Wasilla family mourns 3 dogs lost in house fire
"We were laying down in the house when my wife said there's a fire," Shawn Wolverton said. "It started on the deck. I don't know how it started but it spread fast."
Shawn Wolverton, his wife Hope and their daughter were able to get out of the house safely.
"I just grabbed the hose right away and tried to put the fire out," Shawn said. "It really was pointless. The water from the hose didn't stop it at all."
Trapped inside the house were three of the Wolverton's four dogs, Rock See, Pumpkin and Kia.
"It's pronounced Roxy but she liked it better with the word rock in it," Hope Wolverton said. "She's a golden doodle and helped us find Red."
Red is the dog that was not involved in the fire.
"Red usually sleeps outside until about 10 p.m.," Shawn said. "Then he wakes up and finds his way to the doggy door and comes in the house."
"We got Red from the animal shelter," Hope said. "I told Shawn if we are getting another dog, I want to make sure they don't fight. The last time we had two dogs, they fought and I didn't want to go through that again."
Hope said it was Rock See who attached herself to Red more than a decade ago.
"We went to the dog shelter and we brought Rock See," Hope said. "We wanted to see who she would interact with the best. Once she saw Red, they had this instant attraction. When you see those slow-motion videos of people running at each other in a field full of flowers, that's what it was like."
The two dogs became inseparable.
"The people at the shelter said they'd never seen anything like it," Shawn said. "Red used to have black teeth and when he met Rock See, he started chewing on her long hair. She loved it! Eventually, her hair was like a floss and it fixed his teeth! We called Rock See, Red's nom-nom girl. He'd love to chew on her."
Neighbor Josh Cropper and his friend Tom Hanson were on their way back to Josh's place after going out to eat Saturday night.
"We saw smoke in the air and thought it was just stumps burning," Cropper said. "We saw some black smoke so we thought people were burning stumps with some diesel. We decided to check it out anyway."
When Cropper and Hanson pulled up in front of the Wolverton home, they could see it fully engulfed in flames.
"They came racing into the yard," Shawn said. "Jumped out of their vehicle and asked if they could do anything to help."
Living in the area and training dogs for a living, Cropper said he knew more about the Wolvertons' dogs then the family itself.
"It's what I do for a living," Cropper said. "I knew they had four dogs but I only saw one outside. The family told me the dogs were still inside."
Cropper and Hanson felt they had enough time to get inside the house and make a quick sweep of the area to try and find the location.
"I knew we had a little bit of time," Cropper said. "Unfortunately, I didn't know the layout of the house and the smoke was really thick. I also was running around inside. Something I shouldn't have done. I should've gotten down and crawled on the ground. I couldn't see because of the thick white smoke in front of me. It reminded me of the time I spent in Iraq when I was in the Marines."
Eventually, the smoke and heat became too much. Cropper says he and Hanson made at least two or three trips up and down the stairs.
"We grabbed everything we could for them," Cropper said. "But we didn't find the dogs."
Shawn Wolverton says Josh was more shaken up then he was.
"He was pretty sad," Shawn said. "They weren't even his dogs."
Rock See was lost in the fire along with Pumpkin, a dog who liked to bark, and Kia, who never left Shawn's side.
"The dog was always right next to me," Shawn said. "I mean, it was to the point where it got a little extreme. I'd almost trip over it constantly, it was always right next to me."
After the fire was extinguished by two local fire crews, the dogs were found.
"The firefighters carried them out for me," Shawn said. "We buried [them] right here on the property. I didn't want them laying around so we dug their graves right here. Red still goes up to the porch where the dog door was. How do you tell the dog the rest are gone and not going out?"
"There were some firefighters that did a fantastic job," Shawn said. "I want them to know how much they mean to me and my family. True professionals and outstanding men. Our insurance guy also has been fantastic. We'll be okay, we'll stay here."
The fire was a traumatic event, especially for the Wolvertons' daughter.
"She was crying a lot," Shawn said. "Sometimes the smallest thing can let you know everything is going to be okay. Once the fire was out, they went in and looked for anything salvageable. They came out with a jewelry box and handed it to her. Her sadness seemed to melt away and she smiled. That told me we'll be okay."
As Red looks towards the house with sad eyes and lets out a sigh, Shawn says the dog is showing signs of coming around.
"He's been so sad he's been shedding a lot," Shawn said. "But, he did play fetch for a little while today, so he's coming around," said Josh.
Josh Cropper, the man who didn't know his neighbors and yet still decided to risk his life to save the family dogs, is also spearheading a donation drop off for the family.
"We look out for one another," Cropper said. "I'm sure if I had a fire at my place, they'd come and help me, too."
Donations items or financial gifts can be dropped off at J & J Food Market located at 461 W Parks Highway in Wasilla. The family of three lost nearly everything and their three family dogs in the house fire. Checks can be made out to Hope Wolverton and dropped off at J & J or mailed to 3102 E. Carney Road, Wasilla, Alaska.
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