Dog rescued from Bedford fire reunited with his heroes

Posted Friday, Feb. 15, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Gratitude was hard to judge Friday as a dog met the Colleyville and Bedford firefighters who saved his life. Dogs like Jake are always wagging their tails.

It’s also impossible to tell whether Jake even remembers being trapped in a burning building Jan. 22. It probably didn’t register until it was too late that his owner, Vernon Dede, was gone and the smoke was rising.

“Jake was up in my office,” said Dede, owner of the Kwik Kar garage at Harwood Road and Central Drive in Bedford. “Normally, he follows me down the stairs, but I ran down so fast I think it just freaked him out.”

Dede said his mind was on his mechanic after he heard a “Foomf!” and saw smoke billowing from the garage. The mechanic had been removing a gas tank that was leaking vapor when some kind of spark ignited a fire.

“It didn’t explode, but it definitely was a cloud of fumes that ignited,” Dede said. “By the time I ran downstairs from my office, about 15 seconds, the whole place was engulfed.”

The instant Dede saw that his mechanic was safe outside, he thought about who wasn’t.

“I realized that Jake was still in there,” he said. “I was just sick.”

Jake is a black-and-white blend of Labrador and something equally endearing. Dede found him as a puppy four years ago, rolling in the sand under his car at his brother’s Lake Bridgeport getaway.

“My brother said, ‘People dump dogs out here all the time. He probably won’t make it,’ ” Dede said.

His first thought, to take the pup to the Bedford Animal Shelter, was quickly rejected, Dede said.

“As soon as I saw him, he took my breath away,” he said. “I knew my wife, Mary, would fall in love with this dog as well.”

The Dedes’ son, Wes, was graduating from high school and had time enough only to give Jake his name before heading out for Texas Tech.

“Jake was a good replacement for him,” Dede said.

The dog was determined, learning house rules and tricks quickly and proving his loyalty in ways that would make most dog owners jealous.

“He’s super smart,” Dede said. “We take him for walks without a leash, and he stays right with us. Other dogs come around and he pretty much ignores them.”

No surprise, then, that Dede took Jake to work with him every day. The dog had his own cushion near the windows.

That’s where Colleyville firefighter/paramedic Terry Wisdon found him the day of the fire.

“He was upstairs toward the front of the structure, laying on his side, just breathing 200 times a minute, panting as bad as I’ve ever seen a dog pant,” he said.

Getting the 90-pound dog out was one of the greatest challenges Wisdon has faced.

“I don’t know what Jake really weighs,” he said. “But it was about like trying to carry an 80-pound slinky.”

As Wisdon reached the top of the stairs, fellow firefighters Matt Blankenship and Capt. Eddie Moran helped hold Jake and kept Wisdon from tripping on hose lines.

“We carried him down the stairs and outside,” Wisdon said. “I pulled my mask off and held it over Jake’s snout to help force air on him.”

Bedford Fire Chief James Tindell said he thought Jake “was a goner” when he saw him being carried out.

“I told them to get him onto the grass and noticed his eyes were open and he was struggling to breathe,” he said. “We carry a device for animals — a collection of masks of various sizes — that was donated to us by some group.”

Bedford firefighter Michael Barnhardt took Jake to a grassy area where he, Wisdon and other EMTs started working on him.

“We put a pet mask and O2 bottle on him and started two IVs,” Wisdon said.

As soon as they could, the crew loaded Jake into Fire Marshal Joey Lankford’s truck for a ride to a vet.

The dog ended up at Animal Emergency Hospital of North Texas in Southlake, where Dede said a vet didn’t give Jake much chance of making it through the first two nights.

Jake came home from the hospital on a Saturday, four days after the fire, Dede said.

“For the next week to week and a half we took him to twice-a-day breathing treatments,” he said. “They’d pound on his chest to break up that junk. He was on five or six different medicines.”

It will be awhile before the garage is rebuilt, but as soon as it is, Dede and Jake will go to work together again. The dog is almost back to normal. Jake goes out for short walks and the fits of coughing have become few and far between, Dede said.

“If you look at him now, you’d swear he’s back 100 percent,” he said.

The vet bills, medicines and rehabilitation weren’t cheap, but Dede said he doesn’t dwell on the cost.

“If I didn’t have to tell my kid and my wife that I killed our dog by leaving him upstairs, it was worth it,” he said. “Plus, he’s a member of the family.”

Terry Evans, 817-390-7620; Twitter: @fwstevans

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