Rescue Dog Returns the Favor and Alerts Sleeping Owner to Fire

Drew Smith nearly passed on the dog who ended up saving his life.

— -- Drew Smith nearly passed on adopting Carl, the little rescue dog who ended up saving his life.

Smith saw Carl at the county of San Diego’s animal shelter in Bonita, California, but the dog had some dental issues and Smith was worried about the cost of potential dental bills.

The 41-year-old engineer said he needed a couple of days to make his decision, but in the end he adopted Carl. The dog returned the favor last month by alerting a sleeping Smith to a fire inside his home, likely saving the man’s life.

In a Thursday interview with ABC News, Smith , who lives in the North Park neighborhood in San Diego, said he was awakened by barking from the normally placid Carl.

“He’s not a dog that barks a lot ... so barking for him is kind of uncharacteristic,” Smith said.

Carl had been acting strangely all day Jan. 21, and at about 1 a.m. the following night was when he woke Smith by barking and licking him in the face. Smith tried to go back to sleep but the dog was persistent.

At first he thought Carl just wanted to go to the bathroom, but when Smith turned on the lights he saw that smoke had filled his apartment. He says he never smelled it, although his throat hurt when he woke up.

He told ABC News that his dog walker had called to report that Carl was behaving unusually and didn’t want to go back inside the house on the day before the fire. The dog was also “a little agitated and a little apprehensive” about going back into the apartment when Smith took him for a walk that same night.

The fire department said a fire had smoldering in the walls “for days," at least, Smith said. Although he didn’t smell anything, Smith said he had headaches that week.

He said the Fire Department has deemed the cause of the fire to be inconclusive. The apartment sustained mostly smoke damage, and Smith said he was able to return home last week.

Smith said he was glad he didn’t listen to his doubts about adopting Carl in October.

“I’m glad that I saw through what physical flaws he may have had ...” he said. “He’s very happy, he’s very cool, he’s really affectionate to other people including myself and to other dogs and he doesn’t seem like he has, really, a mean bone in his whole body. He seems like a really sweet, really just awesome dog.”

Dan DeSousa, the deputy director of the county’s Department of Animal Services, told ABC News that Carl came to the department as a stray Oct. 1. He had no identification and no one came forward to claim him, DeSousa said.

Carl, a neutered Spaniel mix who is about 4 years old, was placed for adoption on Oct. 6 and adopted by Smith Oct. 13, according to DeSousa.

DeSousa called the incident "an amazing story."

“We always say that adopting an animal from a shelter will change the owner’s life as well, obviously, as the life of that animal,” DeSousa said. “It’s rare that we get to see an adopted animal actually save the life of its owner.”