Doug Cruger, right, helps Oscar Gonzalez saddle his horse Sassy on the beach in Mission Bay in San Diego, after they evacuated because of the wildfires in San Diego County
SAN DIEGO - For the past week, the residents of Fiesta Beach have included uptight horses, frightened finches and designer dogs — as well as pet owners trying to make it all seem like home.
The island in Mission Bay became an animal refuge after wildfires broke out last weekend across Southern California.
Dozens of horse trailers lined the beach, and horses grazed on hay in makeshift corrals or trotted along the water’s edge.
Oscar Gonzalez, 52, was not sure if his 16-acre homestead in Deerhorn Valley had survived the blaze, but he took solace in his pets — four cats, seven shar-peis, four parakeets, two parrots, a yellow pheasant and two finches. He said two other finches died of stress Wednesday.
Gonzalez rounded up his menagerie and their supplies — but no provisions for himself or his wife — as they fled flames that came within 100 yards of their house.
As a smoky scent hung in the air Thursday, motor boats streaked by on the bay and farriers shod horses.
“They’re not used to having so many people around,” Gonzalez said. “You have all this commotion, all these boats coming up here, they get nervous.”
For Christopher Richter, who moved his four horses, eight dogs and four cats at least five times during the week, the peace of Fiesta Beach felt therapeutic.
“When we got here, there was smoke around, but the air quality for us and our animals was a lot better because of the breezes,” he said.
One of his friends was fleeing the town of Ramona with three horses in tow when the fire overtook the horse trailer, killing the animals. His friend escaped the cab with seconds to spare.
Richter’s girlfriend, Nicole Hancock, pampered a steed with a bottle of Gatorade while other residents brought crates of apples, carrots and sugar cubes for the horses.
“This is the most time I think I’ve spent at the beach since I’ve lived in San Diego,” she said.
SoCal pets find refuge on beach after fires - Pet Health - MSNBC.com