We’re all hearing them, the countless stories of horror and gratitude, abject sorrow and joy-amidst-tragedy, unfathomable loss and soaring generosity borne of the fusillade of firestorms that first bore down on Napa and Sonoma counties in darkness a week ago and remain beyond control.
A sampling follows:
Last Sunday night, recounts retired sales exec Bob Schmidt, 72, “We went to bed like everybody else, feeling good.”
He thinks it was about 1:30 a.m. when wind noises awoke him at his and his wife Joan’s home off Santa Rosa’s Parker Hill Road. Arising, he saw headlights streaming downhill.
“Now I start smelling the smoke,” Schmidt said. “I tell my wife, ‘We have to get out of here.’ ”
As they prepared to hustle to the car, their dog, Buddy, a deaf, 15½-year-old cockapoo, ducked out the doggie door into the backyard. Joan went after him.
Buddy, frightened, eluded her.
“I was screaming at my deaf dog in the backyard, trying to catch him,” Joan said. More frantic by the second, she and Bob reluctantly left without him.
Both of the Schmidts cook regularly for homeless women and children at The Living Room, the day center on Cleveland Avenue, and they have a key to the place. So they drove there.
Homeless women began to arrive and, learning that the Schmidts had to flee their home and leave their dog, comforted them.
Later Monday, the couple drove to Forestville and the home of Joan’s brother, Louis Lacabanne. They never stopped fretting for their dog and home.
The Schmidts were out on Tuesday when a knock came to Lacabanne’s door. A woman identified herself as Angie Duplicki of Windsor.
She asked, do you know a dog named Buddy? Lacabanne replied that he did. The stranger said she had him.
Duplicki has a son, 22-year-old Windsor High grad and Penn State senior Alex Duplicki. On Monday afternoon, he and friends Keith James and Andrew Rutkowski drove up into the fire-ravaged Fountaingrove area to check on another friend’s house.
Passing near the destroyed Sweet T’s restaurant, the trio noticed, in the backyard of an incinerated house, a small, black dog in a swimming pool. Alex Duplicki and his friends approached and found Buddy sitting in a few inches of water on the pool’s top step.
They wrapped him in a sweatshirt and took him to Angie Duplicki’s place in Windsor.
“He smelled like smoke really bad,” she said. “He growled if we touched his paws.”
She fed Buddy and bedded him down, then phoned the Santa Rosa and Forestville numbers on his collar tag. Both were out of service.
So Duplicki went to an online reverse directory, where she found an address in Forestville. She drove there Tuesday. Learning from Lacabanne that she had the right family, Duplicki drove home, picked up Buddy and delivered him to Forestville.
Soon thereafter, the Schmidts sobbed with joy as they heaped love on their dog. Angie Duplicki would accept no reward.
The Schmidts took Buddy to the PetCare West Veterinary Hospital, where the old dog’s burned paws were treated and dressed. Bob Schmidt went to pay and was told there was no charge.