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Heroic ranch dog praised for saving B.C. man’s life in wildfire

Ranch dog Jack "never gave up on my uncle. Not once,” details survivor's niece who is hosting the pair after terrifying ordeal.

Daniel and his dog Jack pictured after narrow escape from devastating wildfire | Photo: Valeria Calderoni Acosta

It’s the kind of story you only see in movies. One with the kind of happy ending British Columbians could use right now.

Daniel Calderoni Acosta, a caretaker for a ranch just outside Lytton B.C., says he couldn’t have survived the recent fire disaster without the perseverance of Jack, a farm dog who he says “saved his life.”

“My uncle was in the middle of the burning fires, and was thinking ‘today is not the day I die,’” says Daniel’s niece, Valeria Calderoni Acosta, who translates Daniel’s story for OhMyDog!.

Daniel, a native of Mexico, tells his emotional experience in Spanish to Valeria from the safety of Canine Valley, the dog training centre she runs in Squamish B.C.

Last Wednesday, on the evening of the wildfires - which would quickly engulf and destroy the village of Lytton - Daniel sensed something was wrong in the atmosphere from inside his house. With almost no warning, he saw “fireballs falling from the sky” and his house going up in flames.

“He says there was soon fire 360 degrees around him,” translates Valeria. “He ran back in the house, wet a piece of clothing to put on his mouth and ran to the nearest thing, this kind of irrigation structure. Then he just waited for any help.”

“He held my uncle the whole way. That’s the most amazing thing.”

“He could hear barking and called and called the dog’s name for almost a whole hour,” Valeria says. “And finally Jack came running through the smoke and found him.”

Thinking fast, Daniel wet his clothes and rubber boots at the irrigation structure, then ran through the spreading fires with Jack, dodging sparking electrical lines and shooting flames like he was in “a violent video game.” They eventually arrived at a tall fence, finding a dead end.

“He tossed Jack over that fence, and I don’t know how,” says Valeria. “Jack is a huge, heavy dog and my uncle is very small. I have no idea how he did that. It’s just survival.”

In an extraordinary feat of strength, Daniel and the dog blindly walked for 8 hours through the fiery air.

“That dog is a farm dog and normally never heels or follows you. But Jack was beside him the entire time.”

“When my uncle was tired and dizzy with the fumes, Jack would lean into him and support him,” Valeria says through tears. “He held my uncle the whole way. That’s the most amazing thing.”

The pair eventually found an abandoned house to hide from the fires that, by this time, had completely destroyed the village of Lytton. A few hours later, the dog saw lights in the distance and barked in Daniel’s face until the man woke to find help had finally arrived.

A bond like no other

Husky-sheppard mix Jack heals from burns on his paws | Photo: Valeria Calderoni Acosta

After retrieving her uncle and the dog from the interior, Valeria took them to Squamish, where today they rest at her dog training centre. Daniel is recovering from second-degree burns on his hands, face, and ears. Jack, a husky-sheppard mix, heals from the burns on his paws and has developed a new and intense separation anxiety toward Daniel.

“We made up a little room for them and they never want to be away from each other now. Jack is always at his side to protect him.”

With all of his possessions lost in the fire, Daniel isn’t sure what his next step will be. His niece has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help him buy an RV so he and Jack can move forward together.

Valeria is grateful beyond belief for the dog’s act of heroism.

“I know through my career in working with dogs for 15 years that dogs have an unreal bond with us. They feel what we need. It’s a communication beyond words. Jack never gave up on my uncle. Not once.”


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