Chris Smith: Hen nearly roasted in Tubbs fire wobbles toward recovery

Autumn the chicken (Forget Me Not Farm)


Watching Autumn go was bittersweet for animal rescuer and Forget Me Not Farm founder Carol Rathmann.

“I had her in my family room for about four months,” Carol said.

Autumn is a chicken that nearly roasted in the Tubbs fire. Most of the other chickens that occupied a rural property northeast of Santa Rosa perished.

“She was found sitting on and presumably protecting her egg,” Carol said.

The red hen was brought into Forget Me Not Farm, the therapeutic oasis for animals and kids located next to the Sonoma Humane Society. Her rescuer was Odessa Gunn, the former professional cyclist and animal advocate.

When the Forget Me Not Farms staff and volunteers met Autumn in early October, she was in sad shape.

“Her legs, feet and chest were badly burned,” Carol said. Veterinarians and farm staffers tended to Autumn and let her take it easy on a patch of grass.

Come quitting time each day, Carol took the hen home to her sleeping place in the family room.

It made for a big day at Forget Me Not Farm when Autumn laid her first post-disaster egg. That was in November, and since then she has produced one big, brown, beautiful egg nearly every day.

She’s also become quite sociable.

Carol said, “Because of the personal attention and care she has received from Forget Me Not Farm staff and volunteers, she is super friendly to people.”

Autumn’s recovery has come along quite well. New skin has grown on her legs and feet. But she’s lost most of her badly burned toes.

“It’s a little awkward, watching her walk,” Carol said. “She is able to stand and is learning to balance and walk with her misshapen feet and help from her wings.”

Autumn’s ability to walk improved enough lately for the Forget Me Not Farms crew to put her up for adoption.

Just the other day, she went to her new home: Kathy and Joe Tresch’s splendid, nearly 2,100-acre organic dairy and events venue northwest of Petaluma.

The chicken has landed well.

THE DNA TEST is completed: Phoenix the cat is in fact Mack.

Folks at Sonoma County Animal Services ordered the test in hopes of helping to resolve a painful conflict over a handsome cat that ran from a Fountaingrove home that burned on Oct. 9.

A couple of days later, a cat was picked up in that area by a good Samaritan who delivered him to the county animal shelter. There he was named Aspen. Some weeks after that, the cat was adopted and taken home by a local couple.

The cat’s new masters named him Phoenix.

The family that lost their home to the flames contend that Phoenix is in fact their cat, Mack. Shelby Wallace and her family pleaded without success to have Mack given back.

County officials regard this as a private, civil matter that they’d like to stay out of. But to aid a possible resolution, the county paid to have the lab at UC Davis compare DNA from Phoenix with that from Mack.

They’re the same cat.

With that settled, Shelby Wallace says her family has asked in writing that the couple with Mack do what local law and decency require: return him.

“We are waiting to hear back from them,” Wallace said.

Chris Smith is at 707-521-5211 and

Editor’s Note: This version of the column updates information on the various names assigned to the cat originally named Mack.