At a Red Cross evacuation center north of Los Angeles, Rambo whimpers on a cushion in the back of his owner’s car. The defeated pitbull’s legs are in casts, a blue blanket draped over him.
His owner, Jenny Miranda, provides comfort, massaging Rambo's grey ears as they flop over on his recovery cone.
They are the exhausted faces of Tick Fire evacuees.
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The material losses after natural disasters like wildfires can be devastating, but it’s loved ones, including four-legged ones, that are irreplaceable. Rambo is currently under the care of The Little Angels Project, an organization dedicated to helping animals during disaster, so his family’s attention can turn back to their home.
The Little Angels are guarded about what Friday’s surgery will bring, but for now, Rambo’s doing well.
"He might lose some toes," a distraught Miranda says.
Rambo’s people were just a few out of 50,000 forced to evacuate their homes as the Tick Fire ravaged more than 4,000 acres in Santa Clarita.
Miranda was at work when her daughter and father-in-law climbed into their neighbor’s pickup truck as the flames crept closer Thursday night. They knew they couldn’t leave 6-month old Rambo, so they hoisted him up into the back.
But at one point, he panicked and jumped.
Rambo was lucky. A Facebook post about his injuries caught the eye of the Little Angels.
"After the Woolsey Fire, we treated families for six months," Founder Darlene Geekie says of the fire that devastated Southern California in 2018. "What happened is people lost their homes, couldn’t get in for months, and couldn’t afford care for their pets."
By midnight that evening, Geekie was working to manage his pain. And the price tag on the 24-hour care, x-rays and surgery Rambo will need?
"They’re covered under our disaster relief program," Geekie says, because the last thing a family should have to worry about during an evacuation is paying for the veterinary care of their beloved pet.
X-rays reveal that Rambo has fractures in his feet, but the Little Angels won’t know more until later today.
For now, thanks to the kindness of strangers that shared the Facebook post, the Saugus Animal Hospital that provided preliminary care, and the Little Angels, Rambo’s people have one less thing to worry about.
To fund programs like the Little Angels's disaster relief fund, you can click here.