Man's best friend is rescuer too

Smithfield -- When Ernest Lamberth fell backward off the top step in his garage about six weeks ago, he knew he was in trouble. He heard the bone break in his hip when he landed hard on the cement floor. He felt blood oozing from a cut above his left eye. To make matters worse, he was alone and helpless at his home at 1178 Barbour Road.

"Something told me I should have put my phone in my pocket or taken my cane," Lamberth, 75, said in retrospect. "But I didn't."

Earlier that morning, his wife, Polly, had left for work in Raleigh. He had risen late and was fixing his oatmeal in the kitchen when he decided to go out to the garage to fetch a handful of creamers that were in a box.

As he headed back up the steps from the garage, he reached for the doorjamb and missed. He lost his balance and fell.

"It didn't knock me out," he said of the impact. "I went to hollering. And I yelled for so long that I had to stop and catch my breath."

Lamberth heard his backyard neighbor, James Frazier, drive past in his pickup. In the distance, he could hear the Fraziers' dog barking. And as he kept shouting for help, he noticed the barking got closer.

Baby, the miniature dachshund, was now standing on the other side of the garage door.

About an hour later, Frazier returned home and scolded the dog for leaving the porch. But when she kept barking and running back and forth to the garage, he knew something was wrong.

As Frazier got closer, he heard Lamberth shouting for help.

Frazier walked around to a back door that Lamberth left open. He walked through the kitchen and found his neighbor lying on the garage floor. By that time, his wife Tammy had run over and dialed 9-1-1 to get an ambulance.

The Lamberths think Baby is a hero.

If the little dog hadn't heard his cries for help, Ernest Lamberth thinks he might have spent a long, painful afternoon lying in the garage.

On Tuesday morning, Frazier brought his dog over for a visit. Baby licked Lamberth in the face as the neighbors recounted the events of that day.

"She gives you affection whether you want it or not," Tammy Frazier said. Her husband gave her the dog four years ago as a Christmas present. She was so tiny that Tammy named her Baby.

Lamberth is still recovering from his broken hip. He spent two weeks at Johnston Memorial Hospital after his fall and is now undergoing physical therapy at home.

And when the Fraziers and their dog stop in for visit, that's good medicine too.

Herald Staff Reporter Suzette Rodriguez can be reached at 934-2176, Ext. 128, or by e-mail at