out, Nana’s intuition was completely right.
With each passing day, the bond between Sasha and Masailah grew until the two became inseparable. In fact, Sasha was so protective of Masailah that the dog wouldn’t even let her take a bubble bath alone!
Now that Sasha had officially become part of the family, it wasn’t uncommon to find her snuggled up in bed alongside Nana and Masailah. But one fateful night, Nana decided to do things differently…
On June 6, 2018, Nana decided to let Sasha sleep outside in the backyard. Being that it was a warm summer’s night, Nana figured that the dog would enjoy getting out of the stuffy apartment and into the fresh air.
Soon after putting Sasha outside, Nana took Masailah to their bedroom and the pair was asleep within minutes. But it wasn’t long before Nana was stirred awake by an unexpected sound: a dog barking.
Erika B. / Flickr
At first, Nana wrote off the barking as that of a neighbor’s dog. After all, Sasha had never been one to bark, especially as loud as the dog outside.
But as the frantic barking continued, Nana knew that something was wrong. She hurried downstairs and threw open the back door, where her fears were confirmed.
Even when she was back inside the house, Sasha still wouldn’t calm down. It was like she was desperate to get Nana’s attention at all costs! When that didn’t work, Sasha tried another tactic…
Suddenly, the dog made a mad dash for the upstairs bedroom where Masailah was still sleeping. But before Nana could chase after her, the sight of something outside stopped her in her tracks.
To Nana’s horror, large flames were spewing out of the apartment complex next door. Worse yet, the blaze was quickly spreading toward her own unit!
Before she could even think, the fire had now reached her apartment complex and was growing rapidly. With only moments to spare, Nana rushed upstairs to save Sasha and Masailah.
When she reached the bedroom, Nana was stunned at what she found. Not only was Sasha completely calm in the face of such great danger, but she was trying to save Masailah as well!
Gripping the infant by her diaper, Sasha had managed to pull Masailah out of her crib and was carefully trying to drag her out of the room. Nana grabbed Sasha and the baby and dashed out of the apartment.
As soon as Nana and her family had safely left the building, she called 911. The fire department arrived within minutes, and after rescuing the remaining tenants in the apartment complex, they began fighting the massive fire.
It took several hours for firefighters to completely extinguish the blaze, but when the smoke finally cleared, the tenants were relieved to find that many of the units hadn’t suffered severe damage. However, the same couldn’t be said for Nana.
Because Nana’s apartment had been so close to the initial fire, her entire unit, and everything in it, was destroyed. With their home and their possessions lost, Nana and her family were forced to move in with her aunt. But that’s not all…
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Nana’s aunt’s apartment building didn’t allow pets, so Sasha had to be separated from Masailah and kept with another family member. Even though Nana brings Masailah to visit often, it’s clear that Sasha really misses her best friend.
Since the fire, a GoFundMe campaign was started in order to help Nana and her family rebuild their lives. They’re still trying to pick up the pieces of what they once had, but Nana knows that without Sasha, she and Masailah wouldn’t be here today.
“Without her, we probably would’ve never made it out,” Nana said of her heroic dog. “I owe Sasha my life… she saved us all. She is our hero.”