Cold Springs Fire

How to say goodbye to a good dog: Geno’s family reflects on what they lost and found in the Cold Springs Fire

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

Geno is a Saint Bernard. He’s somewhere far from home now.

It’s hard to imagine that such a great big dog could simply disappear, but that’s what happened as the Nederland wildfire marched toward his family’s home six weeks ago.

One of Geno’s owners, Charlie Schmidtmann, was among the first firefighters on the scene. The other, Bretlyn Schmidtmann, is an ER nurse, a paramedic and a volunteer firefighter.

And as this family worked to help others, their own home burned. When the smoke cleared, they could only find one of their two dogs. Geno was missing.

First, the community raised tens of thousands of dollars to support the Schmidtmanns.

Then the search began. People set up cameras in the wilderness, and they looked for him with infrared sensors. They organized search parties, day after day.

More than 2,000 people joined the Finding Geno group on Facebook. They went by foot, by car, total strangers and new friends, through the canyons and the woods. They found other St. Bernards, perhaps even reuniting them with their families – but never Geno.

As the couple wrote this morning:

What we have already found in our search for Geno is a community of family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, neighbors, and perfect strangers with common qualities: love and hope. We have found a community willing to donate their time, their money, their energy, their hopes, and even their dreams, all they can share, to find a single lost dog. We have all come together, been united, by the search for healing after the fire. All of this for the love of a dog.

Now the Schmidtmanns are saying goodbye to Geno.

Their post continued:

“The thought that Geno may have died afraid, alone, and in pain, that he suffered, is absolutely crushing. But… every day without him makes this the most probable scenario. Our hearts are breaking.”

KEEP SEARCHING, but not for Geno. Our dog is lost. But… his love is not. Keep searching, spend the same time, give the same effort, have the same care, the same hope, and keep searching. Search for a way to love yourself and to love your community: your family, your friends, your coworkers, your acquaintances, your neighbors. Search for a way to love all those you meet, even perfect strangers. Learn their stories the way you learned Geno’s. Keep searching until you find a way to love the way Geno loved, with your whole heart.”

They’re thankful too for the hundreds of emergency responders who protected their town.

As Bretlyn wrote in a separate post:

“For our community, hot shot crews and wildland firefighters from across the nation flew in, dug in, dropped slurry, bulldozed, created fire line, and bravely attempted to protect our neighbors from the ravages of wildfire. These men and women put their lives on the line, every fire and this fire. Words are not thanks enough.”

They’re left, at least, with memories of a very good boy.

“WE, his family, begin each morning missing Geno. We miss him climbing slow motion into bed and flopping down, between and on top of us, waiting for us to snuggle up and pet him. We miss him running around full tilt boogie playing with Clyde. We miss him throughout the day. We miss him getting a big drink of water and then setting his wet face on our knees, drenching us. We miss waking up to him barking.

What he really needed was for someone to understand him. More importantly, what he really needed was to find somebody to give his big heart to. We are so lucky that, for a while, that was us.”