When one of the devastating wildfires that plagued California began surrounding his land in Sonoma County, Roland Handel and his family had to flee quickly. However Odin, one of their two great Pyrenees, refused to get in the car and leave behind the family’s eight rescue goats, which he was entrusted to protect. As the fire drew closer and Odin did not budge, time  was up and the family had to make the agonising decision to leave him behind as well. 

“We had minutes to load up the animals and run from the advancing firestorm. Despite the sounds of exploding propane tanks, twisting metal, and the hot swirling winds, Odin refused to leave our family of eight bottle-fed rescue goats,” Roland wrote. “Hours later when we had found relative safety we cried for Odin and our goats. I was sure I had sentenced them to a horrific and agonizing death.”

However, when they were able to return to their destroyed property days later, they were in for a surprise. Their home and barn were no longer standing, but Odin was – and he wasn’t alone.

“We found a burned, battered, and weakened Odin, surrounded by his eight goats, and several small deer who had come to him for protection and safety,” Roland recalled. “Odin was weak, and limping, his once thick and beautiful coat singed orange, his whiskers melted. Even now as i write this, I am crying tears of gratitude and awe at his bravery and devotion.”

Odin was happily reunited with his family, including his sister Tessa. Roland set up a fundraising page to rebuild the animals’ barn and water supply before winter sets and, thanks to Odin’s story, the target initial target of $45,000 was quickly smashed.

“When you lose everything, it is easy to see what is important,” Roland wrote. “I pray we can get our animal family what they need to win their heroic fight for survival, so Odin’s bravery and sacrifice are not in vain.”

Images by Roland Handel.


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