Article first published in Winter 2019 Companion magazine

When the Camp Fire first broke out in Butte County, California, about 90 miles from the RedRover office, we had no idea it would grow to such massive proportions…and become the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history to date.

From November 19-24, 2018, our RedRover Responders team assisted North Valley Animal Disaster Group at the Chico Airport Animal Shelter, providing daily care and comfort for hundreds of animals displaced by the fire. Our volunteers not only walked and fed dogs, cleaned kennels and cared for cats and chickens, but also helped organize community donations and assisted Camp Fire survivors in reuniting with their pets. Our volunteers spent Thanksgiving Day on the ground, giving special thanks to the community and organizations who generously donated food and supplies for the volunteers as well as the animals.

The best moments were witnessing the reunions between pets and their people. One family who had lost their home came to visit their eight-year-old cat, Analayah, and couldn’t stop thanking us for the work we were doing. We said goodbye to a dog named Louie whose owner arrived the day after Thanksgiving, and later to Pepper, a beautiful black cat who was so happy to be in her owner’s arms again.

When a Camp Fire survivor named Dana arrived to take home her six-month-old puppy, Bully, she told us how her three-year-old son sleeps with Bully every night. “Those two are so close,” she said as she waited patiently for a volunteer to bring her puppy. When Bully appeared and was placed in her arms, the pup couldn’t contain his joyful licks and wiggles. We’re so happy to know that, because of compassionate supporters like you, a three-year-old boy has been reunited with his best friend. 

For RedRover Responders volunteer Claudia, the whole experience — which she described as  “very rewarding and very emotional” — put into perspective what truly matters. “Everybody wants to do something in some small way,” she told us. “It’s tragic, but it puts back into the picture frame what’s important. The kindness and generosity are so refreshing, it gives you a whole new perspective.”

Of course, it’s hard not to get attached to the animals. Claudia was particularly affected by a sweet Border Collie. “And then his person came, and it was so delightful to see him so happy,” she said. “That’s why we’re here. It’s not for us, it’s for them.”

For more deployment stories and photos, follow us on Facebook: facebook.com/RedRover.org.