WATERVILLE — Heather Stone feared the worst when she learned her house caught fire Saturday afternoon, while Abby Doodle, her beloved yellow Labrador, was home alone.

She asked the firefighter who called one question: “Is my dog OK?”

After he told her the dog got out safely, Stone, who was watching a softball game nearby, ran the half mile back to her May Street home.

She found the 19-month-old pup surrounded by her neighbors, two of whom had rushed into the burning home to rescue Abby, while others of the more than dozen who came out to help doused flames with garden hoses to keep the fire from spreading.

“I was just overcome, it was just so great to see her, and there were just so many people there comforting my dog,” Stone said Wednesday.

The heroic tale of Abby Doodle’s rescue in Sunday’s Morning Sentinel caught the attention of the national People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals group, which is giving three of the neighbors its Compassionate Action Award.

Stone’s neighbors Randy LaPointe and Deborah Kilsby ran into the home as it filled with smoke from the fire, which started about 1 p.m. and destroyed an enclosed porch in the rear of the house.

They found Abby in a cage and rushed her outside to Betsy Abbott, who took the dog to her backyard, which was separated by a row of bushes from the fire.

Abbott, 37, then brought out her German shepherd, Buddy, to calm down the rescued dog, who is one of Buddy’s playmates.

Although the dogs are good friends, Stone, 29, didn’t really know the three rescuers well before the fire.

“We knew each other as neighbors, exchanging hellos in passing and whatnot, but they stepped up and got my girl out of the house and I am very grateful for that,” she said.

Stone has invited the neighbors to visit the pup at her home, where she lives with her husband, Chris.

“They are welcome at my home any time,” she said.

Kilsby called the award a nice gesture, but she described her own actions as less than heroic.

“I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I would hope that somebody would do the same thing for my dog,” Kilsby said Wednesday, after learning she got the national group’s award.

The 39-year-old was playing with her dog, Dilly, in the backyard when she saw the flames.

She then ran to help other neighbors already trying to put out the fire with garden hoses, which firefighters said prevented the blaze from destroying more of the house.

Kilsby had already planned to visit Abby before she learned about the award.

“I planned on going over there in a little while to check on Abby, she’s my new buddy,” Kilsby said Wednesday.

The two-story home at 26 May St. is insured and the couple plans to repair the enclosed porch destroyed in the blaze, Stone said.

Firefighters believe the fire started in a plastic can outside the porch, which the owners used as an ashtray, and it quickly spread to the staircase and porch.

Alicia Woempner, who is a spokesperson from Los Angeles for the national animal rights’ group, read the story about the rescue and pushed for the neighbors to get the award, she said.

“We’re always looking for people who don’t look the other way when animals are in trouble,” she said Wednesday.

People who perform standout deeds to protect animals get the award, with everyone from emergency responders to average people getting recognized, she said.

For example, a firefighter in Malibu, Calif., recently got the award for rescuing a dog trapped on a cliff, she said.

The group believes people shouldn’t risk their lives or endanger other people to rescue animals, but rather whenever they can help and still feel safe, according to Woempner.

“These courageous neighbors really set a great example for people to follow when helping an animal in need,” she said.

David Robinson — 861-9287

[email protected]

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