Great Pyrenees Works Through a Wildfire Saving 8 Goats and Even a Family of Orphaned Deers

The morning of Oct 9th was like no other. The raging Tubbs wildfire was tearing through California. 10:30 am that morning, Roland Tempo Hendel smelled a faint whiff of smoke. As anyone does when you smell smoke, you check around your property.

Roland did that and saw nothing. Thinking about the wildfires being reported on the news, he got on his ATV and drove up and down the quaint street to find out where the burning was coming from. He saw nothing. That was until 10:55 am, with the smell of smoke lingering in the air stronger… He had to look further afield. He climbed onto the roof for a better vantage point. That’s when he saw the first of the flames approaching.

He rushed to get his family up, telling Ariel, Scott and Stephen they had to leave now. By 11:10 am, they were in the car and Ariel had the family cat and their Great Pyrenees Tessa ready to go too. The other dog Odin, Roland couldn’t get him to budge. Not even the smoldering hot wind, or the sounds of exploding nearby propane tanks would compel Odin to leave! Odin is a Great Pyrenees, a working goat-herding dog. His job was to look after the family of eight bottle-fed goats and that’s what he was going to do. He made it clear to Roland, that if the goats aren’t leaving, neither was he! Even, if it would be the death of him. With the flames nearing, Roland had no choice but to tell him that he would be back for him. Knowing at the back of his mind, he’d be unlikely to see his loyal companion again.

With the sky lit orange, they started driving away to get to safety. As Roland drove out of the area,cars could be seen in the rear-view mirror with flames pouring out the windows. Roland and his family knew they’d only just made it. Escaping the flames with two of their pets, the clothes they had on their backs and a cell phone between them all. Still, they made it out, but not unscathed. They shared tears later that evening certain that leaving Odin, and the eight goats Aurora, Jack Sparrow, Tinkerbell, Peaches, Daryl, JoJo, Dixon and Amun-Ra that they would have died an excruciating death. They could only imagine the horrid scenes that would greet them when they returned…

Roland spent that evening second-guessing himself. Could he have coaxed Odin any harder than he did? As he writes on a Facebook update: “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.” Odin for sure was committed to the work he did. He cared for the goats as the family that they were to him, just like his sister Tessa. The future must’ve felt a lot emptier with the loss of an extended family of 9…

All the family could do was hope and pray. They’d keep an eye on the news to find out when it’d be safe to return. The news looked bleak. Santa Rosa County was ablaze and the updates that were coming were that of a death toll rising. By the time the fire was under control, the total death count from the California Wildfire death count rose to 22 people killed. Hope was fading and turning to memories. Like the time Roland, a vegetarian, bought the goats at an auction, certain they were going to wind up being meat for the local pigs. He’d rescued them before; surely this wouldn’t be the end. Could it?

The news came the following day that residents could return to Santa Rosa to inspect the damage. It was uninhabitable though. Everything was burned to cinders. Homes were blackened and flattened. Burned out vehicles were the only things raised off the ground. The family's home was gone, the workshop, the pumphouse for the water supply and Ariel's ATV that she got for her 12th birthday. Nothing was left. Amongst the devastation though was a miraculous moment. The eight bottle-fed goats run towards the family for ‘cuddles and kisses’. None of the family could believe it. As happy as they were to see the goats, their attention turned quickly toward Odin…