Tiny dog saves family from tragedy

By Merania Karauria -
Bella the dog saved the family from the fire. Photo / Bevan Conley
Bella the dog saved the family from the fire. Photo / Bevan Conley

Bella the dog is tiny and and only 11 months old, but her insistent urgent bark on Monday night saved a family of four from tragedy.

Bella is a Cavalier King Charles cross with Griffen and Maltese, and is trusting and loving and ready for a pat and tummy rub.

Jo Conroy, Bella's owner says she cannot bear to think about a different outcome from the fire that gutted her children's bedroom.

On Monday around 8.30pm their family pet was outside the back door barking.

"I thought she was barking at my son who was hanging something out the bedroom window."

But the barking continued and Ms Conroy then thought Bella was barking at the neighbours because of a snipping sound like they were in the garden pruning.

But that snipping was the sound of flames licking along the side of the wooden villa on the Dublin/Keith St corner.

"I told her to be quiet, but then she was just going crazy, barking insanely."

When Ms Conroy investigated further, she saw the flames licking down the side of the house; they were coming from her children's bedroom window that was broken by the heat of the fire from a bed that was on fire.

With her children's father, Ms Conroy ran back into the house and up to the children's bedroom at the front of the house.

"There was only room for me in the bedroom between the beds." The children's father stood in the hallway.

The bedroom was full of smoke and Ms Conroy could not see anything but one bed and the window.

Neither of the children was in their beds; it was a terrifying time for Ms Conroy as she called, "Where are you?"

The noise was deafening and the smoke choking, and if the children were calling back to her, Ms Conroy would not have heard.

Then she felt her daughter's hand reach out from under the bed and touch her foot. Her son also put out his hand.

Her daughter and son were in a small space between the wall and a box of toys. She reached under and pulled out her 2-year old daughter and gave her to her father. She then reached down and pulled out her son, aged 4, and ran outside.

All four spent the night in Wanganui Hospital for smoke inhalation, and three days later, Ms Conroy is reflective about the family's good fortune.

They lost everything, but they were covered by insurance.

"Nothing is left of the bedroom. It was completely gutted.'

But it is the generosity of the town that has amazed her. "The whole town has shown a huge heart and fantastic empathy. The wider community has given assistance."

She cuddles Bella and tells her she'll be getting a bone every day.

"Bella is always very good with the children. She has a love affair with my daughter."

Today, Ms Conroy and her children will leave Wanganui for Taranaki where she is going to be a beekeeper.

A glass artist, Ms Conroy will return to Wanganui to work at her craft on weekends.

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