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From Jeffrey Zerwekh, Executive Director
Uncontrolled fire causes fear – there is the heat, acrid smell, falling ash, irritation to the eyes along with smoke so heavy that every breath takes effort. This is what we experienced as we began to remove dogs from their kennels yesterday in Shasta County. It was a lot for us, and we could see it was also impacting the dogs. Stress levels were high. We really were not sure if they would even come willingly.
These are large dogs, used to living among forested trails and wide-open yards. Some of them have been in the shelter for more than six months and although they have been provided wonderful care by the local shelter, we were concerned that moving them into a transport vehicle might be too much for them. Might they lash out or try to break free? How hard was this going to be?
Then something amazing happened. As each one was led across the parking lot and into our Mobile Adoption Center (MAC), they practically loaded themselves into their transportation kennels. They willingly climbed the stairs into the vehicle with almost no encouragement and quickly settled into their designated space.
We gave each a few head scratches and whispered, “It’s soon going to be a lot better.” It was a promise that we repeated for them, as much as for us. There was little doubt that the stress of the day was starting to catch up with us.
We were asked to take 10 large dogs, which is the exact number of kennels we can fit in the MAC, so it was going to be a full ride. Just as we were preparing to leave we were asked to take just one more – a puppy. The puppy who had been returned from a foster family who now needed to focus on their own possible evacuation. The puppy was quickly loaded into a travel kennel that was placed between the two front seats. Now the MAC was not only full, it was complete.
We still did not know how all of the dogs would handle the four-hour drive back to Berkeley. But they were quiet, except for a lot of heavy panting that seemed to diminish the farther we traveled away from the smoke that they had been breathing for more than a week. We noticed we also began to breathe deeper – and we had only been in that environment for one day.
Despite the late hour, we arrived back at Berkeley Humane to some fanfare. There was a receiving line of volunteers waiting to help unload and welcome our new guests. Each animal’s name was announced as they emerged from the MAC as if we were exiting a maternity ward calling out the names of first-born children to family and friends. The dogs seemed to love the hoopla and as each one entered their kennels, they found that the volunteers and staff had been hard at work preparing for their arrival. Each dog had a soft bed waiting for them complete with blankets, toys, treats a big bowl of food, and cool refreshing water. We tucked each one in and said goodnight.
Today is a new beginning, out of harm’s way. We began this morning with medical checkups and introduced them to the sights and smells of our West Berkeley neighborhood. Today has been a good day.
Your financial support is still urgently needed.
While the Carr Fire is still raging out of control and is one of the most devastating disasters in California’s history, at least these dogs are with us now. But we suspect there will be more to come, and we will be ready and continue to respond.
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