As Erin Piña watched the horrors of the Camp Fire unfold, she knew this one was big. Piña, founder of Furry Friends Pet Relief, was at her home in Oakley, roughly 150 miles south of Paradise, when the wildfire struck in November, but even from there, the air quality was so poor she had to stay inside with the dogs she was pet-sitting.
Piña, whose organization helps families in need keep their pets out of shelters, soon realized that she could help—that she could be part of the hundreds of Californians from around the state who put others first, doing their part to pitch in to help make Paradise a paradise again.
For Piña, this meant focusing on the animals. She spent Thanksgiving in Butte County, assisting at a large animal rehabilitation organization. While there, she heard about another shelter for household pets, a place designed to give people a chance to rebuild their lives without the additional stress of taking care of a beloved animal. That shelter’s vaccination records had been destroyed in the fire and some of the animals needed medical attention.
So, what did Piña do? She stepped into the void. She and a team that included volunteers from Furry Friends as well as a San Francisco veterinarian worked through Christmas and New Year’s Day to return the animals to full health and ensure that they had the proper medicines. Piña and the others slept in on-site trailers, giving up their holidays to help the fire survivors.
While they were working, pet owners were free to visit their animals during daytime hours, which provided plenty of special moments for all parties. “The dogs get so happy to see their owners and come out and play with them,” she says. “It’s really great for the owners to be able to have that contact with their pets.”
Eventually, all the animals will be able to return to new homes with their owners, a process that has already started. “A lot of the owners are moving forward and getting trailers and homes,” Piña explains. “We had one cat go home today. By the end of this week, we should have about four dogs leaving the shelter.”
The immediate community and the country as a whole came through in a big way with donations that allowed the animals to go home with leashes, collars, crates, and anything else they needed. Slowly but surely, Butte County is beginning to feel and look more like the picturesque region it was before the fire—furry friends included.