Houses can be rebuilt; linens and supplies can be restocked. But pets are irreplaceable, and the Bowling family has been left reeling from a tragedy that stole their beloved four-legged family members.
Area firefighters called the April 27 inferno that took everything from the Bowlings to be one of the hottest structural fires they had ever encountered. The apparent result of an electrical spark ignited in a recreational vehicle that was parked between the house and the barn, the blaze took out everything the Bowlings owned, leaving a path of destruction that spared nothing.
“They believe it started with the travel trailer. And then the fire jumped to the barn and to the house,” Shannon Bowling said.
Though losing their home has been a painful experience, the Bowling family is in deep mourning over the loss of two dogs and a newborn litter of kittens.
“We lost some of our babies, our animal babies. That’s been the hardest part. Everything else, the memories and mementos and stuff, we can replace,” she said.
A neighbor spotted smoke Friday afternoon and alerted the family who was away at school and work. Bowling’s mother-in-law, who lives nearby, called her grandson, high school senior Reece Bowling, and then set out to investigate.
“My son was on his way home from school. My mother-in-law had called him and told him she thought the barn was on fire. He got here before she did, and he immediately went to the front door to try to get the animals out. He made it into the house a few feet, but the smoke was so thick, he couldn’t go any farther. He hollered for the animals, but they wouldn’t come,” Bowling said.
The mother-in-law, after seeing her distraught grandson, tried her hand at rescuing the animals, but it was too late.
One lucky pet made it out of the house after Reece retreated and left the door open. Bowling’s father-in-law called with the tiny nugget of happy news.
“He called me while they were still fighting the fires. He told me that Lottie was safe,” she said of her 220 pound English mastiff.
Active community members themselves, the Bowling family has elicited an outpouring of support from members of and around Morgan Mill.
“We have been so overwhelmed and blessed by our community. We don’t know how to take it all in. The schools and our friends, and people we don’t even know—they’ve been giving us clothes and money and have even offered to come help us clean up,” Shannon said.
Shannon is a postal service employee. She was tearful when she described her co-workers’ support in her time of need.
“They pooled their money together and got me new uniforms, which means a lot to me. They didn’t want me to have to worry about that,” she said.
Shannon's husband, who with his father owns Bowling Telephone Service, has received equal amounts of encouragement from his clients.
“They have been phenomenal. They have told him that whatever they need to do for us, they are willing to do it,” she said.
There’s still more help that the Bowlings are in need of. There is an account set up at Town and Country Bank for those wishing to donate funds for the family to make a fresh start. Insurance will pay for a new home, but it’s the details inside the house that can get expensive to replace.
“We want people who would like to help us to know that what they give us is going to be used to rebuild our lives,” she explained. “Insurance doesn’t cover everything. We can rebuild the house, but we don’t have anything to put in it. We are going to use those funds to take care of that.”
A new home will be erected and furniture will be installed. But the Bowling family’s pain over the loss of their pets will not soon be assuaged.
“That’s what’s so hard. Watching my husband and my boys struggle with everything, and I can’t fix it,” she said.
Those who are emptying out closets for spring cleaning or looking for a good home to donate gently used furnishings can contact Shannon Bowling herself at 817-312-0253.