Blake Brooks got up and went to his job early Monday morning at Ingalls Shipyard. It was one of the hardest things he’s done in his 26 years of living.
But he said it was good to go and work really hard, so he didn’t have to think about what happened.
Early Sunday morning he lost everything in a house fire — his treasured antique guns handed down from his great-grandfather, this carpentry tools and everything but his truck and the clothes on his back.
What he lost that hurt the most, though, was the love and loyalty of his boxers, Penny and Finn.
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“I haven’t had to deal with anything like this before in my life,” he said. “I’ve dealt with the death of a relative, but Penny and Finn were in my life every day. I was with them every single day of my life. It has torn me.”
He felt the love and understanding of people he didn’t even know at work. They came and said they understood. He has been surrounded by the love and prayers of family and friends, who set up a Gofundme account to help him fill basic needs and replace clothing.
Penny and Finn were in my life every day ... It has torn me.
“My whole life has changed. Nothing seems the same at all,” he said. On Tuesday he was living with his grandmother in Tillman’s Corner, Alabama, and his parents were driving in from Birmingham to be with him.
Then driving into work, “Arms of an Angel,” the Sarah McLachlan song used for the animal protection commercials came on the radio and he lost it. He almost had to pull over and get out. All the emotion came up.
Brooks gets up at 3 a.m. on work days to make the long ride into Ingalls from Alabama. Penny and Finn were up before the alarm.
On the weekends, they’d wake him up even when he wanted to sleep. But he would get up and take them out to run on the three acres that surrounded the house he was renting and helping to renovate in Coden.
“They would wake up every morning jumping up and happy to see you.”
They were both literally a part of me, he said.
“Penny was fawn colored. She was my soft side,” he said. “She was a 55-pound lap dog. Anybody or dog that tried to get close to me or sit next to me, she got jealous because she had me so long. She didn’t like to share me.”
Finn was brindle.
“He was goofy, kind of, an out-there kind of dog. When you say, ‘man’s best friend,’ that boy was beside my feet all the time,” Brooks said, “until he saw a laser or a reflection and that’s when the goofy came out.”
Brooks has video on his Facebook page of Finn chasing around the yard. But Finn was also tough. He was sleeping under a truck that backed out over him once, and he got up and walked it off.
What happened that night
Brooks had doused the fire in the fireplace, and gone out to dinner late Saturday. He got the call that the house was on fire about midnight.
He said he broke laws trying to get there, knowing the dogs were inside.
“I found the fire trucks hosing down the house. It was already burned to the ground,” he said.
He thinks now, if he had been home, “I would have been able to get them out, bust a window and throw them out of the house.”
Penny’s bed was by the fire and Finn slept in the recliner.
“I was able to find the bodies .... They were almost unrecognizable,” he said. “We buried both of them under an oak tree in the front yard.”
Sunday morning, neighbors down the road came, and with family, they had a funeral.
“What I miss the most is their personalities and their energy. Just coming home to them, happy to see me, they were like my kids.
“I know some people say they’re just dogs, but when you live by yourself, they really are family. They love you no matter what, and it’s heartbreaking when they’re not there anymore.
“I won’t get another one until I settle down and get my own house.”