Plant shop employee, customers tried to save dogs from burning home

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- When a fire broke out across from the Plant Stand of Arizona pottery shop in South Phoenix, Luis Negreta and two of his customers raced across the street to try to help.

First they checked to see that no people were trapped inside and then they heard the dogs barking. Five dogs were trapped in the back.

As a fellow employee captured the raging fire on camera, the men broke down the front door.

"They called out for the dogs," Negreta said. "You could just hear them kind of yelping in pain, and a few seconds after they called for them, you didn't hear anything else. I think that is when they passed away."

The smoke was just too thick and the flames too hot for the men to go into the home for the dogs.

Phoenix firefighters arrived moments later and were able to get the fire out quickly, but it was too late for the four Mastiff mixes and one American Eskimo rescue dog.

"It's awful, just awful," wept Sandy Greeneltch, the dogs' owner.

She and her disabled Vietnam veteran husband had been out at a meeting when the fire started.

Greeneltch said when she left them, "Everyone had their chewies, we had Animal Planet on -- they liked to watch Animal Planet -- and we had the air conditioning on."

When she and her husband returned an hour later, their beloved dogs were dead.

"Just an overwhelming sense of loss and grief," Greeneltch explained. "They are always right there. They love you. They lay under your bed. They sit at your feet."

The Greeneltchs don't have enough money to have their dogs cremated, so Sandy Greeneltch was preparing their remains to be retrieved by the City of Phoenix. She collected each of their collars to remember them by.

She is grateful that Negrata and the others tried to save her dogs.

"People tried," she said. "They put themselves in harm's way trying."

"It was really bad," Negreta said. "I have two dogs at home, and to hear some other dogs crying and knowing that they're not going to make it, it kind of hurt."

But he says he had to try because his father, who passed away just over a year ago, always told him, "If you think you can help, go out and help, and that is what we tried to do."

Greeneltch and her husband are now looking for a new rental that will take them and their six surviving outdoor dogs and six cats.