GOLETA, Calif. - Daniel Sievert moved to the Central Coast back in 2012, expecting to only live out of his car for a short time. Weeks turned into months, however, before a new mission took him and his comfort dogs on the road.
Since the Boston Marathon Bombing in April 2013, Sievert and his golden retrievers have driven about 140,000 miles around the country, visiting communities struck by tragedy.
Sievert and his dog Emerson have now completed 50 missions across the country. His dog Jake passed away after 42 of those missions, with younger dog Cooper joining the cause after that.
The trio form a group called Golden Missions of America, with the goal being to provide hope, joy and solace to those in a community hit by tragedy.
Those include the Santa Clarita area after last year's Saugus High School shooting and the Santa Barbara area after the Conception Dive Boat fire.
“I always leave knowing we made some kind of impact,” Sievert said. “And that’s my mission, is to bring an impact to people who are suffering deeply.”
In 2020, Sievert has packaged snacks for first responders during the pandemic. He and his dogs were also able to comfort firefighters in Santa Clarita battling the Lake Fire.
Sievert considers the Central Coast home--specifically Arroyo Grande and San Luis Obispo. But while he has spent a lot of time there in recent years, he has not had a permanent address since before his missions began. He has been living with his dogs in cars and hotel rooms.
That lack of consistency has been tough during the pandemic.
“Of course, 2020 hit and everybody said ‘Shelter in place,’ ‘shelter in place,’” he said. “Well, I had no place... Even if we wanna check with the [homelessness] agencies: ‘Oh, you don’t quite qualify,’ or ‘We’ll put you on a waiting list. It’s gonna take a couple years.’"
A friend is now raising money via a GoFundMe in order for Daniel to be able to buy a small mobile home.
“I could find a place to park, be it a mobile home park, where it's safe, consistent,” he said. “It’ll give us the energy and help me renew the vision of the mission that we have, which is to serve people with love, hope and joy across America."
Sievert says once COVID restrictions are lifted, he hopes to expand his group and bring in more people with golden retriever comfort dogs in order to coordinate a larger response for communities hit by tragedy.