Story: The Carter Family

When the Carter family of Peeple’s Valley, Ariz., had to abandon their home in the face of the Yarnell Hill wildfire, they took what was most precious with them: eight dogs and two cats.

The entire household has found refuge at Yavapai Community College in Prescott, where the American Red Cross and Animal Disaster Services have teamed up to run side-by-side shelters for humans and pets. For more than 10 years, the partnership has been key to getting pet-lovers to leave home when necessary, because they know their animals will be welcome and well cared for right next door to where they are sheltering.

The Carter family initially went to stay with a friend in Yarnell, but when raging flames threatened that community, they had just half an hour to flee. Sheriff’s deputies directed them to the Red Cross shelter, where there would also be food, water and the compassion of caring volunteers.

Even as she hopes and prays that her home will be spared, Wendie Carter takes comfort in cradling her little furry pup, Pikachu. “He’s my kid,” she says fondly.

“The Red Cross folks make you feel at home,” Carter said, “even when you don’t know if you have a home to go back to.”

Meanwhile, three grandsons and a granddaughter make sure Hunter, Poppy and Cadden get plenty of exercise and affection. Latere, they’ll turn their attention to the four puppies and to the cats.

“People won’t leave their pets behind,” Carter said firmly. “This set-up is great. It’s good for the animals and it’s good for the people.”

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