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Woman who fled wildfire returns to find lost dog waiting by burned home

Andrea Gaylord thought all hope was lost when she was forced to leave her two dogs behind while fleeing the Camp Fire. Returning home a month later, she made an astonishing discovery.
/ Source: TODAY

Andrea Gaylord's house in Paradise, California, was completely destroyed by the devastating Camp Fire last month, but she feared she had lost something much more precious.

As she raced to escape a fire that killed 85 people in Northern California, she called to her two dogs, brothers Madison and Miguel, but they were nowhere to be found and had to be left behind.

"It was the worst feeling in the world,'' Gaylord said on TODAY Monday. "It's like you have to choose. The whole time I thought, 'What was going to happen to those dogs?' It was horrible."

Gaylord thought all hope was lost when almost a month had passed and she had yet to be reunited with her dogs. The area was shut down for evacuees, so she had been unable to return home and search for them.

California wildfire dogs reunited with owner
Andrea Gaylord's dog, Madison, was waiting patiently for her return (above) a month after her home burned down in the Camp Fire in northern California. AP

A glimmer of hope came when Miguel was found by animal rescue workers in the nearby town of Citrus Heights and returned to Gaylord by Shayla Sullivan, a volunteer with K9 Paw Print Rescue.

Gaylord was then allowed to return to her property for the first time on Dec. 6 and saw an astonishing sight as she pulled up. There was Madison, sitting next to the rubble of her burned-out home, waiting for her return.

"It was like there is a higher power,'' Gaylord said. "It was like a sigh of relief. It was affirmation that these dogs are survivors."

The Anatolian shepherd mix was able to survive thanks to the help of Sullivan, who had glimpsed Madison briefly in a nearby canyon and had left food and water out for him.

"He had stayed to protect what was left of his home, and NEVER gave up on his people!" Sullivan wrote on Facebook. "I’m so happy I’m crying as I write this! He didn’t give up through the storms or the fire!"

The food and water was enough for him to make it through the month and have a happy reunion with Gaylord.

"They don't see it as ashes,'' Sullivan said on TODAY Monday. "They see this as their home and those dogs protect their flock. And these people are their flock. They love those people."

"They were wagging their tales, and I was so happy to see them together,'' an emotional Gaylord said. "Things are right again."