As Colorado assesses the extent of the fire damage, a frantic hunt for pets is beginning.
A miniature goldendoodle named Dexter was rescued after the Marshall Fire spread in Colorado. (Ellie Creasey)
When Andrew Thomson and his family heard about the fire raging across areas of Colorado, they were out of town. They started calling around, desperate to find out where their dog, a little goldendoodle named Dexter, was living at a Superior boarding facility.
Ellie Creasey, who works at Dog Tag, where Dexter and 39 other dogs were living when a wind-fueled grass fire started outside Boulder, was quickly contacted. The Marshall Fire, as it was dubbed, eventually burnt approximately 1,000 structures. Authorities reported two persons were still missing as of Sunday, and search operations were ongoing.
Thomson added that as his family was watching the news of the fire from afar, the most important thing for them was to find out whether their dog was okay. "All we wanted to know was that he was safe, and then we'd worry about our house and everything like that," he said in an interview on Sunday.
Creasey was gone from the day-care and boarding location on Thursday when she learned that flames were approaching the establishment. She attempted to return home by driving from Boulder, but the roads were closed. She claimed that her employer, the owner of Dog Tag, placed a dozen pups into her car but couldn't fit any more. The owner, according to Creasey, opened the kennels and all of the facility's entrances to verify that no pets were trapped.
Creasey went to work from her house, phoning and informing dog owners, checking in with area shelters, and rallying community people via social media sites to hunt for dogs who may have ran away from the boarding facility. Desperate pet owners have flooded social media with photos and descriptions of dozens of missing animals in the aftermath of the devastating fire, while people from all over Colorado have driven into the area to assist in the search on foot, eager to find the beloved cats and dogs of families who may have lost everything.
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle stated in a press conference on Sunday that the animal control office has been working "round the clock" since the fire started and that animal rescue requests should be submitted through the Boulder Office of Emergency Management website.
Amy Hwang, who lives about an hour north of Boulder in Fort Collins, said she acted quickly after seeing on Twitter that pet owners were looking for their lost pets.
Hwang gathered information online and assisted with phone calls, and was able to confirm the whereabouts of certain dogs. Her efforts quickly grew in popularity, and she claims her Twitter account became a center of knowledge. Many people began emailing her photographs of lost dogs and cats, requesting that she distribute them publicly. She tweeted descriptions and photos of lost dogs, reposted information about vets and shelters that were assisting, and updated her followers when the animals were reunited with their owners. She stated that she remained at home when the new year began in order to continue to assist in any way she could.
Hwang expressed her admiration for "how nice people are right now."
Hwang said she had confirmed the location or reunion of at least 20 to 25 dogs and 10 cats in an interview on Sunday, while many more were still missing. Hwang and others referred to Facebook groups such as the Boulder County Fire Lost & Found Pets group, where pet owners, veterinary groups, shelters, and community members shared information about found and lost animals.
On Thursday, Creasey received word from Dog Tag about the missing puppies one by one. After being rescued by animal control, several of the canines were transferred to Boulder's humane society. She learnt that a few people had been able to go to the boarding facility and had collected up the dogs that were still there. Another dog was discovered safe and well at a neighboring Costco. After hearing that his dog had been sighted in the boarding facility but was too afraid to come out, one owner flew in from out of town to retrieve his dog.
Then Creasey received a call concerning two of the final dogs who had yet to be found. Dexter, the Thomsons' dog, and another named Poppy had been found by two persons. Creasey informed the owners and immediately drove to take up the pets.
"They were both pretty disturbed, and their eyes were coated with soot and smoke," Creasey added. She brought them home to wash and confine them for the night.
"We sat in my living room, and I fed them and provided them with lots of water." "They wouldn't let me go," she explained. The pets were picked up by friends and family the next morning.
Creasey claimed it took more than 15 hours to track down all 40 dogs. She claimed she didn't get much sleep that night, but was pleased the dogs from the boarding facility were discovered unharmed and in good condition.
Dexter was irritated in the throat and eyes, but he is in "pretty decent health," according to Thomson. He commended and thanked Creasey, as well as Dog Tag's owner and the individuals who found Dexter, for doing all possible to assist him. The family then received some more good news: their home was spared from the fire.
Dexter was frightened when his family eventually picked him up, according to Thomson, and took a few steps back before understanding who they were.
"We couldn't get him to stop licking us after that," he explained.