BOISE, Idaho – Candace Jennings rescued Anna, an abused stray dog, from the animal shelter.
During a Thanksgiving Day fire, Anna returned the favor — twice.
Anna, a blond heeler, nudged Jennings about 3:30 a.m., whining and howling. Jennings, who had fallen asleep on the couch, awoke to find her mobile home engulfed in flames.
"Anna woke me up," Jennings said. "I had an awful headache. The place was filled with smoke."
Jennings and Anna ran outside, but then Jennings remembered items she couldn't let burn.
"I'm a janitor in town," she told the Idaho Statesman. "I had everyone's keys in my backpack. I had to go back and get them."
She crawled back into her burning home in Idaho City, about 40 miles northeast of Boise. Anna followed her in, keeping close by her side.
But Jennings, an artist who has lived in the mountain town since 1975, said she became disoriented and was quickly overcome by smoke. She tried to get back out but crawled in the wrong direction, heading toward the pantry instead of the door.
Anna showed the correct way.
"I couldn't find the door," said Jennings. "She pushed on me, she nudged me out the door."
The roof collapsed as Jennings, barefoot and wearing only pajamas, and Anna ran to some nearby trees in the 15 degree temperature. Jennings suffered burns to her feet and then frostbite. Anna and two other dogs Jennings has were not injured.
"She's a hero," said Jennings as Anna ate an omelet at restaurant on Friday.
Grant Hawk, owner of the trailer park, said an electrical problem might have started the fire in the mobile home, which he said is a total loss.
Rose Washam, an Idaho City resident, said Jennings' decision to try and retrieve the keys from the burning mobile home didn't surprise her.
"Candace always thinks of somebody else before she thinks of herself," said Washam. "She will go without so others can have. She's known as the town healer."
Friends are collecting clothes and other items for Jennings, and the Idaho City Hotel has offered her a room.
"Everything happens for a reason," said Washam. "I guess we will find out the reason for this. Maybe it's time for us to give back to her."