There are warning signals for most catastrophic weather events, giving people ample time to gather family, pets, and belongings before heading to safety.
A wildfire gives no warning, however. When fires are raging one single ember can travel over a mile.
If that ember happens to fall in a spot of leaves or other dry material, flames can be licking at your home before you even realize you are in danger.
That’s what happened to the Weaver family. They had gone to bed, grieving for their Northern California neighbors that had lost and were losing everything in the raging wildfires. They had no idea that the winds were shifting and soon they would be in danger’s way.
Awakened in the middle of the night, the Weavers and their neighbors were rushed out of their homes with zero warning. They left in their pajamas with no time to gather even their most precious belongings.
Some animals, frantic from fear and sensing the intense emotions surrounding them, disappeared into the darkness. And, there was no time to search for them or allow them to find their way back home before leaving.
When it comes down to saving your family, or sure death for you all if you wait, the only choice is to go and save what you can.
The Weavers were faced with that horrifying situation when their beloved Bernese Mountain Dog “Izzy” was nowhere to be found when they loaded themselves into the car. They called frantically, but there was no answer.
With flames literally licking at the wheels of their car, they were forced to drive away, leaving Izzy to what they felt was certain death.
They were sicked by the realization of what would almost definitely happen to her. Horrified also by the idea that her last thoughts would be that she had been abandoned.
Days later, the Weaver’s son, Jack Weaver and their son-in-law Patrick Widen started out on a grim journey. They made a long walk around police barricades, through a creek, and up treacherous hilly roads through a world covered in ash and soot, on a mission to recover Izzy’s body.
The family couldn’t stand the thought of scavengers getting to her body before they could give it a proper burial.
When they rounded a corner, Jack swore when he saw the spot where the family home had stood. It was now a barren, grey wasteland. So many memories had been made in that home. Now, there was nothing left.
Except…from out of the ashes came a little bark. And suddenly, there was Izzy. Bounding towards them, tongue lolling, face stretched into a big smile.
“It was just the greatest moment of my life,” said Jack. Both men broke down into tears. Surrounded by the devastation that had been their beautiful family home, nothing mattered except that as Patrick kept saying, “Izzy’s here, Izzy’s here.”
The two men were too stunned for a moment to do much except stare. Then, they gathered the big fuzzy dog into their arms.
“She was very happy to see us,” Weaver said of 9-year-old Izzy. “She’s such a brave dog. She was panting a lot and clearly stressed. But she was not frantic or anything.”
Cellphone service was still quite sketchy in the area, but Jack knew he had to get the news to his mom. She had been grieving for Izzy more than the loss of her home.
He was eventually able to reach his mother, who was staying with relatives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“She just lost it,” Jack said. “She went from being devastated about losing her home to the being the happiest person I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t get home fast enough. She was really, really happy … She’s still shaken up by the whole thing, but she’s in much better spirits now that Izzy is at our house.”
Izzy is pretty happy about things again now too. She did her job though. She stayed behind and took care of things until her family returned. No matter what.
The men took her to be checked out before taking her home. A veterinarian at Sonoma County Animal Services said Izzy was fine.
The thick coat of the Bernese Mountain Dog was initially intended to keep them warm on the Swiss Alps and protect them from the dangers of guarding livestock. In Izzy’s case, that thick fur insulated her against the intense heat, saving her life.
No will ever know exactly how she survived. The family is just overjoyed that she did. They are all back together again.
Although Izzy survived with no apparent damage, not all animals left behind were so lucky. Many did not survive the fires. Many succumbed later to horrifyingly painful injuries.
At Sonoma County Animal Services, veterinarians and assistants are caring for 64 cats and 44 dogs, almost all fire victims. Cats generally have the most severe injuries, including smoke inhalation, burned paws or singed fur and whiskers.
“The severity is often terrible,” said Dr. Katie McKenzie, the lead veterinarian. “Their paw pads are burned off. Or if they aren’t, they come off in the days following. So our goal is to treat them, to remove the tissue that is too burned to be saved and to provide them with pain medication and bandaging.”
Shelter workers update their website every hour with photos of the pets they’ve rescued, and they’re fielding frantic calls from worried pet owners searching for their furry companions. Twenty-five animals have been reunited with their owners, said Monica Argenti, a spokeswoman for the shelter, which is run by the county.
The Weavers know exactly how those 25 families feel after being reunited with a pet they believed to have perished in the fires. And their heart hurts for those that got bad news, remembering how they felt when they believed Izzy was gone.
They hold her close now, grateful that she was one of the lucky few.
Source: ABC News