L to R, back row: Fireman Jim Trippi, Capt. Gary Hicks, Vicky Pasenko, Fireman Zach Cascarano, Sherry Carpenter; sitting: Tanya Ohanian (EAS) and Fireman Curt Koopman petting Opie Photo by Wendi Kromash

This is a happy story, the best kind, and involves some very strong and dedicated firemen from the Evanston Fire Department (EFD), concerned volunteers from the Evanston Animal Shelter (EAS), one grateful pet owner, and the star of the show, one happy lab mix named Opie.

In late August, Sherry Carpenter’s apartment caught fire. She was not home at the time, but her cat and two dogs, Opie and Tinkerbell, were. A neighbor of Ms. Carpenter called 911 to report the fire. Station 2 of the EFD is only a few blocks away and responded immediately. During a routine check of the smoldering apartment, the three animals were found and brought outside. The animals were unconscious and unresponsive, but the firemen administered oxygen anyway.

That’s when Ms. Carpenter arrived.  She said all she could think of while she was racing home was, “Please God, save my babies.”

In the alley behind the apartment building, Opie and Tinkerbell were receiving oxygen by mask and beginning to stir, but both were coughing. Vicky Pasenko, co-founder and co-head of the EAS, whisked the animals off to Blue Pearl, the emergency animal hospital.  Sadly, the cat had ingested too much smoke and had to be euthanized that evening. That was the only time Ms. Carpenter cried.

Fast forward to a snowy November morning. Ms. Carpenter, reunited with Opie and Tinkerbell, had resettled into a new apartment. Friends and neighbors had gifted Ms. Carpenter with donations of furniture, dog accessories and household items. The family was  back to familiar routines. Only one task remained: a reunion with the crew that had so gallantly saved her babies.

Opie seemed unfazed by all the attention, but the adults were all delighted to see him. Tinkerbell does not like the cold and decided not to attend. Seeing a  happy and healthy dog wagging his tail appeared to make all the work worthwhile.

Wendi Kromash is curious about everything and will write about anything. She tends to focus on one-on-one interviews with community leaders, recaps and reviews of cultural events, feature stories about...