PORT JERVIS – She was soaking wet, shaking, and so scared, that she halted on the dripping porch with intense flames behind her. Interior firefighters had freed her from her burning apartment, but with their masks, gear, and unfamiliar presence, she was – for a split second – frozen in fear, confused and unsure of which way to move.
“Come here buddy. Come here buddy,” came a beckoning voice from a blocked off street in front of her flame-engulfed house.
It was the voice of a plain-clothes firefighter whose non-masked face, reassuring smile, and friendly, comforting voice provided direction in those first non-decisive seconds.
Fifty-two-year firefighter David Moore had been stationed in service at his Neversink Engine Co. No. 1 firetruck during the Sunday, November 28, 2021 structure fire when he spotted the terrified Silver Labrador Retriever puppy’s exit from the front door of the large, burning two-story corner house.
“I knew she was afraid and nervous about the masks, hoses, and equipment and didn’t know where to go,” Moore recalled thinking as he spotted the terrified puppy exit her burning building. “She was shaking the water off of her (from streams of fire hoses fighting the fire around her) and crawling like dogs do when they are afraid. I saw her and just called out to her. She ran right to me.”
Moore, who said he has always had a dog, saw the canine victim come through the front door, look around, and stop -- wet and shaking. Once she responded and reached him, he touched her and realized that while she was soaking wet, her skin was hot and her fur warm.
“I knew she had come from the fire,” Moore said. “I picked her up and was going to put her in the firetruck where she would be warm and safe, but a neighbor who said she knew the dog offered to take her around the corner to her house.”
With firefighters intensely fighting the challenging fire that engulfed and destroyed the large 19th century Port Jervis home, Moore felt the caring neighbor’s help would be best for the dog. It was.
For anyone who witnessed the escape of the puppy and her response to Moore’s call to safety, including neighbors who assisted, it was an indescribable moment.
The puppy, which was later learned from her owner, was only five-months old and her paw pads severely burned in the fire. The neighbors, Lisa and daughter Madison Dobbs, not knowing at the time what injuries the dog had but realizing she was hurt, carried her around the corner to Lisa’s mom’s house.
“We were there when the dog ran out. The firemen (at the truck) were trying to hold the dog and do their job. She looked cold and shivering, and Madison said ‘let’s help’. So, I went over and offered to take the dog home,” Lisa recalled. “She was drenched and had a limp. We knew one of her back legs must have been hurt, so together Madison and I carried her.”
At first, Lisa said she was leery, a bit afraid that the injured dog might try to bite to protect herself. But she came right to her and let her pick her up.
“She was heavy, but between Madison and I we carried her the whole way. It was just the right thing to do,” Lisa said. “She was very excited to be indoors where it was warm. She went right to my mom and made herself right at home.”
Her own cat, she said with humor, wasn’t so thrilled. Having never seen a dog before, she said, “It ran right to the basement.”
When the puppy’s owner came to get his rescued pet a short time later, he told Lisa that the dog’s name was Isis, that she was only five months old, and that she was new to her owner.
“It’s really sad because animals are so innocent and depend on their owners 100%. She was given to him and had a chip,” Lisa said. “I hope she is safely in her new home and that they are doing well. I would love to see her again.”
The owner, clearly distraught upon arriving on scene, immediately sought the status of his dog and still-missing cat, Brutus. While he lost everything he owned in the fire, he is grateful for the help given to him, and in the search for his cat and rescue, care, and treatment of his puppy.
Immediately after the fire, word of the dog’s injuries spread throughout the area and offers were made to pay for the treatment and care of Isis, which is what happened. Multiple individuals provided donations for her care, including one who visited the veterinarian to make arrangements for full payment. Another came in a short time later and left full payment for her initial and follow-up care.
While the pads on one back paw were severely burned and the other slightly burnt, the owner said Isis’ care through Port Jervis’ Tri-State Veterinary Group has been going well and she is pain-free and healing very well. The owner has found a local apartment and is in need of no additional assistance as he continues his dog’s treatment at home.
“She’s doing excellent,” said the owner.
The fate of his gray male cat, still missing and who also lived in the ground-floor, left-side apartment with the owner and his dog, remains undetermined. A Have-A-Heart trap set by the city’s animal control officer and checked throughout each day by a resident and the cat’s owner yielded no results over the next week.
Other than the missing cat and rescued dog, none of the tenants in any of the structure’s four apartments were injured, but all were left temporarily homeless with all of their belongings destroyed. They have been assisted through various means by local residents, the Red Cross, Port Jervis’ Easter Seals and Salvation Army, and all have either moved into or are in the process of finding new homes.
The 72 East Main Street circa 1800s structure has since been ordered razed for safety reasons and has been demolished and removed. The cause of the fire, which started in the basement, is not suspicious in nature but has not yet been released.