Over the span of the Thomas Fire, residents at Red Cross shelters receive unexpected visits from some special animals. Service animals are always welcome in Red Cross shelters.
On December 17, 2017, Miss Basil made a guest appearance at the Ventura County Fairgrounds Red Cross shelter. There are many special things about this bunny: she is Flemish Giant Rabbit and weighs approximately 18 pounds. But she is also a Therapy Animal. Her caretakers, Amy Hirahara and her son Andrew, know that Miss Basil’s large size does not prevent her from providing comfort and support to anyone who may need it.
Andrew stated that Basil was rescued from a breeder, and her greatest accomplishment is becoming a therapy animal that can now help others. Amy shared with Red Crossers that a resident laid down face to face with Basil and said, “I have not slept well in days, I could fall asleep right here with her. Thank you for bringing her today.”
On the other side of the fire and relief response, San Lucia Open Dog Obedience Group (SLODOG) and Alliance of Therapy Dogs joined forces to deliver comfort for those directly impacted by the Thomas Fire. They traveled to various groups supporting the Thomas Fire, including the Cachuma Lake base camp to visit with firefighters, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s dispatch center, and ending their tour at the Santa Barbara Red Cross shelter.
At the Red Cross shelter, several Therapy Dogs visited with residents of all ages, and volunteers received some cuddles too. The dogs were tired after a long day of visiting with first responders, evacuees, and volunteers, but they still were able to provide much needed comfort and support at our shelter. Together their visits brought immense joy and compassion to residents and volunteers.
During confusing times like these, a visit from a dog or bunny can make all the difference. It is due to the generosity and kindness of the community that residents in the shelter had entertainment, support, and relief during this heartbreaking and time. Special thanks to everyone for spending time with those affected by the Thomas Fire at Red Cross shelters.
Story and photos by Taylor Poisall, American Red Cross