Community, Connection and Serendipity
by Jennifer Shannon, LMFT
The population of Santa Rosa is 175,000. While I love where I live and it has always felt like home, I can’t say that I’ve felt a strong sense of community. That has changed dramatically since the Tubbs fire that destroyed 3,000 homes, including mine, and caused the evacuation of thousands more.
Yesterday I got together with my friend Katherine for lunch in Healdsburg. She lives on Mark West Springs road, which was hit hard, and during the evacuation we texted back and forth about Mojo, our Jack Russell terrier that was missing and her horses and cats, which she had to leave behind. Although we were glad we had escaped with our lives, the possible loss of our beloved animals was agonizing. Fortunately, as it turned out, they all survived.
About 45 minutes into our lunch, sharing stories and tears, Katherine asked me how Mojo was found. “Mojo?” said our waitress who was refilling our glasses of water. “The little terrier lost in the fire? I’m the one who found him!”
My jaw dropped. This was the young woman who, along with her boyfriend, met us in a Raley’s Parking lot to deliver our dog. But I was in shock at the time, and hyper focused on Mojo, who sat shivering in the back seat of their car. I was grateful, but honestly did not remember them or their faces. Doug and I wanted to see them later, to thank them again, but were not sure how to get a hold of them.
Tears of gratefulness, surprise, and awe trickled down my face. We’d picked this restaurant, new to us, in a nearby town, and randomly been given this table with this waitress. Then Katherine asked about Mojo at the exact moment she came to refill our water glasses! When our waitress, who introduced herself as Danae, had a break she sat down with us and showed us picture on her phone of Mojo at the time of the rescue. Then she told us in detail how the rescue took place.
The day after the fire, Danae and her boyfriend, both dog owners themselves, happened to see Mojo running erratically through a chaotic scene of fire trucks, police and residents in the still smoldering Coffee Park area. He was obviously lost, and they ran after him. Danae said she’d never seen a dog run so fast, it didn’t look like his feet were touching the ground. They chased after him through the streets for nearly half an hour until finally, Mojo jumped into a swimming pool, filled with fire debris, logs and ash. When Danae saw him go under the water she instinctively jumped in after him. She was able to grab him and as she handed him up to her boyfriend, the dog, crazy with fear, bit him on the hand. Only after they read Mojo’s tag, and began calling him by his name was he able to calm down. He even began licking their hands. And then they called us.
Later, as we were waiting for our check, Danae told us that a woman sitting at a nearby table overheard that I had lost my home and paid for our lunch. I went over to thank her, and I found out that she too lives in Santa Rosa, and that although it was touch and go, her house was saved. She said she is now renting out a small house on their property to a couple who had also lost their home in Fountaingrove. I asked who it was, and it turned out it was my neighbor from the condo next to ours!
That wonderful afternoon, with my friend, the woman who saved our dog, another woman who paid for our lunch and opened a home on her property to a neighbor who lost her home, I had a stronger sense of community and connection than I had ever had, not just in Santa Rosa, but in my life. This is something I am tremendously grateful for this Thanksgiving.
As a therapist and author who specializes in stress and anxiety, and has lost my home in the Santa Rosa fire, I am writing this blog to remind myself of the powerful tools I use in my practice with my clients. If It helps others to deal with their own challenges, nothing would please me more.