This is a heartwarming story of a dog and a series of coincidences.

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Jennifer DeStefani – a Mays Landing, New Jersey resident recalls the ordeal she and her family went through on that fateful night.  Her lungs still ache from the smoke she inhaled that night.

She will gladly bear that pain – in a strange way, she feels lucky she can feel that pain, the alternative would have been much worse.  

She gets emotional when she thinks about it. “If it had gone any longer…” she sobs, her hands and feet start to tremble – she tries to gather strength.  

After a few minutes she manages to convey her thought .. “but for a series of coincidences – she and her family would not see this day!”

Jennifer’s friend Marta was at an out of town wedding that Saturday.  Jennifer had Marta’s dog – Bandit, a pomeranian-poodle for the weekend until Marta returned from the wedding.

Jennifer’s family already had a cat (Gracie) and a shar pei named Stitch.  Gracie & Stitch were not the best of friends – in fact they hardly got along with each other.

So, when Bandit came along, Jennifer thought she will let him sleep with her in her bed room – away from both Gracie & Stitch.

Jennifer’s husband Rich DeStefani was a retired police officer.  He was helping Jennifer sterilize a hairbrush that Saturday. He laid that brush in a pot of boiling water and let it simmer on the stove …….  

The night arrived, it was time to retire for the night  and the Destefami family went to bed.

The pot on the stove was still heating up, boiling – all water evaporated, black toxic smoke filled the DeStefani’s home. All family members were fast asleep while the toxic smoke billowed through the house.

Even the smoke detectors bought a day earlier with brand new batteries – were silent.

Everyone and everything was at rest in the DeStefani’s house  – except Bandit.

Bandit started barking, jumped on Jennifer’s chest – Jennifer still fast asleep after her hectic day.  Bandit was persistent, kept barking and jumping on her chest until she finally woke up.

Jennifer when awake realized she smelled something strange – she had never experienced it in her life – “What the heck is that?”  she thought to herself.

Now she was wide awake – jumped out of bed, turned the lights on, opened the door and could not even see her own hand just inches away.

She woke her husband, ran across the hallway to her daughter Maya Rose’s room and woke her up.  

They all started opening windows, got all the pets out to safety.  Stitch was last one to come out – he was upstairs in a separate bedroom that night. Rich had called 911 to report the fire.

Captain Larry Birch of Mays Landing Fire Company was the first to respond on the scene.  “There was moderate smoke in the house” said Birch. He and his crew quickly set up fans to ventilate the house – the smoke was cleared.

The pot is ruined – with purple-green gooey burnt mess – the DeStefani’s are keeping it as a reminder – they NEVER EVER want to leave anything unattended on the stove again!  

Had it not been for Bandit, they may not have been here to tell the story.


Local Content Producer/News Buzz Keough contributed to this report                 Source:                                                                                                                



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