Lassie, Benji, make room for Sparta's own Smokey the dog

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:46

    SPARTA-Smokey, the McBain family's German shepherd, who although has Hollywood red carpet good looks, is pretty much by all accounts a typical loving family dog. "We think she probably sleeps most of the day when we‘re working, occasionally going to the window or door to check out some noise or car outside," said Jim McBain, Smokey's loyal companion. Jim reports that Smokey is a good watchdog, barking when necessary, very territorial, yet friendly when she is at ease with someone new. Smokey showed signs of exceptional intelligence way back when. "As a puppy we crated her when we were not home. Soon, we started to notice that she had obviously gotten out of the cage during the day, but she was always in the cage when we walked through the door at the end of the day. After a closer look we noticed that she had figured out how to unlock the cage! But she was smart enough to run back into the cage, before we got home, knowing this is where she was suppose to be. The funny thing is, she somehow managed to close the crate door," McBain said. Since then however, Smokey settled into becoming the average, albeit, perfect family pooch, leaving the exceptional behavior to the professionally trained working canines…until the night of Jan. 22. Freezing temperatures, strong winds and a blizzard snowfall kept area residents home for the evening. As the family retired for the evening, Smokey, like the rest of the McBains went about his normal bedtime routine. Smokey usually slumbers half of the night in son Michael's bedroom and the later half in Jim and wife Marina's bedroom. Marina performs the nightly routine practically with her eyes closed. "At around three in the morning I usually hear her scratching at either Michael's door to get out or our door to get in. We (both) go right back to sleep as if we never woke up in the first place," said Marina. But this night was very different for the pair. Marina was not the usual bellhop for Smokey and Smokey was not complying with the "go back to sleep" clause. "She was acting very strange, oddly stubborn, everything about her was different. She wouldn't let me get into my room, she was intentionally blocking me from going back to bed," recalled Marina. Smokey's behavior was so uncharacteristic that Marina suspected something was wrong but couldn't imagine what it could be. Smokey continued barricading her owner from the bedroom, staring silently and helplessly at Marina. As dog and weary owner stood at the top of the second floor stairway, Marina heard what she believed to be the strong blizzard winds blowing. And then she heard the thrashing noises outside, and knew immediately why she had been kept from going back to sleep. This was not the wind, and Smokey knew it. Marina, still prohibited from getting to her room yelled for husband Jim. "The next sound was louder and we knew it was now at the front door. But Smokey never barked which made the situation much stranger and eerie. When the McBains opened their front door they saw a snow covered, shoeless, practically unconscious man lying on their front porch, wrapped in a blanket, and asking for help. He appeared weak, and seemed to have trouble breathing. The man was a neighbor, new to the area and his house was on fire. He had jumped out of his bedroom window and made his way through the snow over to the home of the McBains. "Having a child away at college, you think anything could happen, so we didn't hesitate when we opened the door," recalled Marina. Jim explained that he initially thought it was a homeless person. "In a split second you really can't think, you just react, and whoever it was, obviously needed our help," he said. The McBains got the stranger warm and called the fire department. "I couldn't believe how fast they got here, in the middle of a blizzard, it felt like a total of four minutes. And the funny thing is that right before the fire truck pulled up, a snow plow had just gone by seconds earlier, as if it were leading the way. I wondered if it was planned by the fire department or just a strange coincidence," said Jim. The Mcbains credit Smokey for saving the neighbor, who requested his named not be used for this article. "She was keeping me from going back to sleep, knowing that if I were sleeping I wouldn't be able to hear the noises the man was trying to make to get our attention. She forced me to stay in the hallway until I finally heard what s