LAFAYETTE TOWNSHIP, OH - A Medina County family loses everything in a fire, and they credit their dog for helping them make it out alive. But it’s a bittersweet story: their beloved pet did not.
Nothing remains of the Artwell family's two-story home in Lafayette Township, near Medina. It was destroyed when flames ripped through the home around 2:00 a.m. Saturday. The family's 10-pound Shih Tzu, Reece, apparently sensed early on that something was wrong.
"She's not a barker, so when she barked, I opened my eyes…and I thought it was eyes not in focus, but after a couple of seconds, I realized the room was full of smoke," said fire victim Jim Artwell.
Artwell’s wife Trish was at work. His three sons had fallen asleep with him in a first floor bedroom while watching television.
His 11-year-old daughter was asleep in her bedroom upstairs.
"Right away I got the boys up and I said boys, we need to get out of the house, the house is on fire," he said.
The boys ran to a detached garage,
“Then I had to go back into the house and get my daughter, and the smoke was so thick, Kevin, I couldn't see anything…I got to the wall, I'm looking for the door and then she just kind of fell to her knees and blacked out, so I'm holding her in one arm and I'm trying to find the door in the other and I couldn't, and I thought to myself, please God, don't let it end this way," Artwell said.
Jim says he and his daughter barely made it out, but Reece, who first alerted the family to the fire was still inside.
"The sad part is that the little dog that saved us, I wasn't able to save...I tried to go back in after her after I got Kayla out and the smoke was just way too thick," he said.
Artwell says Reece was a beloved member of their family, and he will never forget what she did for them.
"I feel like I'm the richest man in the world today...I've got my wife, I've got my kids...I've got the outpouring of this community has been amazing," he said.
The family has found another house in the area to rent, but they lost all of their belongings.
Jim’s manager at work, Lori Peebles, created a GoFundMe page to help the Artwells recover.
Lafayette Township fire chief Jeff Hall says investigators are still trying to figure out how the fire started, but they believe it may have begun in the basement.