A 17-year-old Jack Russell terrier who died in a house fire on Nova Scotia's South Shore is being remembered as a hero.

Charlie's owner, Jeannie Swinemar, is still too upset to talk about the ordeal. But her friend Amanda Joudrey-Leblanc says the blaze started early Wednesday morning in the basement of Swinemar's home in Chester Basin.

"That's where Charlie liked to sleep. So she was down there and she alerted Jeannie with some barking that something was not quite right," Joudrey-Leblanc said.

"If it wasn't for Charlie's barking they would not have realized that there was a fire."

Swinemar and her husband Morris were asleep upstairs. When she awoke from the barking and opened the door to her bedroom, she was greeted by a cloud of black smoke.

'I am still in shock'

She and Morris were able to escape the house in time, and the couple's five other dogs survived. One of the five surviving dogs was rescued from inside the burning home by a firefighter.

Joudrey-Leblanc said Charlie made it out of the house as well, but succumbed to smoke inhalation.

Chester Basin house fire

A photo posted on Facebook by Jeannie Swinemar shows one of the rooms in her home that was damaged by fire. (Jeannie Swinemar/Facebook)

"I am still in shock and losing Charlie in such a horrible way," Swinemar wrote on Facebook Thursday morning, alongside a photo of a blackened basement rec room. "I have no words."

Jamie Hatt, the fire chief at the Western Shore and District Fire Department, said they responded to a call at around 5 a.m. on Wednesday. He said fire crews were able to quickly put out the flames once they arrived at the address on Gold River Road.

Hatt said there was some damage to the basement of the home and to the upstairs.

'Nothing really scared her'

Charlie had at one time been involved with a local sports team for dogs called the Maple Leaps Flyball Club, which posted a lengthy memorial message on Facebook Friday morning.

Charlie hero dog jumping

Amanda Joudrey-Leblanc described Charlie as "a tough little dog" (Kaleano Photo/Maple Leaps Flyball Club/Facebook)

It said in part that Charlie had "saved her family's life" and "made the ultimate sacrifice."

Joudrey-Leblanc described Charlie as "a tough little dog — nothing really scared her too much."

She also said that Swinemar gave her a piece of advice after the fire: Make sure you have leashes and collars for your dogs on hand in your bedroom so that you can get them out in the event of an emergency.

"You just never know what's going to happen," Joudrey-Leblanc said.

With files from Shaina Luck