Loyal dog waits nearly a month outside burned California home for owners to return

K9 Paw Print Rescue/Facebook

Loyalty, a noun meaning “a strong feeling of support or allegiance.”

That’s the dictionary definition.

Here’s the face of loyalty: Madison, an Anatolian Shepherd that waited nearly a month for its owners to return to the remains of their destroyed home in the aftermath of the California Camp Fire that started on Nov. 8 in Northern California.

Madison stayed at, or near, the property, which was reduced to ashes.

“Madison was waiting there for them as if he were protecting his former home,” wrote his rescuer, Shayla Sullivan, a volunteer with K9 Paw Print Rescue, on the group’s Facebook page on Thursday.

The Camp Fire killed at least 85 people, burned through 153,336 acres and destroyed 18,804 homes and businesses. Many pets were left behind. Some didn’t make it. Some were rescued and waited for owners who never made it through the flames.

Desperate evacuees pleaded for word on the animals left behind, the Sacramento Bee reported days into the fire.

The Gayford family couldn’t even get to their Paradise home when the blaze first erupted, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday, so the dogs, Madison and his brother Miguel, were left to fend for themselves.

Sullivan, as part of the K9 Paw Print rescue group, found Miguel nearby in the Citrus Heights neighborhood and was able to reunite him with his owner who was still sheltering in a temporary home. Madison was a bit harder to catch.

Sullivan saw him a few times in the canyon, guarding some territory. He was wary of the stranger, she wrote on the Facebook post. She left food and water and, after meeting with his owner, Andrea Gayford, put a piece of her clothing near the home.

“I had the idea of placing an article of clothing that would smell like her,” Sullivan wrote on Facebook. “I had hugged her to keep Madison’s hope alive until his people could return.”

On Thursday, Gayford was allowed to return to what was left of her property. Pretty much, nothing.

Except, as Sullivan exclaimed, “THERE MADISON WAS!!!! He had stayed to protect what was left of his home, and NEVER gave up on his people! I’m so happy I’m crying as I write this! He didn’t give up through the storms or the fire! A LOOOOONG month it must have been for him!”

In a tearful reunion, broadcast on ABC’s KXTV-10 Connect, Sullivan and Gayford shared the story of Madison’s loyalty.

“You could never ask for better animals,” Gayford said through tears “You are the best dog! Imagine the loyalty of hanging in through the worst of circumstances and being here waiting,” she told the station.

His favorite treat? Wheat Thins. Madison happily gobbled up a handful.

“Instinctually, it’s their job to watch the flocks and we’re part of them,” Gayford said. “It’s a comforting feeling.”

Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.
Support my work with a digital subscription