AIKEN — Man’s best friend can also be his life saver.
Ace, a black cocker spaniel dappled with white, woke up his owner, Matt Viola, and alerted him that his Aiken home was in flames several weeks ago.
About a month ago, Ace was only given a two to three weeks to live after a tumor was found in his mouth.
But, Ace is still alive and so is Viola, thanks to his canine companion.
Viola, 29, remembered playing with Ace, watching a movie and then falling asleep with his dog by his side. Then Viola, who describes himself as a deep sleeper, was awakened by Ace barking.
“He went crazy,” Viola said. “When I woke up, the room was orange.”
Viola ran out of the house with his puppy, Spades, following behind him. Viola said his next instinct was to grab a hose but then he noticed Ace wasn’t outside.
Viola found himself barging through the door of the burning house, got onto the ground and crawled around the couch looking for Ace.
He didn’t see his dog at first but then went to a coffee table that Ace typically sleeps under and found him.
“He was scared,” Viola said. “You could tell. He was shaking. I grabbed him, ran through the kitchen and out the back door.”
Nobody was injured in the fire, and Viola suffered from just a little smoke inhalation. Viola said most of what happened that night was a blur, but he does remember that it was terrifying.
Though much of Viola’s belongings were destroyed in the fire, it doesn’t matter much to him because he still has his dogs.
“The dogs were the most important thing. They can’t be replaced, and that’s the only thing I was worried about,” Viola said. “I’m very grateful that he (Ace) got out. I would have went from room to room to find him.”
When family and friends heard about Ace alerting Viola of the fire, it wasn’t a very shocking story to them.
“I don’t think many of them were surprised because they know that he’s always by my side,” Viola said as he gently ruffled the fur on Ace’s head. “He’s protective of me. He’s always been there through the hard stuff.”