Joel Lawrence, 16, of Hellam Township, cuddles Selah, a black Lab puppy his family recently purchased after losing two dogs in a fire in December. Selah
Joel Lawrence, 16, of Hellam Township, cuddles Selah, a black Lab puppy his family recently purchased after losing two dogs in a fire in December. Selah resembles Blue, a 5-year-old black Lab who died in the fire. (Submitted Photo)

It's been more than two months since Joel Lawrence and his family lost everything they owned when a fire ripped through their Hellam Township home.

The weeks following the Dec. 10 fire were especially hard on the family of four, said Joel, a sophomore at Eastern York High School.

That's because they grieved over the loss of their two dogs, a golden retriever, Rusty, and black Lab, Blue. Both were 5 years old, said Joel, 16.

After the dogs alerted him to the smoke, he ran into the room of his mother, Joann Becker, slammed the bedroom door and immediately started yelling for outside help from the window, Joel said.

He had to push his dog out of the way in order to get himself and his mother out of the window.

Baxter, an 8-week-old golden retriever, joined the family on Sunday.
Baxter, an 8-week-old golden retriever, joined the family on Sunday. (Submitted Photo)

Both dogs died in the house fire.

Joel was deemed a hero during the fire and credited with saving his mother's life, said Fire Chief Matt Dube of Hellam Township Fire Department.

New memories: Although no pets could ever replace the love Joel and his family had for the two dogs, the family has since purchased two new puppies, Joel said.

About three weeks ago, the family purchased Selah, a 12-month-old female black Lab, who resembles Blue.

And they welcomed Baxter, an 8-week-old male golden retriever, into their home on Sunday.

"It took us a while to accept that our dogs were gone. (Rusty and Blue) were really good to us," Joel said.

But the new puppies, which are the same sex and breeds of Rusty and Blue, remind the family of their deceased dogs and help fill the void in their hearts felt after fire, he said.

"We definitely knew we wanted to own dogs again; we just didn't know how long it would take us," said Joel.

Selah and Baxter aren't showing many signs of similar personality traits to Rusty and Blue, but it's still early, he said.

"(The new puppies) do look just like them, and it's a good feeling," he said.

Closer family: Since the fire, Joel said his family have grown much closer to one another and learned to appreciate life more.

Although the family temporarily lived with their pastor after the fire, their homeowner's insurance has since put them in a home about five minutes away from their former home on Chimney Rock Road.

-- Reach Lauren Whetzel at 505-5432 or lwhetzel@yorkdispatch.com.