HUBBARD TOWNSHIP - Stephen Brall has always had an attachment to his dog Bettis, but after Wednesday morning, the attachment is a whole lot stronger.
Brall and fire officials credit the 5-year-old dog with saving Brall's life after his home at 3516 Roseview Drive caught fire overnight Tuesday.
''If it wasn't for him, I'd be cooked,'' Brall said while playing with the dog in the yard of his home Wednesday morning while he awaited representatives from his insurance company.
Bettis, whom Brall has named after former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis, woke Brall up about 1:40 a.m. Wednesday.
''He was nudging me and barking at me,'' Brall said. ''I couldn't even see, there was so much smoke.''
Brall said there also were flames and he managed to make it to a neighbor's home, where he banged on the door. Someone there was still awake and called 911.
Hubbard Volunteer Fire Department Chief John Clemente said Brall had inhaled some smoke but refused to be taken to a hospital. Brall admitted the smoke was a problem.
''It was wicked smoke,'' Brall said.
Brall said he was surprised when he was awakened by Bettis and knew instantly something was wrong.
''I had no idea what was going on, but then I saw the smoke and I knew something was wrong.''
Clemente said the downstairs portion of the home was heavily damaged and the fire was beginning to go upstairs when crews doused it.
The fire appears to have started on a couch by a discarded cigarette that probably smoldered for hours before turning into a full-fledged fire, Clemente said. Clemente said it also appears that Brall would have been in worse shape had the dog not woken him up.
Brall said he had a group of friends over Tuesday evening and perhaps one of them dropped a cigarette on the couch. Clemente said there appears to be nothing else in the home that would have caused it to catch on fire.
For now, Brall is staying with his parents and says he hopes to fix up his home and stay there. He said Bettis was a stray dog and given to him by a neighbor. He said he lost two valuable guitars in the fire and the inside of the home was gutted.
''Inside of that house there's nothing left,'' he said.