On the evening of July 6 last year, Lynn Landry decided to evacuate from her home alongside her neighbours after watching a wildfire get closer to her ranch that lies just outside of the small town of 100 Mile House in British Columbia.
As she watched the plume of smoke in the distance grow and get nearer, Landry knew she had to evacuate and was forced to leave behind her two maremma sheepdogs Tad and Sophie along with her flock of 90 sheep.
2017’s wildfire season in British Columbia was the worst one on record as flames destroyed more than one million hectares of land costing an astonishing $377 million.
Since fires began on April 1, more than 1,100 have forced around 45,000 people to leave their homes including Landry, her husband and their four border collies.
Speaking to PRI’s The World, she said:
During the day, they had bombers [dousing the fire with water] and when it got dark, they stopped. And then the whole ridge from our place just went up in flames.
There was nothing we could do. We had to leave.
Since the dogs have been bred for generations to guard sheep, Landry firmly believed that if they survived the flames they would never abandon the flock.
Keeping her fingers crossed and hoping for the best, Landry left the dogs a massive 35-pound bag of food knowing that it may be weeks until she could come back.
The day after she left the province declared an official state of emergency and Landry was unable to come home for 20 days, except for a brief visit to open the gates so the sheep could drink water from the lake.
On her return Landry was shocked to see that their neighbours’ houses had burned down with helicopters still overhead putting out small fires.
However, despite all the activity just like usual Tad and Sophie were sat in the field surrounded by the flock of sheep.
Only one ewe died, which Landry admits ‘was old’, with the rest being amazingly safe and unharmed thanks to the protection of the dogs.
They protected them from wildfires, but also from bears and coyotes. The sheep would never have survived without them.
For their heroics the dogs were rewarded with some steak and ‘a good pat’ and have now settled down after the destruction.