Ford was awakened Friday afternoon by the persistent whining of a pit bull owned by his mother's boyfriend, and knew something must be wrong.
"As soon as I stood up, I had smoke in my face," he said.
Grabbing a fire extinguisher, Ford headed upstairs, only to find the house's hallway full of smoke as well. He then ran outside to call the fire department and his mother.
Ford then realized the pit bull, Butch, had saved his life, because smoke alarms in the house failed to sound. Butch, however, was nowhere to be found.
"I went to the top of the stairs twice," Ford said. "I was yelling for Butch at the top of my lungs, but he didn't respond. That's when I figured he was probably gone."
A Butler County firefighter eventually found the dog, still alive and hiding in the smoke-filled basement, and led him to safety.
Tina Mobley, Ford's mother, said the dog apparently lost a lifelong fear of basements while attempting to wake her son. Butch, she said, had been abused as a puppy before she purchased him with "the last $52 I had on me."
The dog, Mobley said, had "only been in that basement one time up until that day," because he was terrified of the place, having been kept locked in one as a puppy.
Mobley, who's raised American pit bulls for years, said while the breed has a poor image, not all of the dogs are troublesome.
"They just need a lot of attention," she said.
Ford agreed, saying pit bulls are "family-oriented dogs if they're raised right."
For Mobley, all the extra work she went through to raise Butch from an abused puppy was worth the effort, and now, she said, she'll be forever indebted to him.
"He's a pretty heroic pit bull," she said. "That's the best $52 I ever spent in my life.
"If it had not been for that dog, there's no doubt in my mind my son would have died."
For his efforts, Butch received singe marks on his muzzle but seems to have has suffered no health problems. He has regained much of his puppy fear, though. "He doesn't want to be left alone now," said Mobley, "because he's scared all over again." Ford hopes to change that, he said, starting with the big steak dinner he's promised his new best friend.