Experience: I helped rescue 100 dogs from a burning building
We were lunging to grab a collar or get any kind of hold on them. It was frantic.
Wally, my goldendoodle, has come to work with me every day since the start of the pandemic. He was there on the morning this February when a colleague came into my office and said, “The dog resort’s on fire.”
My initial reaction was disbelief. I know the resort well – it’s just across the road from my office and offers daycare and boarding services for pets.
Wally had stayed there when he was a puppy.
I got up from my desk, and thought, “OK, Wally, you’re staying here.” He gets anxious when I leave, so I shut the door behind me.
It was a surprisingly nice day for that time of year in Seattle, but as I got outside I saw the big plume of grey‑black smoke above us. You could smell it, too.
The smoke was barrelling out from what looked like the middle of the single-storey warehouse-style building. I later found out the fire had been sparked in a dryer vent, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.
By that point, the firefighters were at the scene. There was so much noise. Suddenly it hit us: we’ve got to get the dogs out.
A handful of colleagues, along with people from other nearby businesses, made their way to the building and started grabbing dogs that were being herded to the entrance by the firefighters inside.
We tried to catch the running dogs as fast as we could. Our offices have a big gated yard, so we started getting them in there. Some of my colleagues were helping secure the yard with plywood so the dogs couldn’t escape.
It was incredibly frantic. We were lunging to grab a collar or get any kind of hold on them, then ushering them across the road.
Some of them thought we were trying to play with them a bit, so it was a struggle. They were probably more confused than anything. Some dogs can be very sensitive, but luckily no one got bitten.
There were all breeds and sizes: a great dane, a bunch of labradors, doodles, little dogs, some that weighed 10lb at most.
Most of the smaller dogs were scared, so part of the work was comforting them. We would pick them up and give them attention. One of the dogs we rescued had actually made its way up the street and pooped all over itself because it was so scared. I tried to be an affectionate and calming presence, saying, “It’s gonna be OK.”
Mostly, the dogs just wanted to keep on playing. Once we got them into our yard, they were running around and having a good old time within minutes. They have a short memory, for sure.
It seemed much more emotional for the owners. The fire was on the news and on Twitter; people were pulling up and leaving their cars in the middle of the road to hop out and search for their dogs.
When they got to our fence and saw them, there were tears. People dropped to their knees with joy, knowing their dog was safe. It hit home for me, too – it could have been my own dog in there.
It took about three hours, but we got about 60 dogs into our makeshift pen. The rest were held at a nearby brewery, and even on a bus that came to help out. All the dogs from the centre, about 110 in total, were rescued.
We eventually got them all into the animal control trucks to safely transport them to another location until the rest of the owners could pick them up.
While we waited for animal control, I remember a small dog, a little 10-pounder, came up to me and immediately put its paws up. I picked it up. We were both just happy and calm, coming down from the adrenaline, feeling grateful that the disaster was averted.
When I got back to Wally in my office, he gave me so much love. He’s an affectionate dog and made the whole episode feel rewarding. It was very emotional seeing him again, knowing he could have been
in the resort that day.
I could only imagine that I would have had the same reaction as the people who came up to our fence looking for their dogs. I was just so thankful that he and all the other dogs were safe. But then it was time for clean-up duty. There was dog mess everywhere in the yard.
(Story source: The Guardian)