Ithaca, N.Y. — 17-year-old Emery Lawhead was in the shower when a fire began to sweep through his family’s home in the town of Ithaca earlier on Monday.

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His mom called to him to get out. Together, they managed to escape the Tareyton Drive house as it filled with black smoke.

But as Lawhead groped his way through the darkness and outside, he said in an interview later in the day, he had one overriding concern: Where was Guinness?

The dark brown pit bull hadn’t left with Lawhead and his mother. The fire was spreading through the wood-frame structure. Then, almost as soon as he realized she had gone back into the house, Lawhead saw his mother reemerge at the house’s exit.

This time, she was carrying Guinness.

“My mom went and got him from her room, which was not smart,” Lawhead said. “I looked back, and she had gone back inside … I didn’t know she had gone back in until she started coming back out.”

The dog would be OK. Around 2:30 p.m., Guinness was in a car on the block, getting warm, according to Lawhead. “He’s a little cold … but he’s fine,” Lawhead said.

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Photo courtesy of Emma Preston

Emergency crews were called to the house at 222 Tareyton Drive around 1 p.m. on Monday.

Cayuga Heights Fire Chief George Tamborelle called the house a “total loss.”  Ithaca and Lansing firefighters were also dispatched. The cause of the fire is being investigated.

No injuries have been reported. Lawhead said that fact is in part thanks to his mother, who he said went “to the far side of the house and brought the dog back downstairs” amid the blaze. Guinness weighs 65 pounds, Lawhead said.

A few dozen firefighters remained on scene dealing with lingering embers around 2:30 p.m. on Monday.

Lawhead remained there as well, looking at the remains of the home. He said his family would have somewhere to stay and seemed to be in good spirits.

There was, however, something else on his mind: A leather jacket he had been given from his uncle.

“(My uncle) passed a way awhile ago and it’s one of the few things I have of his,” Lawhead said. “I hope it’s okay.”

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Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.