SHELBY COUNTY, Ala. — Derek Walker’s 4-year-old Great Dane Ralph “doesn’t usually make a sound at night.”
So when Ralph started up with “a different kind of bark” around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, Walker knew something was wrong, and he got up to check.
That’s how Ralph, the Great Dane, ended up saving the lives of Walker, his wife Maria Gilbert and their two kids, 9 and 12 years old.
Walker saw fire outside the kitchen window of his family’s rental home near Birmingham, Alabama.
“I just started screaming ‘Fire!’ to get everybody up,” Walker says. “My wife got up, and she got our daughter and got her out.”
Then, she want back for their son. He was fast asleep as his bedroom filled with smoke.
“The fire was right outside his wall,” Walker says. “He wasn’t awake because he sleeps covered with his blanket.”
He went back for Ralph, getting the 185-pound pet out of his kennel, though one of the the family’s two pet pigs, named Pearl, died.
The fire had started on a grill and spread to the home, according to Robert Lawson, a battalion chief with the North Shelby County (Alabama) Fire Department.
The house was badly damaged, and the family lost most of their belongings. A church is trying to help them out.
“Without Ralph, I don’t think we would have made it,” Walker says. “He saved our entire family.”