Some very special guests made a surprise appearance at the BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) base camp in Lytton on July 23, to the delight of wildland firefighters battling the Nohomin Creek wildfire.
The six-week-old litter of 10 pups arrived courtesy of owners Tricia Thorpe and Don Glasgow, whose home just outside Lytton was destroyed in the Lytton Creek fire in June 2021. They had to evacuate without their animals, leaving them to the mercy of the elements.
A trio of BCWS wildland firefighters — Jamie von Sacken, Olivia Hughes, and Chad Goldney — found mama Sunshine, father Thunder, and grandma Moonshine, along with Sunshine’s litter of nine pups, on the property. The adult dogs, all of them Great Pyrenees, had dug a huge hole in the garden and buried the pups in it to keep them safe, says Thorpe.
“Jamie, Olivia, and Chad fed and watered the dogs, along with our alpaca and sheep,” she says. A few days later, Thorpe and Glasgow — along with volunteers from B.C. and Alberta Livestock Evacuation — were able to get to the property and bring the animals out. Sadly, Thunder died of smoke inhalation and stress on the way to safety in Kamloops.
Thorpe and Glasgow, who have since rebuilt their home, obtained a new dog, Lightning. He is the full baby brother of Thunder, and came from the same breeder in Alberta as his older brother.
Given his age (less than nine months old), Lightning should not have been quite ready to be a father. To everyone’s surprise, however, it became apparent earlier this year that Sunshine was pregnant, and on June 14 she had a litter of 10 pups.
Thorpe and Glasgow named three of them Jamie, Olivia, and Chad, in honour of the firefighters who had helped save them the year before, and on June 23 Hughes and Goldney — who got engaged to each other last year — met their namesakes. Less than a month later, they — along with von Sacken and numerous other wildland firefighters who had battled the Lytton Creek blaze — were back in the area to tackle the Nohomin Creek wildfire, which started just northeast of Lytton on July 14.
“Jamie, Olivia, and Chad are all back from last year, and other familiar faces are back who were here last year,” says Thorpe. She was delivering some dog food to residents on the west side of the river recently, as the fire crew came off shift, and Thorpe asked firefighter Chad Haugen if she could bring the puppies to the base camp to boost morale.
“Some of the guys were walking away, but they turned and said ‘Puppies!’ I said to Chad ‘They have spoken.’”
Only von Sacken, Goldney, and Haugen knew the pups were coming at around 8 p.m. on July 23, as the crew got off shift.
“I just wanted our community to have something positive to look to during these difficult times,” says von Sacken, who has lived in Lytton for eight to nine months of the year almost every year since 2016, and who asked to come back to help out after his experience there in 2021 and his extensive knowledge of the area. He adds that several of the other firefighters have either chosen to live in Lytton, or were born and raised there.
“They were super excited and they really enjoyed the break from their work,” he says of the crew’s reaction during the surprise “paw patrol” visit. “They had been working long shifts, and until the fire started calming down they were still on high alert from the stress of the first day. The dogs were really good for helping with that.”
“Their reaction was the best part,” says Thorpe. “Someone hollered into the service bay that there were puppies. They were in the back of our RAV looking adorable — for the next couple of weeks they’re at maximum cuteness — and there must have been almost 20 men and women picking them up and cuddling them.
“We were only there about 20 minutes, but I was enjoying watching the firefighters’ reaction, and it made my week. It was just awesome.”
Von Sacken says that the crew loves Lytton for its people.
“We all chose to be here. And folks in Lytton have stepped up to help each other repeatedly since June 30 last year and do awesome things like bringing their puppies over to cheer us up after a long day. They are exactly the kind of people you want in your community.”
Thorpe is happy that her puppies were able to help out.
“We wanted to do this for the firefighters, because they did so much for us last year, and continue to. I think about what they must be going through with the fire from last year and now this fire.
“I think animals are great therapy, and who doesn’t love a puppy?”