SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. (KTVU) - A Great Pyrenees named Odin has finally returned home to the property where he was credited with saving eight pet goats from flames in the Wine Country fires.
Odin's remarkable story of survival was heard across the country as the fires burned portions of the wine country, including his owner's home, last October.
Roland Hendel told KTVU, "The fire fight hit us first before any evacuation notices. We smelled smoke and there had been nothing on evacuations posted yet... I get all the alerts."
Hendel, who has experienced false alarms before, checked his property, which is located between Santa Rosa and Calistoga, for flames. He then headed up to his rooftop for a better vantage point. "I went onto the roof and saw the sky turning orange." That's when a neighbor called him to report flames on their property. "My daughter had started loading up the dogs. It was time to go."
Odin, whose job is to watch over the small herd of goats, refused to leave. "He just sat down, looked me square in the eye - and he wasn't budging. I didn't have time to figure out what to do. He was determined to stay and he's his own being."
Hendel says he second guessed his decision - but Odin didn't give him much of a choice. "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."
When Hendel made it back to his property he found his home gone, and a battered and burned Odin along with his eight goats named Tinkerbell, Aurora, Jack Sparrow, JoJo, Daryl, Peaches, Dixon and Amun-Ra. Several small, orphaned deer had also found their way to Odin, and remained safe under his care. "I started sobbing and my daughter and I... it didn't matter the house was gone and the structures - to find all our animals safe was all we needed."
He will never know for certain what happened in those terrifying hours, but he believes Odin herded the goats to a rocky area in their pasture. "His fur is orange so it's not damaged from flames... but heat. And the padding of his paws are burned."
The animals stayed in Sebastopol while Hendel and his daughter began to pick up the pieces and get their property in order. They would make the trip south once a week to visit their beloved animals.
Hendel said they spent the first several months after the fire consumed with cleanup. "In the meantime the forest was in full recovery. In fact it has never been quite so beautiful and alive. The once blackened ground is alight with wildflowers. New, bright green shoots are everywhere. The acrid smell of burning garbage (once known as our material possessions) has been replaced by the fragrance of new life in a bit of forest in Sonoma County," he said.
They've made a lot of progress rebuilding their home, and over the weekend they were ready to take Odin, their other dog Tessa, and the goat herd back home. "We have a long way to go. But right now it is time to reflect on how far we have come," said Hendel.
Odin continues to get plenty of cuddles and attention for a job well done.