As the Camp Fire raged, killing at least 85 people and displacing thousands more in Northern California, Madison waited patiently.
The Anatolian shepherd mix’s owner, Andrea Gaylord, was not able to get to her home in Paradise, Calif., when the fire began to spread Nov. 8, meaning Madison was left behind. For weeks, all Gaylord could do was pray for Madison’s safety, according to California-based animal rescue organization K9 Paw Print Rescue.
Shayla Sullivan, a volunteer with the rescue organization, had already helped locate Madison’s brother Miguel in a different city. But Madison was even more difficult to find. Sullivan spotted Madison a few times in a canyon, apparently guarding territory, and put out fresh food and water regularly in hopes that the dog would turn up, according to a Facebook post by Sullivan. She even placed an article of clothing that smelled like Gaylord near the home “to keep Madison’s hope alive until his people could return,” Sullivan wrote.
When the evacuation order was lifted last week and Gaylord went back to the property — which had been decimated by the fire — her prayers were answered: Madison was there, seemingly protecting what little remained of his family’s home.
“WELL, I’m so HAPPY to report that Andrea was allowed to return to her property today and THERE MADISON WAS!!!! He had stayed to protect what was left of his home, and NEVER gave up on his people!” Sullivan wrote in the comment on her Facebook post, which was shared 12,000 times as of Saturday evening.
“I’m so happy I’m crying as I write this! He didn’t give up through the storms or the fire! A LOOOOONG month it must have been for him!” she added.
Soon afterward, Madison was reunited with Miguel for the first time since the fire broke out, ABC10 reported. An emotional Gaylord said in an interview with the network that she was overcome with joy to see Madison waiting for her. She also expressed how grateful she was to Sullivan.
“Imagine the loyalty of hanging in through the worst of circumstances and being here waiting,” Gaylord told ABC10, adding, “You could never ask for better animals.”
The Camp Fire ravaged an area the size of Chicago, destroying 14,000 residences and taking more than 17 days to contain.
Gaylord lost everything in the fire and is now homeless, according to an official from K9 Paw Print Rescue. But she has been able to find some solace knowing her dogs are safe.
“You are the best dog,” she said in the interview with ABC10, fighting through tears. “The best.”