Lifesaver pup honored for courage
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 20, 2008 12:49 PM
Gloria Johnson gives Skipper a kiss during a ceremony Saturday at the Goldsboro Fire Department. The dog saved her life earlier this year when he awakened her during a house fire.
When an international humanitarian organization based in California learned about a Goldsboro woman whose life was saved by her Peekapoo puppy, plans were made to honor the "brave and intelligent pooch."
After a few months of scheduling glitches, it all came together at Goldsboro Fire Department on Saturday.
Gloria Johnson, who now lives in Wendell, brought Skipper to Fire Chief Alvin Ward's office and made the introductions, but her salt-and-pepper companion was more interested in the deflated balloon he discovered near a bookcase.
Skipper's rise to fame began May 10 after his master had spent an exhausting two days holding a yard sale at her Birch Drive home with her mother and some friends.
Her pet typically slept in his own bed, a kennel, but on this day Ms. Johnson was too tired to care, so allowed him to join her for a nap.
Within an hour, a fire broke out in the home she shared with her mother, who was not home at the time.
Neighbors saw smoke from outdoors but their attempts to get Ms. Johnson's attention -- some screaming, others banging on the front door -- went unheeded.
It was Skipper who prevailed.
"I couldn't wake up, didn't hear the fire alarms, there's no telling how many times I'd tried to get him away," she said of the dog's efforts to awaken her.
"He got on top of me and started licking me and then started scratching me. That's how he woke me up."
By that time, the house had filled with black smoke and the sound of glass breaking.
"It was hot. I could tell that it was really cooking and I needed to get out, but I couldn't see," she said. "I held (Skipper) in my hand and felt my way down the hall."
The house was destroyed, as were her vehicle and a brand-new lawn mower she had just purchased.
In recognition of the life-saving action, as well as the demonstration of unconditional love, Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association enlisted representatives from Charlotte to pay a visit to Goldsboro this past weekend, bearing gifts.
Fred Lawing arrived with a camera crew, ready to film the presentation for Supreme Master Television, a satellite TV station he says "only does positive news."
The local story seemed like a good fit -- a feisty pup with dogged determination to do right by its master.
And on Mother's Day weekend, too, Ward noted.
"I would say that she treats Skipper like it's her son," he said.
When Ms. Johnson got the dog on July 4 a year ago, she was immediately drawn to his personality.
"He loves people. He loves children," she said.
Since she brought him home, he has always been very attentive to her, she added.
"Now don't get me wrong, he's independent, but he's constantly looking to see where I am," she said. "Even when I take him to the vet and have to leave him alone for a little bit, real tears come to his eyes when he sees me."
Less than a week after the fire, Skipper turned a year old.
Ms. Johnson now calls him her "miracle" dog.
"He was just God-sent," she said. "I wouldn't take a million dollars for him. I would not take $10 million. He's for keeps; he's for real. ... The bond that Skipper and I have, me and him, it's something special."
In addition to several presents from the association -- two "Skipper Hero" jackets, a dog bed, framed certificate and trophy, vegetarian dog food and a monetary gift -- a clock was presented to Capt. Ward and the story will be broadcast in the near future on the group's TV station.
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