When the devastating Valley Fire wildfire swept through Northern California in September, destroying more than 1,200 houses, Darci Andrews was out of town. Not only did she lose her Hidden Valley home, but she also lost her pets who were locked inside the house, including Tia, a 7-year-old Siberian Husky/Pit Bull mix.
Or so Andrews thought.
In December, three months after the wildfire, Tyler Wages found a lost dog in the woods not far from Andrews’ former home. He spent the next month leaving food out for the scared dog and trying to lure her to him with treats.
Wages was finally able to coax the dog into his house last week. She was wearing an ID tag with Andrews’ name on it, but the landline phone number was no longer working due to the house being destroyed.
Wages didn’t give up. He used Facebook to track Andrews down where she worked, Twin Pines Casino, and gave her a call.
“He said she kind of looked like a wolf, with one blue eye and a blue collar. I started crying,” Andrews told the Press Democrat.
She rushed over to Wages’ house. “I go inside and they bring out my Tia. I started bawling!” Andrews told ABC News. “She came up to me, wagging her tail, and licked my face.”
Every day for the past four months, Andrews said her boyfriend, Bernie Hosmer, would return to her property “and sift through the ashes to see if he could find the remains” of her pets. He did find the remains of another dog, Bosko, who was inside a kennel cage, but there was no sign of Tia and another dog, or of Andrews’ other pets, two cats and two rats.
“I created this flyer and posted it up. I posted their pictures on all of the Facebook sites. We chased down every lead,” Andrews told ABC News. “It would break our hearts every single time.”
Andrews, her adult daughters and Hosmer were about to give up hope. One of Andrews’ daughters got a tattoo of Tia in her beloved dog’s memory, and they both gave their mom a Pit Bull puppy named Layla to help lessen the pain of the loss.
“If somebody thinks there’s a chance their pet is still out there, they shouldn’t give up,” Andrews told the Press Democrat.
Considering her ordeal, Tia is doing remarkably well, according to her veterinarian, Joanna Holtz. Tia lost weight and suffered some minor burns, but is otherwise doing fine.
Holtz told the Press Democrat a few other pets were reunited with their owners after the Valley Fire, but none after such a long time as Tia. And Tia is the only pet she knows of who somehow managed to escape out of a locked house.
“Tia was out there for 116 days. She made it out of a burning house, out of a burning neighborhood,” Andrews told ABC News. “She’s our own personal little miracle.”
And as for Tia’s rescuer, Andrews said Wages is her hero. “I can’t believe what he did for us,” she told the Press Democrat.
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