The most memorable moments in our lives vary from being the worst of times and the best times, either way they become milestones that will be remembered Through out our life time. The tragedy that unfolded on February 27, 2011 was one that Laura Teichmann will never forget. This story is about a life changing experience that has given her a chance to share her story. Through her faith in God she has over come a huge tragedy in her life and is now sharing her story with us to help make a difference in how we view evacuation plans and being well prepared.
This is Laura’s Story: It was a typical Sunday morning consisting of homemade breakfast and family bonding. As the day proceeded, I remember looking outside and thinking, this kind of wind is unnatural at this time of year, but not much more of it. As we gathered in the living room later that day, my daughter got an update on Facebook and asked if we were aware about the fire. As soon as I heard the word “fire,” a mixture of emotions ran through my body, I was scared.
Our kennel was located in the backyard and I was worried about the fire spreading so I informed the kennel employees of the situation in case we were forced to evacuate. Fear started spreading through my employees as they gathered the animals in the van. Now I began to imagine the worst possible things that could happen. My family was at home trying to get our animals to the vehicles. While we were loading the animals I quickly came to realize that the van was not big enough to fit all of the animals we had that day.
I tried to get a mile down the road to my mom’s house to retrieve our motor home, but was forced to turn back halfway there due to the fire spreading in our neighborhood. In my moment of desperation I tried to fit as many dogs as I could in the van. At this point you may ask, “why didn’t I have more help,” or “why didn’t I just leave?” Four years later, I still can’t fully answer those questions, but I can emphasize the importance of safety.
When a fire burns out of control like it did on that fateful day, first responders block off the area and NO ONE is allowed in. I was so limited as to what I could truly do in at that moment. The majority of my staff was at the evacuation exit site begging the first responders to come in and help with the animals. With the first responders being there I knew my employees were in good hands. What the first responders did that day was life saving.
In times of a disaster sometimes we see heroes rise to a call for help. My aunt was blocked from getting to her house to save her animals, and in this moment of fear and anguish she stopped to help us load animals into the van. Between her, my husband, and I we loaded nearly 20 animals. Once her vehicle was full, she headed out to get them to safety.
I kept going back to get as many animals out as I possibly could, until my husband stopped me and told me the sheriff was forcing us to evacuate. At that moment I knew I could still save more dogs, I turned back around and when I came outside the sheriff was standing there telling me if I didn’t leave now, he would be forced to make me leave.
The first responders did all they could to try and rescue the remainder of the animals in the kennels. We are forever grateful for all they did, letting the animals loose and hoping beyond hope that they would reach safety. Animal control also arrived and loaded up dozen more animals and removed them safely from the fire zone. There were owners desperately stopping some of the trucks hoping their beloved family member was safe. Overall they were able to pull out 24 more animals that we were able to retrieve. We got them to another kennel where we could offer them medical care. Everyone who helped that day was a hero and we are forever grateful.
Wildfires are devastating especially when they move into an inhabited area. After everything was done, we had lost 18 pets. Their memorial stands in trees planted around our new business, but the truth is there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about those animals. The tragedy that those families had to endure that day was heart breaking. That was the hardest week of my life. I think of them often.
We were blessed to have above and beyond glorious clients whose non-stop calls of concern and care helped us get through this terrible tragedy. Their faith in me and endless acts of kindness will never be forgotten. They helped us get our life back by assisting in clean up, offering prayers, and searching outlying areas looking for the pets that were set free. And the thing that started the healing process was to know I was needed and people asking us when we would reopen again.
As we began the mounting work of figuring out what to do next and trying to reassemble our lives our clients wanted to help us by bringing back their dogs for grooming and care. So a week later, on Sunday, we started the healing process in a borrowed grooming shop working with the dogs we love. I believe we did 12 dogs that day, but ever since we have been up and running! My faith saw me through and made me believe that we could do this. The world challenged me that day and God helped me through. The reason I am sharing the events that unfolded February 27, 2011 is because I want to share the knowledge I gained from these circumstances.
I want to stress the importance of having an evacuation plan in place and installing safety measures in your salons. Through life there are ups and downs, and along with those ups and downs come challenges, which sometimes we are not fully prepared for. Even though every precaution is taken and every plan is made, tragedy can strike at the most unlikely of times. Be prepared!
Have a standard in your salon and live up to those standards. As a pet care professional be the best that you can. Establish a caring business that is safe for everyone. Know that you always do your best!
I hope my story has helped to be a stepping stone for what we desperately need in this industry: “A working community with values and ethics that help move us forward”.
A friend of mine once said, “Know your groomer, and ask questions, and don’t let the first question be price.” We know the value of safety and it’s up to you to decide how much that is worth.
Willow Creek Kennels
806-383-6155 fax 806-381-8649