Fearless Herding Dog Survives California Wildfires After Refusing To Abandon His Goats
October 17, 2017
A brave goat-herding dog who refused to abandon his flock amidst the deadly California wildfires miraculously survived the flames that torched the entire property.
Odin is one of two great Pyrenees who take turns guarding the Handel family’s eight goats from coyotes and mountain lions, and he was on duty the night the fires broke out.
As the raging fires encroached upon their home, Roland Handel had to make a split-second decision: try to force his dog Odin into the car, or leave him behind.
“By 11:10 we could see the first of the flames across the valley,” Handel wrote on Facebook. “By 11:15 they were growing larger and the winds went mad. We had loaded up the dogs and cats, but Odin, our stubborn and fearless Great Pyrenees would not leave the goats. Even under the best of circumstances it is nearly impossible to separate Odin from the goats after nightfall when he takes over the close watch from his sister Tessa. I made a decision to leave him, and I doubt I could have made him come with us if I tried. We got out with our lives and what was in our pockets.”
Handel said he opened the gates so the animals could flee, then drove off with his daughter, their three other dogs and two cats all packed into the family car.
“The cars behind us on the road had fire pouring out of the windows just minutes after we left,” he said. “It was life and death.”
Handel returned the next day to discover that his home and everything else on the property was completely destroyed – except for Odin, who was there waiting for him with all eight goats.
“Eight goats came running to see us and get cuddles and kisses,” he wrote on Facebook. “Dixon has a burn on his back the size of a nickel. Other than that they are perfectly fine. Odin’s fur is burned and his whiskers melted. He is limping on his right leg. And he has adopted several baby deer who huddle around him for safety and water from their trough, which is miraculously intact and full of relatively clean water.”
Even though Handel lost his home and all his belongings, he said he feels “nothing but joy and gratitude.”
“We feel really blessed,” he said. “All those other things can be replaced, or you realize they’re not necessary.”
The family is now raising money on YouCaring to rebuild the animals’ barn and water supply before winter. As of Tuesday morning, more than $60,000 has been raised.