Barking Bella raises alarm to rescue her owners as blaze engulfs home
She's some pup.
Hero dog Bella, a one-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, could be in line for an animal bravery award after she saved her family from a fire that caused extensive damage to their Belfast home on Tuesday morning.
Relatives and neighbours of the Spence family from Campsie Park in the Ballybeen estate in Dundonald say they are lucky to be alive after the blaze broke out.
Bella barked to alert her owners to the fire, thought to have been started by a tumbledryer, and they were then rescued by the Fire Service.
Tanya and Paul Spence and their children Amy (13) and Taylor (7) were checked over in hospital and subsequently discharged.
Mr Spence's niece Nicole Campbell is currently caring for Bella after neighbours looked after the little heroine while the family were being treated in hospital for smoke inhalation.
"They are OK, they are shook up a bit, they are just glad they are all right and fire brigade got there on time," Nicole told the Belfast Telegraph.
"They are obviously devastated about their house, as they had been working hard doing it up recently."
Nicole explained how the dramatic events unfolded.
"The dog was in the kitchen in her wee cage and she was barking," she said.
"My uncle heard her from upstairs, thought someone was trying to break in, so he went down and opened the door. There was so much smoke. He grabbed at where her cage would be and grabbed her out. They couldn't get out so had to go upstairs and lock themselves in a bedroom and put towels at the door.
"The fire brigade were then able to get them out."
The family is safe and Bella has recovered from the ordeal, following a shower, some food and plenty of tender loving care.
"The dog is fine, she is showered and fed and happy," Nicole said.
"She really should get an award. She barked and barked and barked. Bella is not a barker, so they knew that something was wrong."
Neighbours in Campsie Park also said the family had a lucky escape.
Among them was Jim Nelson, who backed the idea of an animal bravery award for Bella, saying "the wee dog deserves something".
"I will nominate the wee thing," Mr Nelson added.
"She deserves something because the wee dog did the barking. People who say animals are useless or not smart are so wrong."
Fire Service commander Michael Harkin said the family escaped serious injury thanks to the dog and stressed the importance of having a fitted and working smoke alarm. For fire safety advice visit http://www.nifrs.org/