Local dog honored for alerting family of fire

Katie has been inducted into the New Mexico Pet Hall of Fame

Hannah Grover
Katie, a 2-year-old Bullmastiff and pit bull mix, sits on Wednesday at the home of Mary Jane and Ken Washburn.

FARMINGTON — At first glance, Katie looks like any other dog.

Standing only about knee-high, the Bullmastiff and pit bull mix is fawn-colored pup that can often be found wearing a bandanna.

But the Farmington dog’s actions in July were anything but ordinary when she alerted her owners to a kitchen fire. That heroic action has won Katie a spot this year in the New Mexico Pet Hall of Fame.

Each year, veterinarians from across the state nominate pets for the hall of fame. Katie's veterinarian, Dr. Darren Woodson of Valley Veterinary Clinic, nominated the dog for the award. This week, the New Mexico Veterinary Medical Association sent Woodson a plaque to give Katie's owner.

Nominations go before a committee that includes members of the New Mexico Veterinary Association's board of directors. Katie joins a therapeutic riding horse, a dog who comforted a cancer patient, a dog trained to detect low blood pressure and a police dog, as well as several other pets, in the hall of fame.

Tamara Spooner, executive director of the New Mexico Veterinary Medical Association, said the committee was overwhelmingly in favor of inducting Katie into the hall after learning her story.

"The committee just thought it was a wonderful story," Spooner said.

Mary Jane Washburn and her dog, Katie, pose for a photo on Wednesday in Farmington.

That story began two years ago, when Mary Jane and Ken Washburn adopted the puppy after her previous owners discovered their son was allergic to her. Mary Jane Washburn was visiting her daughter in Phoenix, Ariz., when her husband agreed to adopt Katie. He took home the puppy and posted photos of her on Facebook.

"I was thinking, 'We'll find her a home,'" Mary Jane Washburn recalled during an interview Wednesday.

When she returned from her trip and walked in the door, the then 12-week-old puppy greeted her.

"She just ran up to me like she'd known me all the time," Mary Jane Washburn said.

The rest is history. Quickly, Katie became part of the family.

In July, Mary Jane Washburn was preparing chicken on the stove for the family's dogs — in addition to Katie, the family also owns a pit bull named Petey and two golden-doodles, a cross between a golden retriever and a poodle — when she stepped out into the garage to speak with her husband.

The golden-doodles were in the garage, and Petey was sleeping upstairs. Katie was alone in the kitchen when the boiling pot overflowed and the chicken fat caught fire.

When the couple heard Katie barking, Ken Washburn went to see what was wrong

"She was running down the hallway to the garage," Mary Jane Washburn said.

The way Mary Jane Washburn describes it, when Katie saw Ken Washburn, she turned to head back to the kitchen. The dog also stopped three times to look back to make sure someone was still following her, according to her owners.

"She was looking for us, and she wanted us to see what was happening," Mary Jane Washburn said.

On Wednesday, Mary Jane Washburn stands next to the stove where food in a pot caught fire last summer at her home in Farmington. Washburn said her dog, Katie, alerted her and her husband to the danger. Now, Katie will be inducted into the New Mexico Pet Hall of Fame.

Once in the kitchen, Ken Washburn discovered the fire on top of the stove and used a towel to turn off the gas to the stove, eventually extinguishing the blaze.

Mary Jane Washburn said she has never managed to live down the moment when she nearly caught the kitchen on fire, but she has learned from the incident.

"If I'm boiling something like that, I don't leave the kitchen," she said.

Meanwhile, Katie has remained vigilant and alerts the Washburns whenever anything is wrong, even it's a minor infraction, like a cat breaking into the dogs' food.

"She lets us know when anybody's doing anything that they shouldn't be," Mary Jane Washburn said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

Mary Jane Washburn sits with her dog, Katie, on Wednesday at her home in Farmington. Katie will be inducted into the New Mexico Pet Hall of Fame for alerting her owners of a kitchen fire.