KERN COUNTY, Calif. (KGET) — After the flames of the Stagecoach Fire engulfed their family home, the Smith family said it was difficult to find hope. Wendy Kraus-Smith, her husband Kevin, and their four boys were left with the clothes on their back, as 20 years of memories turned to ashes. The hardest loss: their favorite four-legged family member Mr. T, thought to have perished in the blaze.
“I felt glad that we got out of there, but I honestly felt failure in my heart that I couldn’t get him out,” said Wendy Kraus-Smith.
However, 24-hours later, a ray of hope emerged from the rubble. One that brought a smile to face of the otherwise broken mother.
“This is the first time I’ve been smiling in a few days,” said Kraus-Smith. “Honestly, my cheeks are a little sore.”
As the family reckoned with their new reality that night at a hotel in Bakersfield, a miracle had taken place back on the mountain. In the dark and all alone, another family member was pacing the scorched earth where the house once stood. Mr. T had survived, and he was waiting for his family to come back home.
“I couldn’t even fathom that he could live overnight in all of that destruction,” said Kraus-Smith. “There was just such a relief from all the kids and myself, and it was just like instantly, like okay. All right. He made it. This is good; we can make it to, you know, this is the families back together again.”
Despite suffering a severe case of pneumonia from the smoke inhalation, the resilient rottweiler is now recovering at Breckinridge K-9 Resort. Resort owner Lisa Bell has set up an online fundraiser for the family.
“It’s just so miraculous,” said Bell. “It brings tears to my eyes.”
Now, Kraus-Smith says she’s counting down the days until the family can rebuild their mountain ranch so she can reunite her children with their favorite furry family members.
“I definitively can say he’s supposed to be part of my family, the resiliency of this dog is echoed in my family. We’re just grateful that our family is finally together again.”