updated 06/01/2009 AT 7:08 PM ET
•originally published 06/02/2009 AT 7:45 AM ET
It’s known as a widow maker–a 100 percent blockage of the coronary artery that generally leaves its victims with a 50 percent chance of survival. Unless you happened to be the proud owner of a Weimaraner named H.J., short for Herman Jr. Two years ago Easter Sunday, Loren Engelbrecht, 61, woke up in the middle of the night feeling ill, so he took a walk through his house, joined by his constant companion, H.J. While watching TV, he suddenly collapsed. “It was 1 a.m., my wife was sleeping and I had a heart attack and couldn’t move, couldn’t speak,” Loren, a Fredericksburg, Iowa, farmer told PEOPLE Pets.
Enter the 105-lb. H.J. “He went into the bedroom and hit my wife with a paw, and when she didn’t wake up, he whacked her again,” said Engelbrecht, chuckling. Dianna finally awoke and noticed her husband wasn’t in bed but that the lights were on in the other room. She then found Loren struggling to survive and called 911 for help.
H.J. followed his owner until medics put him in the ambulance and sped off. “I surely would have died right there without H.J.,” says Engelbrecht.
Last month the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association recognized the devoted dog with an induction into the Iowa Animal Hall of Fame. “He did his part,” wife Dianna told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier of H.J.
Four years ago, it was a twist of fate that led the Engelbrechts to H.J. They had lost their other pet Weimaraner, Herman, when after he was left accidentally in a locked truck by an employee and was asphyxiated. At the time, their veterinarian urged the despondent farmer, “Don’t go home without a dog.” That’s when the Engelbrechts got H.J. “It turned out to be a blessing,” says Loren. Now H.J. rides with him in his truck, his paw resting on his master’s shoulder, and he has taught himself to open the doors in the house. “We’re like buds,” says Engelbrecht.
Nowadays, H.J. can’t get enough of the attention, which included a catered awards ceremony last month attended by 500 people. All the admiration has left him “a pampered pup,” says Engelbrecht jokingly. “He’s losing his hair he’s getting petted so much!”