ATLANTA - A heroic rescue caught on camera captured the nation’s attention recently, when two Atlanta police officers ran in to a burning building to save a dog, a pup who the officers have named “Smokey.”
The officers were surprised by the attention, and both Officers Robert Winkler and Austin Denninger say they were just doing what any other officer would.
But it's their compassion during this chaotic situation that is earning them praise across the country.
The video shows Winkler in the moment he spots the dog, and pulls him by the collar away from the burning building.
The dog was trapped inside a vacant apartment building at Mayson Turner Road and Joseph E. Boone Boulevard when the fire started.
Winkler pulls the dog to safety, and then he and Denninger take turns patting his chest, and talking to him before he starts to cough and finally wake up.
“The smoke was getting bad and it was hot,” Winkler said, “so I grabbed the dog by the collar, dragged it as far as I could before scooping it up.”
Winkler barely saw the dog through the smoke.
“At first I didn't realize what it was, but then I saw it was a dog,” he said. “I just saw this one little paw, this kick. And I thought, ‘Oh no, that's not good.’”
The rescue was caught on his body camera as he dragged the dog to safety.
Winkler and Denniger took turns patting the dog’s chest and talking to him before he finally came to.
“When it finally started to come to and it caught its breath, it was breathtaking for me,” Denniger said. “As an officer, it's our job, and I think that any officer would do the same thing.”
“It started breathing, coughing, it's eyes opened up, and you're like, ‘Whoa, that worked,’” Winkler said.
Firefighters searched the building for the dog's owner. A homeless man in the area said the owner “never left that dog's side. He had a baby carriage he used to push the dog in.”
Police have not been able to find the dog's owner, so Smokey is now at Fulton County Animal Control, available for adoption.
Both Winkler and Denninger said they've thought about taking the dog in, but Winkler is allergic to animals!
But he says it would be worth it to take a Benadryl every day to make sure Smokey has a loving home.
“The last thing you want is that this dog is going to die right in front of me,” Winkler said. “It's a really low feeling, so you have to do something. You can't just stand by.
“People do heroic things, awesome things all the time, and to see this big of a reaction was really cool. It’s having the worst day of its life and if you can do something to negate that bad ending, you gotta do it. If I could save goldfish, I would!”
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