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Ewing Township Detective Speaks Out After Risking Life To Save Dog Trapped In Burning Home

EWING, N.J. (CBS) -- We are hearing from a New Jersey police officer who risked her own life to save a dog trapped in a burning home. But that courageous decision came with a cost.

Ewing Township Police Detective Julia Caldwell was on patrol at an elementary school Thursday morning, June 2, when she heard the radio call of a house fire a block away and went to see if she could help.

"The house was fully engulfed. There was flames, smoke," she said.

That's when a neighbor told Caldwell, who owns two dogs herself, that a dog was still in the house.

"My thoughts were let's get in and get out," Caldwell said.

Her instincts took over. A colleague helped her get up to the window and in the house she went.

"The body camera only shows like the visual but the intensity of the heat, it was like 30 hairdryers pumping at your face at the same time," Caldwell said.

That heat, the fumes and the gases in the air, also made her eyes burn, making it extremely difficult to see.

She felt around and found where the cage was, opened it and heard the dog growl at her.

Fearing she might get bitten, she wrapped the dog in the blanket she discovered and made her way back to the window and outside.

That's when the aftermath began as she spoke to the sergeant at the scene.

"I could hear myself talking very distortedly," Caldwell said.

Her tongue swollen, she was placed in an ambulance and rushed to the hospital.

"I woke up 26 hours later very confused," Caldwell said.

She was placed in a medically-induced coma to allow her lungs to rest.

She now has a form of reactive airway disease. Her new reality involves daily medication and no taxing workouts, which she loves to do.

She says she did get a chance to speak to the homeowners whose dog she saved.

"I get emotional talking about it. They were just so appreciative and grateful and could not have praised me more and just been so thankful. They asked me when I was feeling better, they're like 'we want to have you over for dinner," Caldwell said.

Caldwell says she's deeply touched by the level of support she's received following the rescue and that she's humbled by all the attention she's received.

She says when she took the oath to protect and serve it was for all living beings, not just humans.

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