HAYWARD -- The Chihuahua sprinted up the sidewalk as fast as his little legs would carry him, jumped into his owner's lap and licked her face.
Moments earlier on Tuesday morning, firefighters had found 2-year-old Chullo trembling behind a water heater on the first floor of a home where crews were working to put out a smoky blaze that started in the attic and spread to the second floor.
Chullo, who lives with Cathy Luna, her husband and their three children, was alone in the two-story home when the fire broke out.
A passer-by had spotted smoke about 8 a.m. coming from the attic of the home in the 1300 block of Russell Way, said Assistant Fire Marshal Thor Poulsen. When the woman knocked on the door, she only heard a dog barking inside. She called 911 and fire crews were there within two minutes, Poulsen said.
Luna said she had left the house to take her children to school. She got back to find crews fighting the blaze.
Firefighters had climbed two ladders to get onto the house's roof, and then broke through it to ventilate the home. Foam and water shot out from a bedroom window on the second floor.
"That's my house on fire, and my dog is in there," she shouted, trying to get closer to the house as a firefighter held her back.
Chullo was feared dead, until firefighters found him on the first floor and put him in a smoke-free backroom. Later, after dousing the flames about 8:30 a.m., they smiled when they saw Chullo, appearing in good health. "Brave" and "feisty little monster," some called him.
"Thank God it wasn't a Saturday, and we weren't home sleeping," Luna said, as she held Chullo in her lap. The tiny dog, still visibly shaken, frequently licked her and fiercely wagged his tail.
Howard Saldana, 32, who lives directly behind the home, said he was in his house when the fire broke out.
"The power went out, and I came outside (and) looked up, saw the fire trucks and saw the smoke coming from the roof," Saldana said as he stood behind a fire truck. "I feel so bad for them."
The fire, which caused from $100,000 to $150,000 in damages, was contained to the second floor and attic, Poulsen said. Its cause was under investigation but did not appear to be suspicious, he said.
"It will be some time before they are able to move back in," Poulsen said.
Luna said her family moved into the house less than one year ago.
"We just had the house blessed by a priest," she said, shaking her head as her teenage son, Martin Luna Jr., stood nearby.
"I was just relieved nobody got hurt," theteenager said. "And I'm so happy Chullo is OK."
Contact Natalie Neysa Alund at 510-293-2469. Follow her at Twitter.com/nataliealund.