|Death: ||Oct. 15, 2006|
Heroic dog saves woman
'Jesse' dies after she helps her mistress flee burning house
By Troy Laack
©Sheboygan Press staff
Jamie Hanson, who lost her leg in a traffic crash three years ago, tearfully described Monday how her dog, Jesse, sacrificed her life to help save her owner from a blazing fire that destroyed her Town of Rhine home.
Not only did Jesse retrieve Hanson's prosthetic leg and then brought a telephone to her to call 911 for help, the dog also dragged Hanson to the front door of the house, where rescuers found her and brought her to safety.
"She (Jesse) got the shoulder of my pajamas and pulled me out of the smoke and then up to where the door was," Hanson, 49, said Monday during a press conference at the Aurora Sheboygan Memorial Medical Center.
"When I got up to the doorway, I heard the cat and before I could grab (Jesse), she ran up to get the cat and then I screamed and I screamed for her, but then I just heard her whine and then I didn't hear anything more," Hanson said.
That was the last Hanson saw of Jesse, her 13-year-old Labrador retriever and German shepherd mix.
Jesse, along with one of Hanson's cats, died from smoke inhalation and their bodies were found on the second floor of the home, said Elkhart Lake Fire Chief John Reiss.
Another cat, according to Reiss, started the fire at about 10:30 p.m. Sunday when it knocked over a lit candle onto artificial plants and the flames quickly spread. The cat that started the fire was found alive in the basement, Reiss said.
Hanson fell off a couch after the fire started. The prosthetic leg Jesse retrieved was too hot to use, but Hanson was able to call 911 for help.
When rescuers arrived, the house was fully engulfed in flames, according to the Sheboygan County Sheriff's Department. Hanson was in the doorway and was assisted to safety by Deputy Brad Abel. She was taken to the hospital for burns to her face and right arm and was discharged Monday.
"When I got there, fire was coming out of the house on three sides," Abel said. "She was in the doorway of the home, down on the ground and she was concerned about her dog."
Abel took a couple seconds to yell for the dog, but he had to move Hanson away from the home quickly because of the extreme heat from the blaze.
Hanson got Jesse when the dog was 4 months old, she said. When Hanson lost her leg, she trained Jesse to assist her.
"She kind of took over as my caretaker," Hanson said. "She would bring me drinks out of the refrigerator or a snack if I needed it. When I went to take a bath, she always brought the phone in and sat by the bathtub with me in case I fell."
Hanson said Jesse was much more than her best friend.
"I never treated her like a dog," Hanson said. "She was always like a child to me. She understood every word I ever said to her."
Replacing Jesse will be difficult and won't happen soon, said Hubbell, who was working in Shawano when he learned of the fire.
"(Jesse was) like a person to her," Hubbell said. "It's a human in a dog's coat. You looked in its eyes and it looked like a human. There's a lot of intelligence in there."
All pictures of the dog were burned in the fire, Hubbell said. The couple is staying at Hubbell's father's home in Saukville, he said.
Hanson said she hopes people learn to appreciate their pets.
"They're beautiful," Hanson said. "They're precious gifts just like children. I hope that everybody will appreciate their animals that much because just that quick, they're gone. It's just like losing one of my children."
Reach Troy Laack at his email
Jesse and Jamie's story was carried around the world.
Created by: JWT
Record added: Oct 18, 2006
Find A Grave Memorial# 16229266