He walked with them, carefully picking his way through the flames, making sure they were safe. The eight goats — who had all been raised by hand — were not prepared for the fire that tore through Sonoma County.
Odin had been bred to protect his charges from harm, but that threat was supposed to be in the form of other creatures. Coyotes, mountain lions, even bears — not a fiery maelstrom.
And yet here he was, sheltering his little herd from something even humans were helpless to guard them from. His once creamy coat was now singed and discolored, his whiskers melted into crimped, burnt-ended stubs.
When the fire had started getting too close to the home, Odin’s owner, Roland Hendel, and Scott, Stephen, and Ariel who also lived there, had tried to call the Great Pyrenees and whisk him to safety. Used to protecting the goats with a calm insistence and making decisions based on the independent thinking so characteristic of the breed, he stubbornly refused to leave his watch.
After rounding up other critters, and with the fire quickly bearing down on them and forcing them to leave before it blocked off escape, Roland later wrote that “We got out with our lives and what was in our pockets.”
Video of what the surrounding area looked like is absolutely terrifying. It’s difficult to believe that any living thing could make it through such a hellish onslaught.
While Odin’s owner was able to get back to check on his home after the fire had passed, he was sure his beloved animals had perished: “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.”
But as they approached the smoldering remains of their property after sneaking around barricades and going off-road, they spotted a very welcome sight. A very tired, bedraggled Odin and his goats, all accounted for.
And that wasn’t all — other forest creatures running from the fire had sought shelter with this livestock guardian as well. Among the mix of goats were some baby deer who had tagged along.
Poor Odie resting, too weak to stand for more than a minute or two at a time.
After setting out water and food, the would-be rescuers were forced to leave again, as most of the roads were blocked and they couldn’t get vehicles in to evacuate. But they knew that their fiercely loyal Odin would continue to do what he had been raised to do.
Odin and his sister, Tessa, were able to be reunited. There was a temporary scare when one day the goats and their guardians were not found on the property, but they were soon located. Hendel posted about his relief on Facebook.
“Oh Blessed Be. They are back. All of them. Safe and sound. Even silly little Tinkerbell. Odin always made sure she didn’t fall too far behind. They must have just gone to find us.”
After some trying, a trailer was finally able to get to the property. The goats and dogs were rounded up and taken to a space that had been set up as a shelter at the Sonoma County fairgrounds.
Odin got a check-up from some volunteer vets and was promised a full recovery. For now he is resting with the goats, lying down a lot to get off of his poor, burned feet, and has a bath and some steak to look forward to.
A YouCaring page devoted to raising funds to get the dogs and goats safely back to their hill has already raised more than the $45,000 goal. Among other things, the money will go to preparing housing that was destroyed and getting a water pump back up and running.
This dog has certainly lived up to the acclaim surrounding his noble breed. And we definitely know the answer to “Who’s a good boy?”
His eyes stinging from the smoke, Odin is a stubborn ruffian, but he always loved to be cuddled and petted by his humans.