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'He's a true survivor' | Dog reunited with family 101 days after Camp Fire

A group of volunteers and a dog-trapper found Kingston and brought him home.

PARADISE, Calif. — More than 100 days after the Camp Fire started in Paradise, a dog named Kingston was found and reunited with his family.

Maleah Ballejos' mind was racing as she waited for Kingston to come out of the shelter he was staying inside.

When Kingston came outside, Maleah ran right over to him and gave him a big hug. "Hi, baby," she said through tears.

Credit: Madison Meyer
Maleah Ballejos is back with her beloved dog Kingston

Kingston went missing as the Ballejos family was evacuating their home in Paradise after he jumped out of the back of their truck.

He took off running and because the fire was so dangerous and chaotic, the family held onto hope he survived. 

"When I found out, [it] just about brought me to tears," said Gabriel Ballejos, Kingston's owner. "I'm so proud of him. I can't believe it. He's a true survivor, and it's a testament to the American spirit."

Ballejos said his family never lost hope. They put up flyers, contacted shelters after the fire and also searched on their own. 

One-hundred and one days later, they got a call he was found safe. Ben Lepe, a dog-trapper, was able to secure Kingston in his trap and take him to the local rescue group Friends of Camp Fire Cats. 

Credit: Ben Lepe

"He was lost and he found his way and he survived, and it's amazing and special and so thankful and grateful to have him home again," Ballejos said. 

Kingston's family believe he survived by eating skunks, because when he was picked up, he smelt just like them.

Friends of Camp Fire Cats has a mission to find as many lost pets as possible. 

"Altogether, [we've found] 200 since we've started," said one member of the group. 

For the group, reuniting lost pets with their family is the best feeling. 

"For people that have lost everything to be able to reunite them with an animal they thought they lost is the light at the end of the tunnel and gives them the hope they need," said Hannah Braden. 

Hope is restored for the Ballejos family. They have their Kingston back, and they have a pretty amazing story to tell. 

"It's an unbelievable story," Ballejos said. "101 days he went missing he's still here and used his survival skills and he's a true survivor."

Continue the conversation with Madison on Facebook.


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