BAGHDAD — Liza is one lucky dog. And so, it turns out, is her family.
The ginger-colored mutt stranded alone atop the bombed-out ruins of her Baghdad home was reunited with her owners Wednesday after a night spent chained to a railing, bringing a few smiles after the Iraqi capital's latest day of sorrow.
Farouq Omar Muhei, his wife and children had been presumed dead, buried under the bricks and jagged plaster that rained down after their neighborhood was struck in a wave of suicide bombings on Tuesday.
So neighbors were stunned when Muhei and his 14-year-old son, Omar, showed up Wednesday on their wrecked street.
"Lots of neighbors thought I was dead," he said. So did Iraqi police and rescue officials, who initially listed Muhei and his family among the 127 victims of the blasts.
Muhei and Omar were the only ones home when an explosives-rigged ambulance blew up near the Finance Ministry. They quickly crawled from the rubble, leaving neighbors to assume that the silence underneath the 6-foot-high pile of wreckage meant the family was dead.
Their 6-year-old German shepherd mix had been spotted perched on a narrow section of wall, but the precarious location made it too dangerous for rescue workers and onlookers to try to quickly free her.
So Liza spent the night chained to a crumpled railing on the narrow L-shaped bit of wall, her empty water bucket beside her.
Muhei, his face laced with cuts and a large bandage covering his head, came directly from the clinic on Wednesday.
"I came back to rescue my dog," said Muhei who sells candy in the local market. "After we crawled out of the rubble of our home, I said to my son, 'The dog is dead.' But my son said, 'No, I saw her.' "
And there she was, sitting on the crumbling wall with her front paws crossed. Muhei's brother, Fuad, volunteered for the rescue climb. He was the only one with sturdy shoes; Muhei wore sandals.
The brother quickly made it to the section of standing wall. But from there it was slow going as he picked his way along the loose debris, kicking away bricks and bits of metal, a cigarette dangling from his lips.
The dog yawned nervously as he approached, her tail between her legs.
Finally reaching the dog, Fuad paused to take a drag of his cigarette and then tried to unbuckle Liza's leather collar. Someone yelled from the ground: Just unclip the chain. He did and Liza's tail wagged.
Fuad tried to grab Liza under her front legs, but she resisted at first.
"Liza, Liza!" Muhei yelled from below, and the dog relaxed.
She allowed Fuad to lift her up in a kind of bear hug, her nose brushing his neck.
Muhei waited below, his arms outstretched. Liza turned to him, shaking with joy as she was passed to her owner.
Muhei whispered into her ear as he stepped over broken bricks, then put Liza down. Her tail never stopped wagging as Muhei rubbed her neck and ears as she lapped water from a muddy puddle.