When the Camp Fire approached Bill and Andrea Gaylord’s 80-acre ranch they had only minutes to evacuate. They attempted to bring their two Anatolian Shepherd dogs, Miguel and Madison, to safety but both dogs ran off to protect the property, and they were forced to leave without them.
The Camp Fire burned over 153,000 acres, destroying buildings and tearing apart families. Many people, like the Gaylords, were forced to leave their pets and were uncertain about their fate. However, organizations in the area had volunteers who were willing to check on pets. Bill and Andrea, extremely worried about her dogs, had called K9 Paw Print Rescue and requested that someone check to see if Miguel and Madison were okay. The task fell to Shayla Sullivan, who drove out to the neighborhood to see if the dogs could be found.
Finding the address was difficult. The fire had destroyed the area, which Shalya describes as “pitch black and desolate.” Workers in the area had spotted the two dogs, so she was certain they had survived the fire, but she hoped to bring them back to the rescue and reunite them with Bill and Andrea.
In a Facebook post, Shayla describes the first few days of her search,
“Poor babies I was sure were close, still guarding the ashes of their home.
“We didn’t have any luck so we left some food by the gate. Later I called the owner to let her know we had been there. She explained a little more what her place was like. The way she was seeing it was much different than my view. I tried to concentrate on details that were still there such as asphalt and a black iron gate. I knew immediately that we hadn’t gone far enough in, so I made the notes to return to the correct place the next day.
“This became my ticket and each day I talked to Ann (Andrea.) I kept the “difficult “ tickets as my own because I wanted to make sure someone got there each day. Ann always was so happy to hear my voice…. needing an ear and hoping for good news. Each day it was the same… I didn’t see them BUT I left them food and water.”
Shayla visited the property daily to leave food and water for the dogs. She began to leave boiled chicken, hoping that the dogs would stick around to meet her for food one day.
Eventually, Shayla was asked to give up her task and had no choice but to comply. She assured Andrea that others would take up the search for her dogs, but she was asked to move on to other business. She and Andrea kept in touch, and one day, Andrea let Shayla know that someone on Facebook had seen a picture posted of Miguel, but she wasn’t sure where he was or how to get in contact with the people who had found him.
Shayla took up the search on Facebook, and this time, she found Miguel – about 90 miles away in Sacramento! Andrea and her husband were eager to be reunited with Miguel, but the two are older, and Andrea has a disability, so driving would not be easy. So Shayla volunteered to make the drive and handle the long verification process to claim Miguel for them.
“Arian [Kaloke] assured me she would stay open and she was true to her word. She had groomed and loved on Miguel the whole time he was there. Her happy tears showed me that her heart is just like mine. They brought Miquel out and he was sad and timid. Of course he showed little emotion, after all I was NOT his people. We took our verifying pictures so that I could claim him. I led him out to the truck and for once he wagged his tail.”
In late November, the Gaylord family was reunited with Miguel. However, they were still missing Madison. During this time, Shayla continued to check on the property and local Facebook lost and found pages, hoping Madison’s photo would turn up like Miguel’s had.
On December 5th, the evacuation order for the area was lifted, and Andrea and her husband could finally return to check on their home. When they arrived, they saw their missing dog waiting patiently for them!
“I had sighted Madison a few times deep in the Canyon BUT knew he took his job seriously and wasn’t going to be an easy catch. After meeting Andrea in person when I took Miguel to her, I had the idea of placing an article of clothing that would smell like her to keep Madison’s hope alive until his people could return.
“WELL, I’m so HAPPY to report that Andrea was allowed to return to her property today and THERE MADISON WAS!!!! He had stayed to protect what was left of his home, and NEVER gave up on his people! I’m so happy I’m crying as I write this! He didn’t give up through the storms or the fire! A LOOOOONG month it must have been for him!”
The family’s property had been charred, but both dogs were safe and healthy! Madison had never left the property, and stayed guarding the ashes even after his people returned. A few days later, he met Miguel again, and the family was finally all together.
“I had the pleasure of picking up Andrea and Miguel. Miguel was very suspicious of me, but he eventually loaded into the truck. I think he remembered me. It was a long ride back to his home, and he was restless. He had NO idea I was going to re unite him with his brother.
“It was the BEST feeling having Madison meet our truck. After feeding him for almost a month, but NOT knowing he was for sure still there, seeing him was surreal. He followed the truck, so he must have sensed Miguel was aboard. He was wagging his tail as if to tell me ‘I know you from around here, I think you’re pretty ok.’”
Thanks to Shayla’s dedication to helping the Gaylords, their family is whole again.
“I’ve been asked many times over these last weeks what keeps me going when rescuing and caring for animals. Today I experienced the what, in a way like NO other.
“I enjoy the people connection as much as I do the animals. After all, people who love their animals are part of the equation.”
“Reuniting Miguel and Madison was amazing. They said their HELLOS and then went back to work. Miguel took Guard over the lower part of the property and Madison took the top.
“We looked around and still are amazed that both dogs survived. It’s a true testament to the instincts these dogs have. Their people lost multiple family homes. Andreas spirit is uplifting and she hopes to rebuild a new home for the boys to watch over.”