Fires can be terrifying for anyone, however one two-year-old Ohio pup battled her fear out of love for her owner. For that, Vietnam Veteran Tony Damato describes his dog, Bella, as “my hero.”
On Thursday, September 21, Bella and Tony were at their home in North Ridgeville, Ohio – a suburb of Cleveland. According to Fox8.com, Tony’s wife, Wendy, was out with their daughter, Jennifer Isaacs. In Tony’s words, he “was not feeling so good so decided to take a nap. A little more than an hour later, Bella jumped up on me and was making sure I got up.” Wendy wrote on GoFundMe, that Bella was “jumping on [Tony’s] chest to alert him of the fire.”
Bella was successful and Tony hurried to the front door. Unfortunately, when he got outside, he passed out on the porch. During this time Bella “accidentally locked [herself] in [Tony’s] room and hid under his bed,” according to what Wendy wrote. Thankfully the North Ridgeville Fire Department soon showed up. Wendy told Fox8.com that “the firefighters were just absolutely amazing. They went inside and got Bella.” Unfortunately, Bella was unconscious from the smoke. John Reese, the North Ridgeville Fire Chief, told reporters that they gave Bella oxygen before sending her to a veterinarian at the animal hospital. Tony was also taken to a hospital.
Jennifer described that as “gut wrenching.” Bella had “saved [her] dad and then we were worried she may not make it.” Bella received more oxygen at the animal hospital to help her stabilize. Thankfully, the very day that Tony was released from his hospital, the family was allowed to take Bella home. The whole family is staying with relatives and looking for a new home. Tony told reporters that they “are not out of the woods yet, but we are praying.”
Tony served in Vietnam and, after experiencing multiple health issues since then, now has a trachea tube and no sense of smell. Not having the sense of smell meant that it was even more important for Bella to alert Tony on that fateful night: he wouldn’t have been able to smell the smoke while he slept!
Tony received Bella through a non-profit organization called Wags 4 Warriors. Wags 4 Warriors matched Tony with Bella and provided training, equipment, and support so that Bella could become his service dog at no cost to Tony. The organization’s “goal is for the service dog to take away the struggle the veterans face everyday.” They might not have known that Bella would save Tony from a fire, but they knew she would make his life better.
Tony is more grateful than ever for Bella. As a reward for saving him from the fire, he told reporters “I wish I could buy her steak for breakfast every day.” He knows that “She definitely saved my life, no doubt about that at all.”