After the hurricanes in Texas and Florida, so many of us were horrified at the numbers of animals that were left behind to fend for themselves as owners ran for safety.
We wondered how anyone could live with themselves after doing such a heinous thing.
Natasha Wallace of Santa Rosa, California wondered the same thing. She was sure that she would never be able to leave her best friend, pit bull Bentley, behind.
Sadly, it wasn’t long before Natasha was faced with making the same decision that so many others around the US have had to make recently.
She was studying across town from her home until the wee hours of the morning. When she started heading for home, she saw a glow in the sky and realized that a firestorm was headed straight for her house.
She could have turned around and easily gotten to safety. But, she knew that Bentley was waiting patiently for her at home, not realizing the danger crackling its way towards him.
“I would never part ways with my dog. Ever,” Wallace told FOX 40 later.
So, instead of turning her car away from the fires and towards safety, Wallace raced straight towards it.
When she reached her home, she put 4-year-old Bentley into her car and headed away from the fires.
So did a few thousand other people. She was soon stopped by traffic congestion. And the fire continued to advance.
She realized that there was no way she was going to be able to get her and Bentley both to safety in the car.
Wallace turned the car around, and once again headed it towards the fire and home. As soon as the car stopped, she jumped out and raced into the house. She brought out her bike and a duffel bag.
“It was coming faster than I could leave in traffic, so I went back and got my bike,” Wallace said.
The duffel bag wasn’t stuffed with mementos that some might think to save. No, the duffel bag was to serve as Bentley’s transport for the trip.
In the bottom of the duffel bag was a treasured award she had won during a soccer tournament. Just Bentley and the award in the bag. Her two most precious items.
“I grabbed my dog and I told him, ‘Hey man, this is serious, you need to just sit in the bag.’ And he, he hopped right in,” Wallace said.
She managed to get the 70-pound duffel bag slung across her back. Then, somehow, she climbed on the bike and started pedaling towards safety.
Weaving through stalled traffic and empty cars left behind by panicked drivers, Wallace ferried Bentley away from the flames.
Staying barely a mile ahead of the fires, Wallace persevered. She continued to talk to Bentley, telling him what was happening and what was going on around them.
Through the whole trip, Bentley stayed calm and laid quietly against her back. He seemed to realize that Wallace was expending every bit of energy she had so they could both survive.
Eventually, Paul Johnson, a driver who had managed to avoid the congestion, saw her pedaling along with her heavy burden. He stopped and offered her a ride.
His jaw dropped when Bentley’s head popped out of the duffel bag. He drove them both to safety.
When Wallace was allowed to go back home, she was horrified to see what she and Bentley had both so narrowly avoided.
All that was left of their home was a pile of charred ash.
Revisiting her home after the fire, Wallace knows she made the right choice: all that remains of her former abode are the charred foundations.
“You don’t even see a resemblance of what it used to be,” she said.
But, hugging Bentley and realizing again what they went through together, she knows that the loss of things doesn’t matter. What matters is that they are both alive. And, for now, and for the future, they are together.
Wallace was left with no place to live, and thanks to an insurance issue, no way to pay to even replace her car that she used to get to class and work.
She set up a GoFundMe account to help her and Bentley get back on their feet.
Wallace says, “I kept thinking I could get my life back to normal alone because asking for help isn’t easy but without the proper insurance that is seemingly difficult. Finding a place to live with a bigger dog isn’t cheap but that’s the top priority next to new underwear and soccer cleats.”
No matter what else lies ahead for them, Wallace says she knows now that she can do anything. With Bentley at her side.