Our previous CO YOGA + Life “Renewal” issue included a feature article about successful pet rescues following the devastating Marshall Fire in Louisville and Superior, CO on December 30, 2021. We thought it would be heartwarming, also in the spirit of our current theme of “Bravery,” to check in on Camden Hall and his cat, Merlin. How’s it going, guys? What’s new? What lingers? Where has your journey taken you over the past months? What are your reflections? Your new directions? What can you share now about this unexpected, life-changing experience?
On a sunny, summer afternoon, I met Merlin and Camden in a shady park to reminisce and to create wishes for the future. What a treat to sit down with this dynamic duo! Camden’s warm, handsome smile is welcoming, and he wears his gentle, infinite affection for his pet on his sleeve. I fell in love with Merlin, instantly. I had seen countless photos of this brave cat who survived both a blizzard and a wildfire, but now, I appreciate his abundant personality. He’s affectionate, curious, smart and the quintessential “cat’s meow!”
A Vermont native, Camden first moved to Colorado in 2008 to attend University of Colorado Boulder. “Someone told me when I arrived here … either you’ll stay your whole life or move on,” he reflects. “I think I’ll probably be around for a long time!”
Camden adopted his pet from the Longmont Humane Society after Merlin was found almost frozen to death during a blizzard. Their happiness bloomed as they began their journey. Merlin’s previous eight to nine years hadn’t been easy ones. Camden’s life was about to hit a rough road.
After graduating, he got mixed-in with a negative crowd, made bad decisions and faced dark times. He was arrested for drug dealing, ruined his credit, neglected his own physical and mental health and paid the piper. He battled addiction, judgment and a grim reality. Merlin was Camden’s bright light throughout. Gradually, Camden found a steady job at Eldora Ski Resort working the snowmaking systems and rented his own living space. Together, they turned the corner and headed in a smoother direction, still with miles to go.
The Marshall Fire threatened to upend all of the personal gains Camden had earned. While he was at work, his Superior rental house burned to the ground.
“All I had left was with me in my Subaru,” he remembers. “I still miss the artwork that I had bought at Creek Fest. When I went back to my place on Sunday with my mom, I could make out my charred metal bed frame. Nothing else.”
Except for Merlin! Camden didn’t know it yet, but his cat with more-than-nine-lives had miraculously escaped through an open sliding glass door. Badly burned, he was taken to Northside Emergency Pet Clinic in Westminster. Thanks to his chip I.D., eventually, they were reunited. Merlin spent 33days in the hospital.
Meanwhile, a coworker helped Camden secure temporary furnished housing in Nederland, close to work, until May. Eventually, Merlin came home to continue his healing and rehab. But, their road got bumpy again.
“When I moved to the mountains, I started to feel the fire. Everything was upside-down for a while. I was escaping and started drinking more. I worked a lot, but I didn’t ride/board or go to the gym much. I wasn’t very happy. To continue on that path, it wasn’t going to get any better. If I want my life to be better, it’s up to me to take control,” Camden says.
Some positives … Merlin was getting better, back to prowling the house at night and drinking out of the bathtub! At season’s end, Eldora named Camden “Snowmaker of the Year.”
Time for another reality check.
“My old buddy in Broomfield invited us to move back down to the Front Range and stay with him as long as needed. We’re there now. I have a new job working with irrigation and sprinklers. It’s tough, but it’s what you make of it. I often work alone, more my own boss. We stand behind quality, and that’s my motivation.”
So, what’s next?
“I’m not sure. Solid opportunities for promotions … money is good. Maybe I’ll develop my own handyman business. Home renovation. I enjoy working with tools, fixing things, taking pride in that. It’s easier now, more back to the routine I had before. I try to live an active and busy life. Run, bike, board, some golf. Enjoy my health. No idle hands for boredom. Before the fire, I hadn’t paid attention to so many things. I’ve started focusing more on my attitude and life choices. Bring on the positive … or the negative,” he shares.
“Also, I want to be more involved in the community. The help and support I’ve gotten hasn’t been from FEMA or Boulder County … a struggle. Rather, it has been from people who reached out right away, many who didn’t know a thing about me. They just wanted to help, asking nothing in return. Where would I be without them?
It’s amazing what has come my way, and I’m so grateful. That’s the biggest takeaway from it all. It’s funny how little we need. I have Merlin, and he’s what matters now. He is NOT replaceable! He is just the best, Camden concludes.
I couldn’t agree more. Camden and Merlin, you’re BOTH the best AND the bravest! Onward.
Photos by Sandy Furguson Fuller
Originally published in Winter + Spring 2022-23 issue.