Although it’s a long road to full recovery from wildfires this fall, many animals hastily rescued from the path of the fires have been returned to their families.
Some, however, whose homes were destroyed and whose humans are struggling with how or whether to rebuild, are in limbo.
Alana Curtis, who organized efforts to bring hundreds of animals out of fire zones, is now host to a small group of farm animals with an intriguing back story. Guido the mini-donkey, Boo-Baa the sheep, and five goats (Daisy, Blanch, Rene, Maple and Walnut) have settled into her property in rural Vacaville and are quickly recovering from the trauma of the fire and evacuation.
Guido the mini-donkey was the animal hero of the story.
With fire rapidly encroaching, police awoke his owner, an elderly woman, by breaking her door down. They gave her a few minutes to gather up absolute necessities and her dogs before carrying her to safety.
In the meantime, Guido was looking out for his animal family. The intrepid donkey led the sheep and goats to an irrigated patch of ground, undoubtedly saving their lives, Curtis said.
When rescuers reached them, the fire had burned to within 30 feet around the spot where they sought refuge. Boo-Baa the sheep had suffered singed fleece and other burns, and was black with smoke.
Curtis didn’t think Boo-Baa was going to make it, but veterinary care, food and TLC put her back on her feet – er, hooves.
Now Boo-Baa has taken her place among Curtis’s menagerie. The goats already living there appear to give Boo-Baa her due respect as an elder.
“They let her eat – they kind of know she’s the boss and they let her do her thing,” Curtis said.
The fires inspired many resourceful responses from both humans and animals.
Curtis said her involvement started when a friend asked if she could bring an evacuated horse to her stables. From there it snowballed, with information being shared on social media among friends and acquaintances in the Central California horse community.
Volunteers with trailers swooped in wherever they could safely go to respond to reports of animals stranded by wildfire when their families had to evacuate quickly. After organizing the rescue of 42 horses, she got word that an evacuation center where more than 100 horses were stabled had to be evacuated.
In short order, volunteers with 60 trailers arrived to load up and carry the horses out of danger once again.
Since Curtis has the space on the Vacaville property where she retrains racehorses as saddle horses, she housed a number of animals there during the crisis. Most have gone home, but Guido & company remain. Their elderly owner is uncertain whether she will rebuild.
Fortunately, Curtis sees permanent adoption of the seven critters who ended up with her as a small matter of a bit more grain per week in her budget.
The goats are handy at weed control, she said. Goats are also natural comedians, providing many hours of free entertainment for themselves and others.
“They run around, leap, head-butt, climb…” Curtis said.
Not all the evacuated animals are so lucky. Curtis said some animals, particularly older ones, have not been claimed and are looking for new homes, a difficult enough prospect for more commonly adopted dogs and cats.