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A couple who lost their Hidden Valley Lake home and nearly all their worldly possessions in the Valley fire is rejoicing after being reunited with one of their dogs, which appears to have escaped a locked, burning home and then survived on her own for 116 days.

“She’s our miracle dog,” said Darci Andrews of Tia, her husky and pit bull mix who now is living with Andrews and her family in a trailer in Anderson Springs.

Two other dogs — one known for certain to have died — two cats and two rats also were in the rented house when it was swallowed up by the 76,067-acre Valley fire, which destroyed more than 1,200 homes in mid-September. Andrews and her boyfriend, Bernie Hosmer, had secured their pets indoors while they were out of town.

The scrappy dog’s unlikely survival carries a lesson in faith and perseverance, Andrews said.

“If somebody thinks there’s a chance their pet is still out there, they shouldn’t give up,” said Andrews, who, along with Hosmer, now lives in a trailer on a friend’s property while they figure out a more long-term solution.

Andrews said she held on to the hope of finding some of her pets for months after the fire, even though they had been locked inside the house. A reported sighting of Tia and another dog not long after the fire buoyed that hope.

“We put up posters in case somebody had broken a window to let out the dogs and cats,” she said. They knew one dog, Bosko, had died because he was locked in his kennel inside the house.

The couple — who after the fire lived in a campground near Hidden Valley Lake until late December — had their hopes raised and dashed multiple times after the blaze.

“Any time somebody would call me about two dogs, I would go,” she said. “It broke my heart every single time, but we kept looking.”

Andrews said she became resigned to the losses only within the past month or so.

“As time went by, we began to accept they were gone,” she said.

Her adult daughters gave the couple a pit bull puppy — their other missing dog is a pit bull — to ease the pain of their loss and the new addition, which they named Layla, did help somewhat, she said.

It also slowed down her reaction to a phone call last week from a man telling her he had found her dog.

“I thought it was the puppy,” said Andrews, who was engrossed in her job at Twin Pines Casino when the call came. “I thought perhaps she had gotten away from Bernie and someone had found her.”

That changed after she asked the man to describe the dog he had found.

“He said she kind of looked like a wolf, with one blue eye and a blue collar. I started crying,” Andrews said.

She left work and headed to the caller’s home in Hidden Valley Lake, around a bend on the street where she lived for 18 years before the fire.

“I didn’t even tell anyone I was going there,” she said.

The residents of the Powder Horn Road home met her in the driveway and led her inside, where she saw Tia.

“I started bawling,” Andrews said.

She said she can’t give enough thanks to the man who spent a month coaxing the wary dog into his home. He could not be reached for comment.

The man told Andrews he had first spotted Tia about a month ago, not far from the dog’s burned-out former home. He started leaving food out for her and over time was able to capture her by using dog biscuits.

He then found she had an identification tag on her collar. It included Andrews’ name and phone number, but the number was to the land line at the house that had burned. So the man looked up Andrews on Facebook, where he found photographs of Tia and learned where Andrews worked.

“I can’t believe what he did for us,” she said.

From now on, Andrews said all of her pets will be microchipped in addition to having ID tags to make their recoveries easier should they become lost.

Tia’s reappearance made a great early birthday present for Andrews’ youngest daughter, Gillian, who loves the dog so much she got a tattoo in memory of Tia etched into her skin.

“If you ask Gillian, she’ll tell you Tia is her best friend. She is absolutely over the moon” over her return, Andrews said.

Tia is a little thinner and black patches of fur make it clear she suffered burns, but she otherwise seems fine, Andrews said.

Joanna Holtz, a veterinarian at Middletown Veterinary Hospital who examined Tia following her recovery by the neighbor, said the dog is pretty healthy, especially considering what she has been through.

Holtz said she knows of several animals that were recovered months after the Valley fire, but none had been missing this long. And none escaped a burning house — a remarkable feat — as far as she knows.

“I’m not sure how that would happen. I can’t believe she was in the house,” Holtz said.

You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or glenda.anderson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MendoReporter.