During the widespread wildfires of California’s Bay Area, Roland Hendel was hit with a tough decision. When this family was evacuating from the fire, they weren’t able to get their Great Pyrenees dog Odin to come along. Odin sensed the danger, and decided to stick back to help protect the family’s eight rescue goats. “He was determined to stay with the goats and I had to let him do it,” Hendel said.
Once they were able to safely get away from the fires, Hendel and his family started to mourn what they thought would be the death of their pets. “Hours later when we found relative safety we cried for Odin and our goats,” Hendel said. “I was sure I had sentenced them to a horrific and agonizing death.” When the fires started to dissipate and the Hendel family was able to return home, they were expecting nothing but sadness.
“As many of you know, Ariel, Scott, Stephen and I lost everything we had in the Tubbs fire that devastated our forest home in Sonoma county,” he wrote on social media. “Despite the sounds of exploding propane tanks, twisting metal and the hot swirling winds, Odin refused to leave our family of eight bottle-fed rescue goats.” After returning, Hendel said “We found a burned, battered and weakened Odin, surrounded by his eight goats and several small deer who had come to him for protection and safety. Odin was weak, and limping, his once thick and beautiful coat singed orange, his whiskers melted.”
The Hendel family also has another dog named Tessa, who was able to survive the fires, as well. Tessa was able to go with the family and was reunited with Odin. The reunion between the family and the pets seemed to be short lived, however, as all of the dogs and goats disappeared. The Hendels frantically asked neighbors and those in the area for their help to find the animals, and many were willing to help.
With the community searching for the animals, it was only a couple of days before Odin, Tessa and all eight goats were back at the farm. Hendel wrote that now all of them are together once again, Odin “appears to be getting stronger, and his sister’s presence will surely help to lift his spirits and take some of the burden off his giant shoulders. Also the wonderful volunteers at Sonoma County Fairgrounds gave Odin a check-up and said he is in remarkable health given what he’s been through.”
Hendel added that “He was limping and lying down more often than usual because his poor paw pads are burned, but he will make a full recovery. Tomorrow he gets a shampoo, a grooming and a nice steak. And with that, we are going to enjoy a pizza and a beer and a good night’s rest.”
With many interested in the story, Hendel has been providing updates on Odin’s recovery through social media, sharing live video feeds of his beloved dog. Getting to stay at the fairgrounds, the temporary animal refugee shelter has been the home for Odin and his friends while they all recover. The family also set up a crowdfunding source to help for water and shelter for all of the animals that were affected by the fire, raising tens of thousands of dollars in a short period of time after thousands of shares on social media.
Part of the fundraising effort is going toward rebuilding the barn and the pumphouse that were lost in the fire that were used for shelter and water for the animals. They wanted to make sure that both were rebuilt before the weather started to get cold so that Odin’s “bravery and sacrifice are not in vain.” Those in the area and across the world are now trying to make sure that that doesn’t happen.
The Tubbs fire devastated hundreds of thousands of people, and Hendel’s story wasn’t the only one about pets unexpectedly surviving. Jack Weaver wasn’t able to take his dog Izzy and expected a sad recovery effort when returning home from the fire. Instead, what they found was the Izzy was completely unharmed and started running toward the family when they were coming up the road.
“She was very happy to see us,” Weaver said. “She’s such a brave dog. She was panting a lot and clearly stressed, but she was not frantic or anything.” More than 100 pets were brought to Sonoma County Animal Services due to the fire, hoping to reunite everyone of them with their families that miss them, and there are plenty of people that are willing to contribute to the search until they get home.