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Dog Thought Lost In California Fires Reunited With Family After 101 Days

When disaster strikes it can be hard to make sure you have everything you need in the short time available.

There family members to account for. The are phones and the cables needed to ensure you can stay charged and connected no matter where you end up. Important documents and sentimental items. Maybe a change of clothes or two if there is time.

And of course, if you have animal family members, that only adds to the confusion.

Unsplash | Oliver Schwendener

It's impossible to explain to a panicked dog or cat that they need to stay put and that things will be okay. Many pets will run and hide, leaving little time to safely find them during an escape.

During California's awful 2018 wildfire season, thousands of family pets were separated from their humans.

When the Ballejos family evacuated from Paradise, California, their dog Kingston was left behind.

Getty Images | AFP

If that city name sounds familiar, it's because Paradise was almost completely destroyed by the Camp Fire in November 2018.

Over the 17 days it took for the Camp Fire to be controlled, 90% of the city was ash and rubble.

That's where Kingston the dog spent 101 days surviving on his own.

During the family's escape, he had been put in the back of their truck, but panicked, he jumped out and ran. The fire was already too close and chaotic to try going after him.

But even after seeing the destruction, the Ballejoses didn't give up on their pet.

Getty Images | Justin Sullivan

They called shelters, posted flyers, and even searched the rubble on foot.

Many families were doing the same and multiple Facebook groups and volunteer services began the process of finding animals in the debris and reuniting them with their people.

One of those groups is Friends of Camp Fire Cats.


They work with searching families, setting up food and shelter around destroyed homes in hopes that the pets will return and stay safe until they can be trapped and reunited with their humans.

Trappers who find animals sometimes bring them to the volunteers.

That's what happened for Kingston.

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A trapper named Ben Lepe caught him and took him to the Friends of Camp Fire Cats in hopes that they could find the dog's owners.

They posted a photo of him on their Facebook page and it didn't take long for him to be recognized.

The family was ecstatic.

"When I found out, [it] just about brought me to tears," Gabriel Ballejos told abc10, "I'm so proud of him. I can't believe it. He's a true survivor, and it's a testament to the American spirit."

It's believed that at least some of his survival diet included skunks.

Apparently, he smelled very strongly when he was trapped. Still, a couple of scrubs in a skunk bath are a small price to pay for getting him home.

"He was lost and he found his way and he survived, and it's amazing and special and so thankful and grateful to have him home again."

h/t: abc10

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