By Joe Stumpe
A tiny dog named Theodore is turning out to be worth his weight in gold.
Mary Enstrom acquired the 2.3-pound Teacup Yorkie as a sidekick for her ministry serving nursing home residents.
Theodore ended up saving her life.
It happened late on the night of July 5, when the normally well-mannered pooch started yapping and racing around Enstrom’s home in east Wichita.
“I said ‘Theodore, you’re not supposed to do that,’ ” she recalled.
Following Theodore into the next room, Enstrom looked out to see a red glow and hear something going “snap, crackle, pop.” One step outside revealed that her roof was on fire.
She dashed back in just long enough to grab her purse, phone and Theodore.
A fire engine arrived within minutes but it was too late to save Enstrom’s home.
And yet, even as she watched a good bit of her material possessions go up in flames, she couldn’t help but appreciate the fact that neighbors she knew only by sight were suddenly doing everything they could to help her.
A young man house-sitting for his parents brought her a chair, a bottle of water and bag of chips. “He said ‘Mrs. Enstrom, you need your carbohydrates,’ ” she said with a laugh.
Another neighbor, a physician’s assistant, asked her what medications she takes and what pharmacy she uses. The next day, the medications were waiting for her.
The next day is also when many neighbors returned to help her salvage what they could (including U.S. Rep. Ron Estes, who Enstrom didn’t realize lived nearby).
“My whole front yard was covered with neighbors,” she said. “I said, ‘This is what America’s all about.’ It was a beautiful thing in the midst of a disaster.”
Enstrom retired after working for Cessna and the electric company. She started visiting nursing home residents with her mother as a teenager.
Her husband died two years ago and she said that was another reason she got Theodore, who she’s also taken to visit the kindergarteners taught by her daughter, Tammy.
She marvels at her canine companion’s ability to spot danger the night of the fire. She hadn’t smelled anything, and the smoke detector didn’t go off.
A firefighter told her she probably would have died if she’d gone to sleep upstair. Someone shooting off post-July Fourth fireworks likely caused the blaze.
Enstrom says Theodore’s real talent is on display every time she takes him into a nursing home, where he calmly accepts and returns the affection of strangers. He’s much smaller than many trained therapy dogs.
“The people I visit, they love scooping him up in their arms. Really, for that span of time, they seem to ignore their pains and they’re happy. And they all tell me their dog stories.”
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