Dogs wake owner before fire erupts

Dogs wake owner before fire erupts

by Mason King

Alpana Signh, Chicago's superstar sommelier and host of WTTW's hit eatery-review series "Check, Please!," traces her passion for cuisine to her parents and their careers in the restaurant industry. But if not for a determined pet, a pot of lamb stew might have sparked their greatest tragedy.

Singh still lived at home in Monterey, Calif., with her parents and brother in the summer of 1999. And she shared her parents' affections - and often the furniture - with three dogs: Sasha, Sheila and Shankar.

"My parents loved their dogs just like they loved me and my brother, and oftentimes if there was no more room left on the couch, we had to sit on the floor to make room for one of the dogs," says Singh, an Angie's List member since 2006.

Shankar, a boxer-pit bull mix whom the Singhs adopted as a shivering 2-month-old stray a decade earlier, was the alpha dog in the pack. They spent their nights snuggling in a custom-built doghouse in the backyard, fenced with chicken wire.

Singh's father, Vijay, worked as a cook in a local French restaurant. After an exhausting shift one Sunday, he placed a pot of lamb stew on the stove, hit the burner, and then fell asleep on the couch. He was alone in the house at the time.

For about two hours, Singh slept and the stew hardened to charcoal as smoke billowed from the pot. Only the dogs took notice. They chewed and pawed through the chicken wire of the dog-pen fence to create a hole big enough to squeeze through. They then pushed open a back door to gain entry into the house and Shankar sprang into action.

"He jumped on my chest and woke me up," Singh says. "Smoke was everywhere. It was almost black." Crisis averted.

Alpana's mother, Nirmala, soon returned and helped her husband reconstruct the events. She had no doubt Shankar played the key role in the rescue.

"Oh, he was the leader," she says.

Shankar leapt in status from loved-one to legend. "He was a true hero in our hearts from that moment on," Alpana says.

We asked our members to share the heroic deeds of their pets, past or present. Do you have a great story about your pet? E-mail us at

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