Dog reunited with family 101 days after California wildfire

Published 8:22 am Wednesday, February 20, 2019

PARADISE, Calif.  — An Akita named Kingston is back with his family 101 days after he jumped out of their truck as they fled a devastating Northern California wildfire.

The 12-year-old was reunited with the Ballejos family of Paradise on Monday, Sacramento television station KXTV reported .

“When I found out, (it) just about brought me to tears,” said Gabriel Ballejos, Kingston’s owner. “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.”

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Ballejos said they never lost hope and continued posting flyers and contacting shelters.

“Every night I would ask my dad and tell him that we needed to go look for him,” Ballejos’ daughter, Maleah Ballejos, said.

The family got a call after animal rescue volunteer Ben Lepe trapped Kingston on Sunday and took him to Friends of Camp Fire Cats, a local rescue group. The volunteers saw a missing dog Facebook post placed there by his family and contacted them.

Lepe said the dog had been spotted on surveillance cameras and that he set up a trap big enough for the Akita on Saturday. Kingston weighs at least 75 pounds (34 kilograms).

“When I went to check it on Sunday, there he was! It was awesome to see him and know he would be fed and warm,” Lepe said.

Family members believe Kingston survived by eating skunks, because he hunted them before the fire and he smelled of skunk when they picked him up.

The town of Paradise was leveled by the Nov. 8 blaze that killed 85 people and destroyed nearly 15,000 homes in the area.

Angel Herrera, of Friends of Camp Fire Cats, said the group has rescued more than 200 lost pets since the fire and continues setting traps.