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Pit bull saves man from burning Poplar Bluff, Missouri home

Friday, September 19, 2008
By Paul Davis
Daily American Republic

Jacob Ford with his pit bull 'Butch'

Jacob Ford sits on the remains of his front porch where his pit bull 'Butch' apparently saved his life last Friday. (Corey Matthews/Daily American Republic )

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. ’ After a fire gutted a house and basement apartment Jacob Ford lived in last Friday afternoon, the 20-year-old Poplar Bluff man said he's thankful to be alive, and even more so for the dog he "never really paid any attention to."

Ford was awakened Friday afternoon by the persistent whining of a pit bull owned by his mother's boyfriend, and knew something must be wrong.

Upon climbing out of bed, Ford said, his worst fears were realized.

"As soon as I stood up, I had smoke in my face," he said.

Grabbing a fire extinguisher, Ford headed upstairs, only to find the house's hallway full of smoke as well. He then ran outside to call the fire department and his mother.

Gathering his composure, Ford realized the pit bull, Butch, had saved his life, because smoke alarms in the house failed to sound. Butch, however, was nowhere to be found.

"I went to the top of the stairs twice," said Ford, describing the hysteria of the moment. "I was yelling for Butch at the top of my lungs, but he didn't respond. That's when I figured he was probably gone."

A Butler County firefighter eventually found the dog, still alive, hiding in the smoke-filled basement, and led him to safety.

What's amazing, said Tina Mobley, Ford's mother, is how the dog lost a lifelong fear of basements while attempting to wake her son.

Butch, she said, had been abused as a puppy before she purchased him with "the last $52 I had on me."

The dog, Mobley said, had "only been in that basement one time up until that day," because he was terrified of the place, having been kept locked in one as a puppy.

Mobley, who's raised American pit bulls for years, said the breed gets a bad rap much of the time, but not all of them are troublesome.

"They just need a lot of attention," she said.

Ford agreed, saying pit bulls are "family-oriented dogs if they're raised right."

For Mobley, all the extra work she went through to raise Butch from an abused puppy was worth the effort, and now, she said, she'll be forever indebted to him.

"He's a pretty heroic pit bull," she said. "That's the best $52 I ever spent in my life.

"If it had not been for that dog, there's no doubt in my mind my son would have died."

Mobley said she's doubly thankful for Butch's actions because her son soon will be a new father, something that's weighed heavily on him since the fire.

"I had nightmares Friday and Saturday nights, thinking of what could've happened," said Ford. "The thought kept racing through my head about not being there for my child."

Ford, who said he "couldn't be more grateful," admittedly had never been really close to the dog because it belonged to his mother's boyfriend, Larry Gregory, who also owned the house.

"I didn't realize he was that close to me, though," said Ford. "We're a lot closer. We're buddies now."

For his efforts, Butch received singe marks on his muzzle during the fire, but, Mobley said, apparently has suffered no health problems. He has regained much of his puppy fear, though. "He doesn't want to be left alone now," said Mobley, "because he's scared all over again." Ford hopes to change that, he said, starting with the big steak dinner he's promised his new best friend.