BIG STONE GAP, Va. (WJHL) — Not all heroes wear capes — some wag tails.
One family dog in Southwest Virginia jumped to action Thursday morning to warn his loved ones of danger — a fire had erupted from the outside front wall of the home.
Charity Golloway and her two children were able to make it out of the residence without injury and call the Valley Volunteer Fire Department thanks to Butter, a stray dog that had taken a liking to their home off Silver Creek Road.
Valley firefighter Justin Stidham said the fire started in Butter’s dog shelter. An electric lamp Golloway was using to keep Butter warm had apparently caught fire. The shelter was less than five feet away from the home.
“If it wasn’t for him, who knows what could’ve happened. It could’ve been way worse,” Golloway said. “I’m really grateful for that stray dog that wandered up into my yard.”
Golloway said Butter saw the problem, so he went outside her bedroom window and started barking.
“He knew something wasn’t right and that someone needed to know,” Golloway said. “He’s a smart dog.”
She said the fire alarms had not gone off yet when she heard the barking. She was slow to get out of bed at first, then she heard glass shatter. The heat from the fire had destroyed her front window.
“The flames just got big really fast,” Golloway said. “It’s overwhelming actually how fast it happened.”
Butter’s early alert allowed her son to use the garden hose to douse the flames. The home sustained minor exterior damage – melted vinyl siding and a broken window – but the home was saved.
Valley volunteer firefighters arrived soon after with no fire for them to put out, but did find a friendly dog there to greet them.
“It was a really nice dog,” said firefighter Justin Stidham. “It came up and played with all of us. I was sitting there petting it. It was just nice as it could be.”
A photo of Stidham with Butter went viral on Facebook. That’s when Golloway learned Butter was not actually Butter.
The dog’s original owners recognized Butter as Cooper, who had run away from home over the Summer. Golloway and the owners communicated and verified that Cooper had been living with Golloway.
“He’s going to be leaving us and that makes me want to cry, but I’m happy for him,” Golloway said. “We will be staying in touch.”
Golloway said she plans to give Cooper, the dog she knows as Butter, a steak before he leaves for his good deed.
Stidham said the dog’s quick action saved the house from destruction.
“If wasn’t for that dog, that house would’ve been lit up all throughout the ceiling, and we would’ve been there for hours fighting that house,” Stidham said.
He said early notification can be the difference between saving and losing a house to fire because it slims down a fire department’s response time.
Golloway said the damage to her home is fixable, but it will take time.
She said she plans to meet with Butter’s original owners in the coming days to bring the dog back to home.