The stubborn hero refused to leave his goats ... miraculously, they all survived the firestorm..
At 10:30 pm, Roland Tembo Hendel smelled the smoke from the Tubbs fire that would go on to devastate much of the city of Santa Rosa, California. Hendel surveyed the property by ATV but saw nothing. By 10:55 the sky had turned orange and he told his daughter to get ready to leave; 15 minutes later they saw the first of the flames across the valley.
They quickly gathered up the dogs and cat into the car, but Odin, their “stubborn and fearless” goat-guarding Great Pyrenees refused to leave his charges.
“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,” recounts Hendel in a Facebook post.
“Cars behind us on Mark West Springs Road were pouring flames out of the windows as they roared down the road. Later that morning when we had outrun the fires I cried, sure that I had sentenced Odie to death, along with our precious family of bottle-raised goats.”
As soon as they could return, they sneaked past evacuation roadblocks to find a smoldering wasteland of forest, every structure was gone. But among the charred ruins, Odin and the goats appeared … and a few baby deer that Odin had adopted during the ordeal as well.
“Eight goats came running to see us and get cuddles and kisses. Dixon has a burn on his back the size of a nickel. Other than that they are perfectly fine." says Hendel. "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.”
Here they are after the initial reunion:
In the ensuing days, Hendel has managed to sneak back into the evacuated area and get the goats out. They are all resting comfortably at a shelter barn, and Odin has been given a clean bill of health by the vet. The family set up a fundraising page, and has already raised enough to rebuild their pumphouse and filtration system, build a new barn, and repair the fence around the perimeter of the property.
As for the deer, they left them with a two-week supply of food and water. Hendel writes:
"With this in mind, we have decided that going forward, for every $1 we receive, 50 cents will go toward a replacement trailer for Odin's and Tessa's goats, and 50 cents will go to the Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue Center, where we once took downed animals we found on our land. This will provide care for animals affected by this tragedy, that Odin could not care for himself. Once the trailer is covered, all remaining funds will go to SCWRC."
In a catastrophe that has seen so much devastation, stories like this bring some light to a steady stream of otherwise grim news. Maybe Odin and the goats were just lucky, maybe Odin used his herding prowess to save the goats and deer. But regardless, the image of those sweet goats and Odin's selfless wagging tail among the charred moonscape of the Hendel's property is salve for a rough week.
"Odin has lived up to his namesake," says Hendel. "Pray for him and his charges. He is our inspiration. If he can be so fearless in this maelstrom, surely so can we."