RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- Tricia Dodson always dreamed of companion like Tater at her side.
“This is the first time I had my own puppy,” said Dodson.“That face. He is just a love bug, and he is just so cute.”
Everywhere Dodson goes, Tater goes.
Just weeks after moving into her home in September, Dodson turned to the Richmond SPCA to find a four-legged friend.
“He is a Beagle/Bassett Hound Mix. They call him Bagels,” said Dodson.
The U.S. Army veteran adopted Tater in October. He was a shelter dog found abandoned in Cumberland County.
“From the time I adopted him, he is just adorable,” says Tricia. “He is sunshine. He is sunshine in a doggie’s body. He really is.”
Since October, the pair has been inseparable, and as Dodson found out, their bond goes beyond fur-deep.
“When I think about it now it scares me what could have happened,” said Dodson.
In the small hours of March 1, Tater jolted Dodson awake. She thought he needed a potty break.
“I was sleeping and it was about 3 or 3:30 in the morning,” said Dodson. “He started jumping on me and barking.”
But his bark was a warning of danger lurking downstairs.
“I opened the door and just black smoke hit me,” said Dodson.
A smoke alarm was blaring, but Dodson didn’t hear it since she is deaf in one ear.
“There is no way I would have heard that alarm. No way,” said Dodson. “That is why I keep saying how thankful I am.”
Dodson’s digital stove short-circuited and started burning. She called 911 and rushed Tater out. But her two cats were hiding upstairs.
“Luckily, police and fire got here very quickly,” said Dodson.
Chesterfield firefighters arrived and moved the burning oven outside.
“That is what was in my house. Big black soot. Everywhere,” said Dodson. “I was very lucky. As far as house fires go I was very lucky.”
Weeks later Dodson still shutters at the thought if Tater didn’t act.
“Yeah. I would be dead,” said Dodson. “That is what scares me.”
The smell of smoke and soot need to be removed, but Dodson's house is still standing.
“If he hadn’t barked and gotten me out. It could have happened and the whole house could’ve have been lit up,” said Dodson.
For his heroic act, her pooch is promised a lifetime supply of belly rubs and treats.
“I could never repay him for what he has given me. Ever. There is just no way,” said Dodson. “I believe everything happens for a reason.”
Tater the shelter dog stole Dodson’s heart. Then promptly saved her life.
“We’re in this together. He is right there with me and he is helping me every step of the way.”
Dodson’s two cats did survive the fire that terrifying night hiding in an upstairs bedroom.
Dodson said she will promote the benefits of adopting a shelter animal to anyone who will listen. She added that a furry friend could rescue you in more ways than one.