A Pet Owner’s Worst Nightmare: Fire


I’m dog-sitting Chaco, the last little foster dog I found a home for. I got a call from her new owner the other morning. Chris asked how I was, and then asked if I could possibly dog-sit Chaco for a few days or perhaps longer. “Of course!” I replied, “What’s up?” Her voice broke as she answered, “My house burned down yesterday!”

“Oh my goodness! Where are you? Are you alright?” I asked. She said she was okay, and explained that she had actually been out for a walk with her boyfriend and both of her dogs when she got a call from her mother. Her mom said, “Honey?  I got a call from your neighbor; she said your house is on fire and the fire department is there!”

I told Chris I’d be right over, and jumped into the car. I was at her house in five minutes. At first glance, the house looked alright . . . until I saw the holes chopped into the roof by the fire department. Approaching the house, I saw piles of charred and sodden insulation, and smelled the acrid odor of a house fire. I pushed open the door, and oh my. The entire interior of the house was dripping wet, smelled smoky, and was covered with soot and burned insulation. Most of the frame of the house was intact, except for those holes in the roof and one spot on one wall. But it is completely uninhabitable due to the water and smoke damage.

Amazingly, both of the cats were okay; they had a pet door and evidently used it to escape. That’s kind of a miracle; often, cats try to hide from the heat and smoke of a fire by going under a bed or into a closet. The firefighters captured one kitty in the yard; the other one came out of hiding from goodness knows where in the middle of the night, after all the strangers were gone and my friends were still picking through the mess for clothes and photos and anything salvageable.

My friends will be okay; they have family and friends and places to stay and to help with the pets — and they have insurance! My dog Otto and Chaco were thrilled to see each other again, and immediately started chasing each other around my yard. Chris is grateful that no one was hurt – and that the fire didn’t break out at night when they were all sleeping (the fire fighters said it looked like it originated with some wiring in the attic). She had crates for each of her animals, and they (the dogs anyway) are habituated to and comfortable in the crates in the car. Also, all of her animals were wearing ID. That’s the start of a great emergency plan.

I just can’t stop thinking about what would happen if a fire broke out at my house and my dog and cat were trapped inside. I’m not sure I can think of anything scarier. All the animals, especially little Chaco, a foster dog once again for a few days, get extra hugs tonight.