They were carried, unconscious and barely breathing, from a smoke-filled house.
Murray Hunt and his nine-month-old puppy Molly almost died in the early evening house fire in the South Waikato town of Tokoroa 10 weeks ago — Hunt himself spent a week in a coma and on life support — but on Friday they returned to thank those who saved their lives.
The pair's dramatic story of survival was first reported in the Herald on the day of the fire, when Tokoroa Volunteer Fire Brigade chief fire officer Dave Morris snapped a photo of fellow volunteers, Chris Barrett and Paul Carter, using oxygen to revive Molly.
Out of shot, firefighters were giving the same treatment to Hunt. St John Ambulance staff took over before the 46-year-old was flown by rescue helicopter to Waikato Hospital.
Critically ill with burns to lungs, the father-of-one doesn't remember his first ride in a helicopter, or anything of the next week.
Molly had a quicker journey back to health — the rottweiler-huntaway cross was back on her feet and tucking into breakfast at the vet's the following morning.
Slightly flat ears, caused by minor burns, are the only reminder of Molly's ordeal, Hunt told the Herald on Sunday.
Hunt wants everyone to know how grateful he is to those who helped — the ambulance officers, hospital staff and, most of all, the volunteer firefighters who risked their own lives to save him and Molly from certain death.
"There's no words to thank them properly for what they've done. I didn't need helicopter pilots, I didn't need ambulances, I didn't need hospitals or anything if it wasn't for them. All I would've needed was a funeral director."
Morris, who was among those to meet Hunt and Molly on Friday, said seeing the pair back on their feet was all the thanks his volunteers needed.
"Another two minutes and [Hunt] would've been dead."
Hunt was home with Molly when he fell asleep while cooking chicken.
The rented John St home was fitted with smoke alarms, but Hunt did not hear them.
As neighbours banged on the windows, Molly scratched at the net curtains in the lounge before returning to where Hunt lay slumped on the bedroom floor.
He was later told the loyal rescue pup was found by his feet.
"She came back to me."
Of course she did.
The pair had been inseparable since Molly "chose" Hunt at the pound.
"She was looking at the needle in a week's time ... I was patting her through the fence and she was licking my hand. She chose herself. I just said straightaway 'she's the one I want'."
"In some ways I've put her through hell, but I'm glad I got her."
As he regained consciousness in hospital, staff were quick to tell him Molly was ok.
He was so grateful firefighters had also thought of Molly when they rushed into the house.
"She's my good little friend."
For now the pair remain mostly apart as Hunt, who was released from hospital just over a month after the fire, is still organising a pet-friendly rental.
Molly is living in Warkworth with Hunt's former partner, where she is being spoiled by their 14-year-old son, Hunt said.
"I miss her very much, but at least I know she's in good hands."
Life was slowly returning to normal, although Hunt, a former chef, still struggled with low oxygen levels when active.
And there was the emotional toll, particularly the guilt in so badly damaging the home rented to him by a friend.
"A day doesn't go by where I wish I could turn back the clock."
Hunt also wanted to warn others to take seriously fire safety messages.
He doesn't want anyone to go through what he has - from being unable to communicate after waking from his coma to having to use a suction tool to remove black gunk from his throat to trying to find a new home.
"You don't realise. You see the ads on TV and you don't realise what you'll actually have to go through."