Embers falling on their heads, Venesa Rhodes and her husband, Stephen Cobb, rushed their two beloved cats toward their SUV before a wildfire last summer could overtake them all. One cat, named Bella, bolted. She disappeared as the blaze bore down. The couple had no choice but to flee. Their home and much of the neighborhood in Redding, California, soon was reduced to ash.
Rhodes and Cobb presumed Bella was dead. Devastated by their losses, they moved 1,800 miles away to Anchorage, Alaska, to start over.
Nearly six weeks later, they got astounding news: Bella was alive. Volunteers had spotted her. They put out a feeding station at Rhodes’ burned-out property, staked it out, and safely trapped her. Dozens of others like Rhodes and Cobb lost their homes in the deadly Carr Fire but had their lives brightened later when their pets were found.
A network of about 35 volunteers calls itself Carr Fire Pet Rescue and Reunification. This group is responsible for many happy endings, which continue months after firefighters extinguished the blaze.
Robin Bray is a field coordinator for the Carr Fire group. She says about 80 pets and people have been reunited. The group advertises found pets through social media. It posts images on kiosks in Redding. Many volunteers even use their own money to capture and treat the animals. Bray says the joyful reunions fuel them to keep doing the work.
Traumatized animals can be hard to catch. Volunteers worked for a dog nicknamed Buddy for weeks. They tried luring him with steak and french fries. They used a pickup truck like the one his owner drove. It took two women working together two hours to finally coax Buddy into a trap with food.
Bray spent nearly seven hours trapping a single cat. It was worth it for the people who lost everything, she says. “The only thing they care about is finding their pet that they love. They want that hope back in their lives and we’re trying to provide that.”
Jessica Pierce of Lyons, Colorado, studies grief. She says these reunions ease a “double whammy of grief.” People closely associate animals as well as houses with the idea of home. And people “identify home with a sense of comfort and peace,” she says.
Hope, comfort, peace—essential needs of the human heart. The Carr group is doing what they humanly can for their neighbors. But ultimately, every soul needs the comfort, peace, and hope of reunification with God that Christ gives all believers.