The second time I lost my dog

pet fire safetyBy Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

Do you remember the New Year’s Day Blizzard of 1999? I do.

I still had Out-U-Go at the time, and because dogs don’t care about holidays I had to go into work early that day. I took my own two dogs (Sam and Lydia) out first, put them back in the house, hopped in my Jeep Wrangler, and drove through the knee high snow to get to the Oak Park office.

I had been at work for a couple of hours, dealing with last minute requests and cancellations, when I heard fire engines racing towards the Village. “How awful for those people, and on New Year’s Day, in all this snow,” I thought to myself, and went about my business.

Then my phone rang. It was the Oak Park Police Department, asking if I could assist them with a dog they had rescued from the burning house because animal care and control was not available. Not a problem, I told her, I’ll be right over. I gave her my name and she said “Wait – you’re Jamie Damato? We’ve been trying to reach you. It’s your house that’s on fire.”

I don’t remember the drive back, though I do remember being very grateful for four wheel drive and good snow tires. As I plowed to a stop a few houses away, I saw a fireman walking out of the house with Lydia in his arms. I ran over, saw that she was ok (apart from some smoke inhalation), and then asked “Where’s Sam?”

He wasn’t there. The fireman said that he only saw one dog, and no one else had brought a dog out either. They didn’t know there was more than one pet in the house. (I also had two cats at the time, but they were staying with a friend while I worked the busy holiday week.)

Nobody ever wants to hear “we didn’t get your dog out of the burning house”.  

As I stood there in the blizzard, almost hysterical, while everything I owned went up in flames, I saw a faint shape moving down the street.

It was Sam.

Nobody knew how he got out, nobody saw him bolt from the house, but he was alive. I’ve never been so happy to see a dog in my entire life.

I got lucky that day. Even though the house and everything in it was a complete loss, and my upstairs neighbors had to cancel their wedding (which was scheduled for later that afternoon!), I was so thankful that Sam and Lydia made it out alive. I’m also thankful that the cats were not at home, because who would have known they were there? Cats hide under things, and with the amount of smoke billowing from the house there was almost no chance that the firemen would have seen them.

As soon as I moved into a new house, I plastered it with signs like the one above from Pet Fire Rescue Signs, and I haven’t been without them since.

Do yourself and your pets a favor – get a sign and put it up on your lawn, or your front door, or in the front window, and then get another sign and put it at the back of the house.  The fire department can’t save animals that they don’t know are there. Losing all of your belongings is awful, but your pets are far more important than things could ever be.


Read about the first time I lost Sam here.


July 15 is Pet Fire Safety Day. Learn more here.

For Pet Fire Rescue Signs (I love these because they have a reflective film which makes them easier to see), go to their website at

For safety tips, visit the Fire Safety Dogs’ website at This is an especially good site if you also have children in the house.


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