The wildfires in Canada are still recent enough to be painful for thousands of people. But one lucky gerbil named Thunder the Great was able to turn the tragedy into something positive, and gain a little fame, too.
Thunder’s mom, Julie Beth Lodge, was a night-shift worker in Fort McMurray. Lodge’s roommate woke her in the middle of the afternoon to alert her to the evacuation. Lodge immediately packed up, took Thunder, and headed out.
During her evacuation, Lodge snapped a photo of a girl fleeing the fires on horseback and leading two other horses. The photo went viral and netted Lodge appearances on various radio shows where Lodge often spoke of her adventures with Thunder during their escape.
Radio show hosts began referring to Thunder as “Canada’s Most Famous Gerbil.”
One of the struggles Lodge and Thunder faced was from the airlines. Lodge had hoped to fly out but was told at the airport that gerbils are on the “no fly” list and was advised to leave him behind.
“I was not leaving my pet,” Lodge says. “I walked across the street from the airport and got a rental vehicle, and I took my gerbil and I drove back to Kelowna.”
Hearing this story, among others, on the radio, book publisher and owner of Boulder Publications Gavin Will was intrigued. He reached out to Lodge via Facebook to discuss a children’s book based on Thunder’s adventures. Within days, Will had a deal in place with an author and illustrator.
Lodge says she was taken aback: “I said, ‘Are you for real? Really? That’s the weirdest thing ever!'”
But she met with Will and gave the green light. The story will be told from Thunder’s point of view and will end happily — although we won’t spoil it for you. The story is somewhat fictionalized but sticks close to what really happened during the evacuation.