As her Golden Retriever entered the last week of pregnancy, Melody Lyons had made all the checks on her list.
Like most breeders, she wanted to be ready for anything. Whelping box set up; heat lamps installed; milk replacer on the shelf. The veterinarian gave Carly a check-up and thought delivery would happen in about five days.
But that evening Melody realized that you can never be prepared for a disaster. Just 24 hours later, her life would be changed, and her dog declared a hero.
Sounding the Alarm
The Lyons live in a very rural area of northeast Ohio known as the Trail community.
February 4 was an extremely cold day, with temperatures barely rising over zero. There had been snow early in the day.
Melody’s long-time companion, Joe Brand, came home late from his accounting office, pushed snow off their driveway, and turned in not long after.
Melody stayed up later to watch television with Carly. When she went to bed, Carly stayed downstairs to sleep, as she always did, Melody said.
“Carly likes it cooler and she sleeps near the front window so she can look for deer,” Melody said.
Melody slept in a separate bedroom, so she did not disturb Joe, who was sleeping at the end of the hallway upstairs.
Sometime in the early morning hours, Joe was awakened to Carly pushing her head under his arm. It was very odd since she rarely came upstairs until around 7 am.
He thought she needed to go out as she had to potty more frequently as her girth increased. As he went downstairs, Carly was acting “very freaky,” and then the smoke alarms sounded.
Up in Flames
He looked into the living room where he saw an upholstered chair in flames. “It looked like a burning bush; there were flames to the ceiling,” Joe said. “I yelled at Melody to get up and get the fire extinguisher, and I went down to the basement to get a hose.”
Melody ran down with the extinguisher and sprayed it on the chair, but said “at that point, it just pushed fire all over,” she said. “I saw the fire go across carpet.”
When Joe hit the flames with the water, a large plume of smoke enveloped the room. “The smoke knocked me backward,” he said. “I yelled for Melody and Carly to get out of the house.”
Joe tried once more to enter the house to retrieve their phones and other important items, but the windows blew out and he knew that they needed help.
They got in their truck with Carly and drove “like crazy” to Joe’s mother’s home, which was just up the road. They called 911.
“By the time fire department got there, the house was already destroyed, flames eating the place up, and fire trucks couldn’t make it up the lane because of the ice,” Melody said. “It was an absolute tragic mess.” The fire cause was undetermined.
Carly will forever be their hero for saving their lives. She gave them extra time that enabled them to get downstairs and out of the house before the fire spread.
“If she had not gotten Joe up, we would have been consumed,” Melody said. “Forty minutes and the place was gone.”
Ten Healthy Puppies
Joe is a certified public accountant, and Melody works as office manager and bookkeeper for the business in the town of Winesburg, Ohio. They have an apartment above the office so were able to move in there.
“We cried and tried to get some sleep,” she said.
That afternoon, their secretary brought a children’s wading pool for the puppies – not her beautiful whelping box, but it would work.
And then Carly gave another gift to the couple when she started delivering that evening. No one is sure if it was time for her to deliver or if the stress and excitement of the day took its toll, but Carly went into labor around 5 p.m.
She had her first puppy at 8 p.m. and finished whelping around 2:30 a.m. – almost exactly 24 hours after the fire started. She had 10 healthy puppies – six girls and four boys.
The couple said the community has reached out to them, donating clothes and other items that they lost, and they hope to rebuild their farmhouse. They have moved into a rental with more room for Carly and the puppies in the meantime.
They plan to keep a puppy from the dog that saved their lives.
Carly was always a rambunctious, mischievous puppy, but the 2-year-old has matured into a thoughtful adult.
“She is such a Dennis the Menace of dogs, but it is absolutely true that Golden puppies do turn into Golden Retrievers, and she just did,”’ Melody said.
Having the puppies has been a silver lining in an otherwise bleak story. Carly has been a constant comfort, and the puppies are a guarantee to put a smile on their faces.
“We have both been hit hard, but if we did not have the puppies, it would be a lot harder,” Joe said.