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Earl sniffed the smoke and woke his family, allowing them to escape the fire that destroyed their home.
After a late-night load of laundry, Kristina Brate fell asleep on the couch with her two dogs, Tucker, a 5-year-old mini Bulldog, and Earl, the 4-year-old Pug she’d adopted just two weeks earlier. As smoke began filling the house, Tucker and Kristina remained asleep, but Earl’s short snout smelled the danger.
“At 5:30 in the morning, Earl was ferociously nudging me in the face, licking me. He even scratched the side of my face to get my attention,” Kristina tells Lucky Puppy.
Disoriented at first, Kristina quickly realized she and her dogs were surrounded by thick, black smoke.
“When I started breathing it in, I realized we had to get out of there, so I immediately clapped my hands and said, ‘let’s go potty,’ and both of them ran to the front door, and out we went. It was that fast.”
Barefoot, wearing pajamas and clutching the mobile phone she’d fallen asleep with, Kristina called 911 and watched as the house she’d lived in for 16 years burned. She was losing so much, but had plenty to be grateful for. Her college-age daughter, Hannah, wasn’t home, but thanks to the Stray Animal Adoption Program (SAAP) Earl was. Kristina hates to think what could have happened if she hadn’t adopted the light sleeper.
“From the moment I filled out the application until the time I brought him home, I thought I was rescuing him,” Kristina explains through tears, “but everything happened and fell into place so that he could be there that night, so that he could rescue me.”
It all started when Kristina started following SAAP on Facebook. She wasn’t actively looking for another pet, but when Earl’s face popped up in her newsfeed one day, the dog lover says she just felt drawn to him.
“Before I could even think about it, I filled out the application online and sent it in, and then I told my daughter what I did. She was like, ‘Mom, we don’t need another dog.’”
It seemed like Tucker — who had been with Kristina and Hannah since he was 6 weeks old — was destined to be a solo pooch, especially after Kristina got a message from SAAP explaining that another family had been selected for Earl.
“Two days went by, and then I get this email that says something has happened with the family and they couldn’t adopt Earl, and they wanted to offer him to me,” says Christina, who made arrangements to go with Hannah (who had come around to the idea) to meet Earl at a Petco adoption event and see if he would be a good fit for the family.
When the women got out of their car in the Petco parking lot, Earl was enjoying some outdoor time in a pen in front of the store, and he immediately noticed Kristina.
“It was like he never took his eyes off me,” she says. “It’s as if he knew he was going home with us.”
Although wary of the newcomer at first, Tucker quickly came to appreciate his new playmate. By the night of the fire, the two dogs were snuggle buddies and have grown even closer in the three months since the blaze. The duo became mini celebrities at their hotel after appearing on the local news.
Their living situation has Kristina thinking back to a question on the SAAP adoption form — one that she didn’t see as significant at the time.
“On the paperwork, you’re asked what you would do with the dog if you become homeless,” says Kristina, who just couldn’t imagine why that question would be relevant.
“So I wrote, ‘he goes where I go,’” she explains. “Then after the fire, Petco gave us a shopping spree to replace everything the boys lost in the fire, and I told [SAAP] that day, the question makes sense now. I would have never thought I would be homeless.”
The family now spend their days taking walks around the dog-friendly apartment complex they’ve moved into while their home — which once belonged to Kristina’s grandmother — gets rebuilt.
Earl and his family may have been temporarily homeless, but this little hero will always have a forever home with Kristina.
Top: Earl’s cute face drew Kristina to his adoption profile. (Photo courtesy Kristina Brate/Shelter Dog Photography)
Heather is a wife, new mom, and former TV journalist in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. You can follow Heather on Twitter and Google+.
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