It's every parent's nightmare. Waking up to an early morning blazing fire in your home and realizing it is not a dream. Your precious children are sleeping in their beds. Dazed and panic-stricken, you call for your kids in a desperate attempt to get them to safety.
That's what happened to Darryl Steen this past October. But if it weren't for his pit bull puppy Diamond awakening him from a sound sleep with her barking – an unusual behavior for the dog even during normal circumstances – Steen and his daughters, Sierra and Darahne, would have surely perished in the blaze.
Steen was able to drop his nine-year-old daughter out of a second story window to safety, unharmed. His sixteen-year-old daughter, hearing her dad call, ran to his room and tried to protect herself by getting under the mattress. She suffered smoke inhalation and some burns over seven percent of her body. As it was, Steen and Diamond suffered burns that still require treatment.
Steen has third degree burns on his hand, arm, back and feet. Diamond also suffered burns over 30 percent of her body, which caused nerve damage to one leg. Check out a photo of Diamond's injuries.
The reason Diamond sustained such bad burns was because she was protecting Steen’s older daughter by lying on top of the mattress until firefighters arrived and rescued them both. Diamond would not desert her family.
Steen and his daughter spent several weeks recovering in the hospital. While the family lost all their worldly possessions, Steen told me in an interview "I don't care. All that matters is I have my family. We are all alive and well." He went on to say "All the things we lost in the fire…'oh, well.' I don’t care. All three of my girls are alive."
For her heroic efforts, Diamond was a finalist in the HSUS Fourth Annual Dogs of Valor Awards and although she didn't win, she is a hero just the same.
The problem Steen and his family are facing is trying to find a landlord who will rent to Steen and Diamond. Because she is a pit bull, at least 20 potential landlords have refused to rent to the Steen family.
Diamond is adored for her unconditional love and loyalty to her family. She is temporarily staying with Steen's sister until they can find a pit bull-friendly landlord. The Steens will not give Diamond away just to find an apartment to live in. He is adamant on that point. "We wouldn't be here if it weren't for Diamond," Steen said in a video news interview. So they will not leave Diamond behind.
Diamond's situation is ironic. Here is a verified hero who loves her family and literally saved their lives. But because she was born a pit bull, society discriminates against her without even giving her a chance.
Diamond is a super-friendly 14-month-old gal who rarely barks and loves to interact with both humans and other animals. She will have permanent scarring from her injuries.
Fear of pit bulls is based in ignorance. Just like humans, canines deserve to be judged as individuals based on their behavior and character - not how they look.
How You Can Help
If anyone knows of animal-friendly rentals available in the Hayward, California area, why not suggest the Steens as potential tenants? Mr. Steen said he would be happy to receive any referrals for pit bull-friendly housing. He prefers to be reached on his phone 510-688-3707 but can also be reached at his email address firstname.lastname@example.org
How about it, Care2 members – does anyone know of some pit bull-friendly rentals in Hayward, California?