When the Ballejos family evacuated their home at the start of a devastating Northern California wildfire last year, their dog named Kingston went missing in the chaos.
They reunited with the Akita 101 days later, television station KXTV reported, believing he survived by eating skunks.
“When I found out, [it] just about brought me to tears,” Kingston’s owner Gabriel Ballejos told KXTV. “I’m so proud of him. I can’t believe it. He’s a true survivor, and it’s a testament to the American spirit.”
The 12-year-old dog hunted skunks before the Camp Fire and smelled like skunk when Ballejos picked him up on Monday — even after volunteers bathed him. In November, Kingston jumped out of the back of the family’s truck in Paradise and took off running from the flames.
But the Ballejos family never lost hope, KXTV reported, even though the wildfire leveled Paradise, killed 85 people and destroyed nearly 15,000 homes in the area.
Ballejos told KXTV they posted flyers, contacted shelters and searched on their own.
“Every night I would ask my dad and tell him that we needed to go look for him,” said Ballejos’ daughter, Maleah.
Volunteers contacted the family after animal rescue volunteers Ben Lepe trapped Kingston on Sunday, KXTV reported. Lepe took him to Friends of Camp Fire Cats, a local rescue group that saw Ballejos’ missing dog message.
Surveillance cameras spotted Kingston, Lepe said, and he set a trap big enough for the dog weighing at least 75 pounds on Saturday.
“When I went to check it on Sunday, there he was,” Lepe said. “It was awesome to see him and know he would be fed and warm.”
Friends of Camp Fire Cats has rescued more than 200 lost pets since the fire, said Angel Herrera. The group still sets traps.
“If we had the resources, we could trap 50 animals every single night,” she said.
Ballejos told KXTV his family is grateful to have Kingston home again.
Contributing: The Associated Press