updated 2/11/2008 9:02:58 PM ET 2008-02-12T02:02:58

Bella, a 3-year-old golden retriever/collie mix who was once rescued as an abused puppy, returned the favor to her owners by alerting them to a house fire. With help from Maddie, a 6-month-old golden retriever, Bella helped get Sue Feuling and her 9-year-old daughter, Mckenzie, out of the house last week. The dogs didn't make it.

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"Those dogs were without a doubt the heroes," said Winona Assistant Fire Chief Jim Multhaup.

Bella had jumped on Feuling's bed early Friday morning and started barking, and Feuling then smelled smoke, grabbed her daughter and rushed out of the house.

But Feuling couldn't coax the dogs out of the house, even when she tried to run back in to yell for them.

"Bella must have thought Mckenzie was still in the house," Feuling said.

A firefighter who arrived at the scene tried to save the dogs, but it was too late. The Feulings were taken to an area hospital for smoke inhalation monitoring, but were OK, Multhaup said.

The fire, which was caused by an overloaded electrical outlet, gutted the home, Multhaup said.

While an assistance fund was set up, Sue Feuling said she was only thinking about her dogs. "Everything I lost is nothing compared to them," she said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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