By Katie Campbell, Director of Collaboration and Outreach
A co-worker checked in with me following the recent Caldor Fire deployment to see how I was doing. The simple answer I gave her was “it’s complicated.” Here’s the more complex answer…
As I sit here writing this and looking at our Facebook “on the ground” updates (something I usually try to stay away from as tears almost always follow), I smile through a few tears looking at photos. Not because I’m heartbroken, but because the animals and people I encounter on a deployment always fill my heart.
With every walk, every litter pan cleanup, every dish washed, and every donation sorted, my heart grows fuller. With every reunion or pet parent searching for a lost pet, my heart expands tenfold.
It’s inevitable. Happens every time. The resilience of pets and people that I encounter is overwhelming.
So I can’t help but feel a tiny bit of sadness when I have to leave something unfinished, knowing that there were still people and pets not yet reunited. But we do our part.
The animals we care for stick with us. Like big, sweet “Gregor” who enjoyed long walks, short jogs, and just being with a human. Or the Great Dane who caught the eye of every volunteer and staff member with his beautiful silver color and cuddly ways. Or the set of dobies who just wanted to play, and play, and play (luckily I actually got to see them go home to their very excited Dad!). Or the pocket-sized and very playful husky mix who quickly realized where I kept the treats. Or the four members of the “pit crew” who were beyond thrilled to run around with each other in the safety of the pasture play area. Or the playful kittens that I gladly distracted while a teammate provided fresh litter, food, and water (who doesn’t want a kitten crawling all over them?!).
I could go on and on. I have a story for each of the animals I helped care for. Because that’s what we do – we don’t just care for them, we connect with them.
I’m always in awe of our RedRover Responders volunteers and how they simply jump in and do what needs to be done. And despite the smoke-filled air, hundreds of pounds of dirty cat litter, and walking an average of 10 miles a day (no exaggeration), they do it with a smile on their faces. Most importantly, though, they give belly rubs, pats on the head, comfort and affection to all of the animals in their care.
I’m also in awe of the amazing and caring staff of El Dorado County Animal Services and their wonderful volunteers. They showed up day after day ready with tired smiles but ready to do the day’s work. And, as usual, the community at-large stepped up with mounds of needed donations and daily drop-offs of water, gatorade, and ice to keep the humans going.
So, yes, it’s hard to leave when the work is unfinished – but I’ll carry with me each one of the animals and people I encountered, and our intrepid team will do it all again whenever and wherever needed. Most of all, I’ll remain thankful that I’m able to do my part.
The best possible ending for Monument Fire pets: Stories from the ground
Doing my part: Helping animals impacted by wildfires
A lifesaving NextStep
Giving Stray Animals New Life: On the ground in Houston June 24-25