Over 3 months after the devastating northern California wildfires, a 12-year-old Akita dog named Kingston has been reunited with his grateful family.
Kingston was separated from the Ballejos back in November when they fled the town of Paradise to escape the deadly wildfires. Frightened, the dog jumped out of the back of the family truck, much to their distress.
Speaking to Sacramento television station KXTV, his owner, Gabriel Ballejos, said, “When I found out, [it] just about brought me to tears, 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.”
The Ballejos have been searching for Kingston, posting flyers and contacting shelters in the hope of finding him. Their wish came true after animal rescue volunteer, Ben Lepe, trapped Kingston and took him to Friends of Camp Fire Cats, a local rescue organization.
Lepe had seen the dog on surveillance cameras and decided to set up a trap for him. He set it on Saturday night and by Sunday morning, Kingston was trapped. After seeing a missing dog message on Facebook, the volunteers at the rescue contacted the Ballejos to reunite the dog with his loving family.
The Ballejo’s daughter, Maleah was especially grateful to see him.
“Every night I would ask my dad and tell him that we needed to go look for him,” she said.
Kingston was returned in good health and well fed. The family believes he had been surviving by eating skunks. He had a penchant for hunting them before the fire and smelled like them when he was picked up.
The town of Paradise was severely affected by the wildfires which began on November 8, 2018. The blaze leveled the town, killing 85 people and destroying around 15,000 homes.
Kingston is just one of many animals who were separated from their owners during the chaos. Angel Herrera, of Friends of Camp Fire Cats, said the group has rescued over 200 lost pets and is still going.
“If we had the resources, we could trap 50 animals every single night,” she said.
As the town beings to rebuild, stories like this help bring back hope to all those impacted by the fire.