updated 3/9/2007 8:10:41 AM ET 2007-03-09T13:10:41

A collie named Lassie roused her owners and enabled them to escape their burning home but died in the fire, relatives said.

"The dog saved their life," said Judi Thompson after her parents' home burned Wednesday morning. "Even the firemen said that. Isn't that amazing? It gives me goose bumps."

Thompson said her parents, Robert and Elsie Whitson, were asleep in their bedroom at the rear of their home in the city about 30 miles northeast of Indianapolis when the fire broke out. The dog, which slept at the foot of the couple's bed, licked and nibbled at their hands until 81-year-old Robert awoke and the couple went outside, she said.

Anderson Fire Department Battalion Chief Larry Towne said firefighters found the dog's remains underneath some collapsed roofing.

"They thought Lassie was out, but she wasn't," said Naomia L. Gooding, another daughter of the couple. "They loved this dog, and she was a wonderful dog."

Thick smoke was rolling from the home when firefighters arrived shortly after 7:30 a.m., Towne said. The fire was still under investigation, but likely was caused by a space heater in a family room in front of the house, he said.

Robert Whitson had first-degree burns to his shoulders, back and part of his head and his 80-year-old wife had chest pains at the scene. Both were treated at a hospital and released, Towne said.

No firefighters were injured fighting the blaze.

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