Major and Sierra Remember the Tea Fire

The Two German Shepherds Express Their Bravery, Empathy

I lived in the hills of Montecito before I lived in Ojai. It was in those hills where I learned how to study canine pack behavior. I had a professional dog walking business, which included filling my Jeep Cherokee with six to eight dogs for a three-hour hike in the mountains. I did this twice a day, six days a week. I have a dog and cat buried in those hills. Now, I am there every Tuesday and Thursday morning talking to clients’ pets before I head north on the 101. I know those backcountry and Riviera roads like I know the streets of downtown Ojai. On the Thursday afternoon the Tea Fire broke out, I got lost in those Montecito hills. I cursed at myself. For ten, twenty, thirty minutes I was scanning mailboxes for the number of my client’s home. No cell service. I pulled over, took a breath and admired the oaks, pines, and the spectacular view of Montecito, Santa Barbara Harbor, the ocean, and the islands. I thought at the time that Spirit wanted me to savor that moment and not be so concerned about time. Two hours later, as I drove home on the 150, the fire broke out. Most of the road I was lost on is devastated to charred ruins. Amidst burnt homes and land is a 50-acre estate that has been in my friend’s family for over 70 years, since she was an infant. Her land was not even slightly singed by the fire. She has two German Shepherds. Here is their view of the fire.

Sierra: Mom was gone far away getting her eye surgery and I started to smell anger in the air. It frightened me so I went outside. There was a flock of crows that flew over me. They were scared. I started to see the smoke before I smelled it. I heard sirens and then my caretaker came. I had never seen him so worried. He was looking around and wandering what he should take. He couldn’t think straight. Normally he is very together. The smoke started to burn my eyes and he got Major and me in the car. There were other men turning on the sprinklers. I didn’t understand why they wanted to water the plants. Watering is on a strict schedule. Days went by. People thought our house burnt down, but every time I thought about it, I saw it standing. I asked the bobcat if he was okay and he said that he was, but the property was filled with all types of animals that he had never seen on the property before. He said there was a no chasing or hunting rule which was hard for him, because he didn’t eat for days.

Major: I knew something bad was going to happen when my mom left us for her surgery. I didn’t know it was going to be the fire. I saw the smoke and I thought someone better call mom and tell her not to come home. I was trying to speak to her from a distance to warn her. You know, I wasn’t that scared because Mitch the human was there with us. I was so worried before the fire broke out that, when it did, I thought that was what was making me nervous. I never thought our house would burn down because our property is the home of many angels and the larger than life wooden statue, Buddha. He comes alive at night and takes bathes in our ponds. Many people pray to him. I knew he would take care of us. This property is what makes my mom’s heart strong. I want to say that I am so sorry for all those people and animals that lost their homes. They should come and put flowers on our Buddha’s lap, and he will help them feel strong. I feel their sorrow and their devastation in the wind. I can smell it like Sierra can. It makes you feel really sad and really grateful at the same time.


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