Wayne Breeland's "best friend," a 3-year-old boxer named Amos, has been making a habit of keeping his master alive.
Last week, Amos awoke Breeland and his mother, Edith Tollar, just in time to escape a fire that destroyed Breeland's trailer in a matter of minutes.
"Amos was in the den asleep and he came in and woke me," Breeland said. "My mother had come in from Houston to spend Christmas with us. She lost everything, too.
"Amos kept barking and barking. He put his feet up on me and licked my face."
The electrical fire, which started in the kitchen, quickly filled Breeland's Tonto Basin home with smoke.
"We didn't even have time to get anything out," he said.
Breeland's wife, Lynn, was working at Payson Care Center when the fire started at 5:30 a.m. Dec. 8.
"It's the second time Amos has saved him recently," she said. "A month ago, Wayne was cutting firewood and a log fell on him."
Amos ran down the mountain, found Lynn and insisted she follow him back to the spot where Wayne was pinned under a log.
And last week, Breeland's modern-day Lassie came through for the family again.
The Tonto Basin Volunteer Fire Department arrived in time to douse a burning barbecue propane tank before it exploded, but it couldn't save Breeland's single-wide mobile home. It went up in flames in just five minutes.
It took eight firefighters 30 minutes and 10,000 gallons of water to put out the fire.
And volunteer firefighters spent eight hours cleaning up the area, Breeland said. "They helped a whole lot," he said.
Barbara Brandt, who is with the Central Arizona Chapter of the American Red Cross, provided the family with a room at the Tonto Basin Inn. The Food Bank has donated food and others have come forward to help, the Breelands said.
"People have been really good to us -- my co-workers at Payson Care Center have been wonderful," Lynn said. "We have insurance, but not nearly enough. Of course, you can't replace things you have, but everybody ought to really check their policies to make sure they have enough."
The Breelands won't be home for Christmas, but they visit their property every day, hauling water for three horses and making sure they're fed and cared for.
Holiday in a hotel
They'll spend the holiday in their modest room at Tonto Basin Inn, where Wayne has decorated a homemade burlap-sack tree.
"You hear about fires all the time," Lynn said, as her eyes welled up with tears. "You feel sorry for people, but you never know what they've lost. I could have lost a lot more.
"If it wasn't for Amos here, I could have been going to funerals right now."