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Bandit Saves Family From Smoke

Jennifer DeStefani with her little hero Bandit. (The Associated Press)

Bandit, Pomeranian-Poodle mix, was staying with the DeStefani family, in Hamilton Township, NJ, while his family went out of town for a wedding. When Jennifer DeStefani agreed to watch her friend's dog, she had no idea that her decision would save her life.

Jennifer was not sure whether Bandit would get along with her other two pets – a cat named Gracie and a Shar-Pei named Stitch – so she decided to have Bandit stay in her bedroom.

Jennifer's husband Rich was sterilizing a plastic hairbrush on the stove. Forgetting about the boiling pot, Rich and Jennifer went to bed. As the water evaporated, the house filled with toxic smoke. Earlier that day, the family had purchased new smoke detectors. Although brand new, the detectors remained silent.

Then Bandit sprung into action! He jumped up on Jennifer's chest and began to bark repeatedly. Eventually awaking from the barking, Jennifer smelled something strange. She opened her bedroom door and could only see a few inches in front of her. She awoke her husband and daughter, opened a few windows and got the pets outside. She was surprised that Stitch did not bark because she says that he barks at everything.

Captain Larry Birch, of the Mays Landing Volunteer Fire Company, was the first on the scene. He reported that there was a moderate amount of smoke in the house. After the fire department arrived, one of the smoke detectors went off. Captain Birch has been with the department for 11 years and finds that rescues involving hero animals is not so common. "From the years I've been doing this, we've had (only) two other reports of animals waking up the residents," he says.

Bandit is now back home with his owner, and received many hugs and kisses from his very grateful friends down the street. The smoke detectors were returned to the store, but Jennifer was lucky she had a 15-pound smoke detector jumping on her chest and barking.