JACKTOWN — Pal wandered onto Susan Harmon's doorstep, scraggly, with protruding rib bones and a limp like he'd been swiped by a car.
Her family nursed the Labrador mix back to health.
This week, he returned the favor and rescued them from a fire that left their rural Lincoln County home near Jacktown in ruins.
“We probably would have died without him,” said Harmon, 53. “We don't know where he came from, maybe heaven.”
It was Sunday night. Harmon's wheelchair-bound mother, Donna Gilliam, 79, was fast asleep in the living room. Her father, Harold Gilliam, 82, slumbered in a bedroom while her son, Walt Harmon, 24, slept in another.
Susan Harmon was watching a movie and nodding off when Pal nudged open her bedroom door. She tried to ignore the dog.
“He kept pawing at my arm and wouldn't stop. Then he started whining and looking at the bedroom door,” she said.
She finally gave in, got up and swung open door. In rushed so much smoke it immediately filled the room.
“I couldn't see past my own hand,” Susan Harmon said. “I yelled at Walt, ‘You get Papa, and I'll get Momma.'”
Susan Harmon placed her mother into her wheelchair and pushed her to safety. Walt Harmon roused his grandfather and carried him outside.
On his way out, he grabbed a bottle of water and T-shirt. Once outside, he wet the shirt, covered his mouth and went back inside in hopes of putting out the fire.
The smoke was so black and powerful, he couldn't see the flames. He was able to rescue two small family pets before he could hardly breathe. Pal also made it out of the house.
Paramedics later treated him for excessive smoke inhalation.