Dog alerts deaf owner, saves her from fire

Mandi Steele/FULTON SUN photo: Teresa Jackson's dog, Billy, alerted her that her washing machine was on fire, saving her life, according to Jackson.

Teresa Jackson wondered what had gotten into her chihuahua Saturday morning when the dog suddenly started running back and forth and barking excitedly.

She had been watching TV in her Fulton home, but got up to find out what was bothering her dog, Billy.

"I looked out the window and nothing was there," Jackson said through her interpreter Martha Jones.

Little did Jackson know that her fire alarm was going off, due to her washing machine catching on fire. She didn't know, because she couldn't hear it. Jackson is deaf. However, Billy heard it and alerted his owner that something was wrong. According to Jackson, Billy saved her life.

Jackson said Billy was calling her over to where she finally saw what the problem was, her washer and the wall behind it were on fire and smoke filled the area. She thinks a spark from the electrical outlet must have started the fire, but she's not sure, as she didn't call the fire department. Quickly turning the machine off, she said the fire went out and she opened the doors and windows to let the smoke out.

"I could have passed out from all that smoke," Jackson said. "Thank God he saved me."

Jackson raised Billy from a puppy. He's now 4. When she calls his name, the dog stands up and wags his tail expectantly.

"He loves me; he accepts me," Jackson explains. "He's a good boy."

Jackson said her smoke detector is supposed to flash to alert her, but she didn't notice it. Immediately after the fire was out, she called Jones.

Jones, a social worker for Options Unlimited in Fulton, told Jackson to call her public housing authority to have someone check the outlets. Jackson says she thinks the fire may have started because her washer is about as old as her 25-year-old son, Lance.

Jones encourages her clients to have pets.

"I strongly support all my clients having a pet of some kind just for friendship and to help like this," she said.

Jones has worked with Jackson for two years, but grew up bilingual. She said she learned to sign because her sister is deaf.

Jackson has lived in Callaway County her whole life and graduated from Missouri School for the Deaf in 1983.