HIGH POINT, N.C. -- Holly Maxwell says she woke up Friday morning in a motel room with her family wondering if the fire from earlier this week was real or if it was all a dream.
But when she drove up to what they have called home for the last four years -- it was clear.
"I just can't believe the damage and destruction that was done," Maxwell said.
It's been a few days since the fire at the house on Wiltshire Street in High Point and the gravity of what it took with it has slowly set in for the Maxwell-O'Connell family.
"I have to be thankful that my kids are safe, but there's little consolation when you lose so much else," Holly said, getting visibly emotional.
There isn't much left of the family's home; their belongings - 20 plus years of memories all gone; a family show dog-breeding business gone with it.
And still, what hurts Holly the most are the dozens of pets that died.
"Those were all our lives and they were all family and they loved us; and you know; a house; oh, well; I'd give it all up for my dogs," she said.
Maxwell says the entire family was home Tuesday evening when the fire started. The kids were doing homework and the adults chores when they smelled smoke coming from the basement. It was the area they made a home for dozens of their show dogs. Soon the fire engulfed the entire house and shot through the roof.
"All we were concerned with was getting our dogs out. And, it's the worst feeling because even though they are not your children, they are your children, they are still family," Holly said.
Investigators say they were not able to determine the cause of the fire and have since closed the case. But, the long road to normalcy is just now beginning for the Maxwell-O'Connells.
"We've lost everything. It will never be the same. All we can do is cherish what we have left," Holly said.
What they have left are the clothes on their backs and the few dogs they were able to save.
Holly says their house was paid for but they had no insurance. The recession collapsed their mortgage business of 20 years in California and they moved to North Carolina to continue their dog breeding business.
The family let the insurance lapse while they got back on their feet.
Friends have started raising money for them online to help them rebuild.
One at Youcaring.com and another at gofund me.com
Holly says her family is thankful already for neighbors' support and words of encouragement that have already poured in since many WFMY News 2 viewers saw the original story earlier this week.
"There's nothing like southern hospitality. Everybody has been so wonderful and so caring. I thank you from my heart from our family. Thank you," Holly said through tears.
Holly says she sent two of the dogs her family saved with her daughter to a dog show in Concord Friday to give them and her daughter some normalcy. One dog won. The other took best of variety. It was the best news they received since the fire.
WFMY News 2