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Diamond Blaze

Darryl Steen and his hero canine Diamond.

Known as the canine of choice for dog fighting, as the dog most recognized in the media for vicious attacks, and as the dog most abandoned and most euthanized, Diamond is being called a hero when she risked her own life to save her owners daughter from a fire.

Darryl Steen, of Hayward, California, and his daughters will never forget a night last October when their apartment caught fire as they slept. Known for her loud barking, the Pit Bull Terrier awoke the family. Darryl sprung into action. He was able to lower his younger daughter out of the second floor window of their apartment to safety, but was unable to find his other daughter; however, Diamond found her.

According to reports, after locating Sierra under a mattress, the canine jumped on top of the bedding and stayed there until firefighters entered the room. Diamond sustained burns on her body, but never left Sierra's side.

Sierra says that she doesn't remember much of what happened that night. It seems that she passed out from all of the smoke that she inhaled. She awoke a few days later in the hospital and learned about her dog's incredible actions. "They told me that Diamond was lying on top of the mattress that I was under," explains Sierra, and that she would not leave me. And I was like, 'Wow, she loves me – more than I thought.' She's always been nice, since the first moment we got her." Darryl and Sierra suffered the most physical damage, but little Darahne, the youngest daughter, suffered the most emotional. She remembers everything. It was difficult for her to sleep and small noises brought screams of terror. Now Diamond is helping her adjust by sleeping under the covers with her each night.

Diamond was recently honored by the Humane Society of the United States as a finalist in the Dogs of Valor Awards. The Pit Bull was also honored by the SPCALA with their Annual Hero Dog Award. This marks the first time in 15 years that a Pit Bull has received this award.

"I think that when you see an animal risk its own life to save a person who is not the same species as the dog, which is somewhat unusual in the animal kingdom, then what it shows is that this animal has become part of the family," explains Madeline Bernstein, President of the SPCALA. "I would submit to you that an animal that is tied up in the backyard all day, or one that has been abused, would not feel that way. This award isn't given to a trained rescue dog; it is given to a family dog."

Darryl explains that he had owned Pit Bulls his entire life. He says that he understands the breed's incredible loyalty as a family pet. He feels that the breed gets a bad reputation because of bad owners. He also mentions that he and his daughters are having a difficult time securing another apartment because of Diamond's breed, but he will not get rid of his companion. He says that "I wouldn't be alive if it wasn't for this dog." Bernstein said, "Not only did this dog do an absolutely amazing thing, it shows you the character and the heart of the dog. But it's a Pit Bull and I am sick and tired of everybody trashing this dog, being scared of this dog, not wanting to insure your house if you have a Pit Bull. This is a great day because not only can we talk about a hero dog, this dog is a Pit Bull, and I am very happy today."

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