When 13-year-old Cheyenne Brugh was told she was needed to rescue an animal trapped in a wall, she had no idea it was a ploy to get her to Congressman Duncan Hunter’s office where family and friends waited to see her honored by the congressman for her work with Emergency Animal Rescue.
Doug Lake, executive director of Emergency Animal Rescue, brought Cheyenne to the El Cajon office building. Arriving at Hunter’s office in her red Emergency Animal Rescue T-shirt, Cheyenne was stunned to see her mother, grandmother, two of her brothers, her seventh-grade teacher and others who participate in Emergency Animal Rescue.
Puzzled, she asked, “What’s going on? What are we all here for?”
When she was told that District 52 Congressman Hunter was so impressed with her rescue work that he read a speech honoring her in the U.S. House of Representatives and he has a special presentation planned for her, the impact of what was happening hit Cheyenne. Jumping up and down in excitement, she said, “That is so cool.”
Not only is Cheyenne very involved with Emergency Animal Rescue, but at 13 years old she is the youngest person in California to be awarded certification for Large Animal Rescue (LAR) by the California State Fire Marshal. When she is not rescuing animals, she volunteers her time at promotional events to raise money for the nonprofit rescue organization.
It was at one of these events, the Bulls Only Rodeo in Lakeside, when Hunter learned of Cheyenne’s volunteer work. After giving a speech, Hunter met those working at the Emergency Animal Rescue booth and they told him about Cheyenne’s rescue work and LAR certification.
“He was quite impressed with her ability,” Lake said.
Lake said he received a call from Hunter’s office in Washington D.C. two or three days after the rodeo. The staff wanted more information about Cheyenne.
On July 28, Hunter gave the Extensions of Remarks for the Congressional Record on the House floor, telling about Cheyenne’s accomplishments:
“Madam Speaker, today I rise in recognition of Cheyenne Brugh of Ramona, Calif. Cheyenne is a 13-year-old young woman who has committed her time and energy to the Emergency Animal Rescue group. This nonprofit organization located in my district is made up of volunteers, like Cheyenne, who are committed to rescuing and housing animals from life threatening situations. Today, I am honored to recognize this young lady for her outstanding achievements and superior quality of character.”
Later in the speech, Hunter said, “Individuals like Cheyenne, who volunteer their time, are at the heart of this great nation. The next time there is a wildfire in Southern California, you can rest assured that Cheyenne will be there rescuing animals.”
While Lake and the others were aware of Hunter’s speech, it was kept secret from Cheyenne until they could meet at Hunter’s office.
Hunter presented Cheyenne with a framed copy of the Extensions of Remarks for the Congressional Record of the 111th Congress. Lake also gave Cheyenne plaques with the speech and her LAR certificate.
Sitting down with Cheyenne in his office, Hunter asked her about the rescues with which she has been involved. Cheyenne said she often has to climb up in trees to rescue cats. She told of a time she climbed up a 40-foot ladder to get to a branch and then climb into the tree.
The cat kept crawling farther and farther away to where the branch was getting thinner. Cheyenne had to climb down and then climb back up the ladder into another tree and use a catch pole to reach the cat. She then lowered the catch pole with the cat down to someone below her who was able to take the cat. Cheyenne admitted that once she gets down onto the ground, she is usually a little shaky.
Cheyenne also told Hunter of her upcoming training: swiftwater rescue. To be a swiftwater rescue technician (SRT) and actually go into the water to do rescues, one must be 18 years of age. Because Cheyenne is only 13, her work will be shore-based and her training will teach her how to support those in water. The training will be held Sept. 11 at Soak City in Chula Vista.
When Hunter asked Cheyenne what her plans are after high school, she responded that she would like to go to UCLA and become a firefighter.
Hunter commended Cheyenne on her work and her plans, and said to her mother, Tanao Brugh, “Thanks for having a great daughter.”
“I’m grateful that she’s so passionate about reaching out to animals,” Tanao said before the meeting with Hunter. “It’s built her self-esteem—it’s a responsibility and she feels good about herself.”
Cheyenne, who has three older brothers, has a big sister, Sharon Soldi, through the Big Brother Big Sister program. When Soldi met Cheyenne, she said she knew they would get along great because they had so much in common, such as music and a love for animals.
After the Witch fire in 2007, Soldi’s band, Cactus Twang and Whyte, played a benefit for fire victims. That was when she and Cheyenne learned about Emergency Animal Rescue, which rescued over 200 horses, along with dogs, cats and other animals during the fire.
Emergency Animal Rescue volunteers rescue domestic animals and wildlife. They go “into fires, into floods, get animals out of predicaments,” said Lake.
Soldi and Cheyenne joined Emergency Animal Rescue and Cheyenne said she does at least one rescue a week. She keeps a bag in Lake’s truck with gloves, clothing and other items she needs to perform rescues.
With her large animal rescue training, Cheyenne recently accompanied Lake to a call about a horse that was lying on the ground and couldn’t stand. Lake said they referred it to the humane society when realizing it was a neglect case.
This fall is going to be a busy time for Cheyenne. Besides being an eighth-grader at Olive Peirce Middle School, taking swiftwater rescue training and rescuing animals, she is going to Washington D.C. on a school trip, led by her seventh-grade teacher, Chris Castberg, from Ramona Lutheran School.
While at Hunter’s office, Castberg pointed out to Cheyenne that the speech about her will be in the Congressional Record that is stored at the Library of Congress. The students, he said, will be visiting the Library of Congress, although they will not be able to go into the section where the Congressional Record is stored.
Enthused about her upcoming trip to D.C., Cheyenne realizes that “not a lot of kids my age” get to meet their congressman, let alone receive such recognition.