I lived in the hills of Montecito before I lived in Ojai. It was in those hills where I learned how to study canine pack behavior. I had a professional dog walking business, which consists of filling my Jeep Cherokee with six to eight dogs for a three-hour hike in the mountains. I did this twice a day six days a week. I have a dog and cat buried in those hills. Now I am there every Tuesday & Thursday morning talking to client’s pets before I head north on the 101. I know those backcountry / Riviera roads like I know the streets of downtown Ojai. The Thursday afternoon the fire broke out, I got lost in those Montecito hills. I cursed at myself. Ten, twenty, thirty minutes and I was still scanning mailboxes for the number of my clients home. No cell service. I pulled over, took a breath and admired the oaks, pines, and the spectacular view of Montecito, Santa Barbara Harbor, the ocean and the islands. I thought at the time that Spirit wanted me to savor that moment and not be so concerned about time. Two hours later as I drove home on the 150 the fire broke out. Most of the road I was lost on is devastated to charred ruins. Amidst burnt homes and land is 27-acre estate that has been in my friend’s family for close to 90 years. Her land was not even slightly singed by the fire. She has two German Shepherds. Here is their (Sierra and Major’s) view of the fire.
Sierra: “Mom was gone far away getting her eye surgery and I started to smell anger in the air. It frightened me so I went outside. There was a flock of crows that flew over me. They were scared. I started to see the smoke before I smelled it. I heard sirens and then my caretaker came. I had never seen him so worried. He was looking around and wandering what he should take. He couldn’t think straight. Normally he is very together. The smoke started to burn my eyes and he got Major and me in the car. There were other men turning on the sprinklers. I didn’t understand why they wanted to water the plants. Watering is on a strict schedule. Days went by. People thought our house burnt down, but every time I thought about it I saw it standing. I asked the bobcat if he was ok and he said that he was but the property was filled with all types of animals that he had never seen on the property before. He said there was a no chasing or hunting rule. Which was hard for him because he didn’t eat for days.”
Major: “I knew something bad was going to happen when my mom left us for her surgery. I didn’t know it was going to be the fire. I saw the smoke and I thought someone better call mom and tell her not to come home. I was trying to speak to her from a distance to warn her. You know I wasn’t that scared because Mitch (human) was there with us and I was so worried before the fire broke out that when it did I thought this is what was making me nervous. I never thought our house would burn down because our property is the home of many angels and the Buddha (larger than life wooden statue). He comes alive at night and takes bathes in our ponds. Many people pray to him. I knew he would take care of us. This property is what makes my mom’s heart strong. I want to say that I am so sorry for all those people and animals that lost their homes. They should come and put flowers on our Buddha’s lap and he will help them feel strong. I feel their sorrow and their devastation in the wind. I can smell it like Sierra. It makes you feel really sad and really grateful at the same time.”