FINKSBURG - Smoke detectors come in several shapes and sizes, but it's a rare one that can bark and lick your face.
That's the kind the Hines family of Peachwood Court has. And early Saturday morning, she saved their lives.
Misty, the Hines' 4-year-old Shetland sheep dog, began barking and crying shortly before 4 a.m., but the family didn't think much of it because shelties often bark and cry, said Dede Hines.
When the dog didn't settle down after several minutes, Dede decided to see what all the noise was about.
"Misty was crying and scratching at the basement door, so I knew there was something wrong down there" she said. "As soon as I opened the door I could smell the smoke. It hadn't reached the smoke detector near our bedroom door, but Misty was our smoke detector."
A check of the basement revealed that the home's oil burner was on fire, sending thick, black smoke curling up to the basement door.
Dede said she grabbed a small fire extinguisher and thought she put the fire out. Her husband, Michael, thought she did, too.
But by the time Dede called the oil company, flames again had erupted and black smoke was pouring through the house.
Dede called 911, and within minutes, about 30 firefighters from Reese and Westminster were on the scene.
Twenty minutes later, the fire in the one-story ranch house was under control but the basement was destroyed and the sooty smoke from the burning oil had damaged much of the home's contents.
Two days later, as they sit in the family's hotel room at the Westminster Quality Inn, Dede and Michael and sons Patrick, 11, and Mikey, 4, are still bewildered by their harrowing experience -- but they say one thing is clear.
"There is no question about it, she saved our lives," said Dede, who works in the electrical testing department of Baltimore Gas & Electric Co.
The insurance company toured the home Monday morning, but the Hines had not received a damage estimate yesterday on their home of 3 years. Damage to family photos, Dede's late mother's paintings and other items of sentimental value is beyond estimate.
"We're just in shock right now," said Michael, a salesman at Koons Toyota/Mazda in Westminster. "It still hasn't really sunk in."
Some of the loss already is being felt by Mikey, who has little to play with since most of the boys' toys suffered heavy smoke damage.
"My Ninja Turtles got ruined," said Mikey, lamenting the demise of Michelangelo and Raphael in particular.
The Hines plan to move into a rental house in the next few weeks. The insurance company has said it will be 3 to 6 months before they are able to go home.
Now, however, they are concentrating on trying to get a good night's sleep.
"It's like a mental alarm clock, but we keep waking up when we woke up for the fire, or we can't sleep at all until 4:30 in the morning," said Michael.
And, of course, there is the worry about Misty.
Because the family had to go to a hotel, they had to leave Misty at the Route 140 Veterinary Center.
"I feel so bad," said Dede. "I called over there today and told them to give her a big, juicy steak for dinner -- and a good bath."
"Yeah, our dog's getting a hero bath," said Mikey.
"When she comes home she'll have hero dinners, hero baths, and lots and lots of hugs," said Dede.