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True Dog Lover!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The 13-year-old German shepherd mix whose owner died Wednesday after refusing to leave a burning house without him is doing "much, much better" and could be discharged from an animal hospital as soon as Monday, hospital officials said this morning.

John Petrik, 68, who lived alone with his dog, Regis, in a single-family home in the 1600 block of South Lombard Avenue, was the victim of a heart attack, authorities said. Officials said police had to forcibly remove him from the home about 2 a.m. because he refused to leave, saying he didn't want to abandon his dog.

Petrik's brother, Joe, described him as a private man who never married. About 12 years ago, John Petrik rescued Regis at a Cicero intersection after watching the dog get thrown out of the car in front of him at a stop sign. He had cared for the dog ever since, rarely leaving the house because he didn't want to leave the dog alone, Joe Petrik said.

"It was like his child, He was 100 percent devoted," he said. "Outside of normal conversation that's all he talked about."

Petrik suffered the attack in a police car as fire fighters went into the house and saved the dog. He was pronounced dead at 2:10 a.m. Wednesday at MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.

Regis, who suffered from smoke inhalation and burns, was placed in intensive care Wednesday at an Oak Park veterinary hospital. This morning hospital officials said the dog's condition had greatly improved, but he would remain hospitalized over the weekend before being turned over to Cicero animal control.

It was a remarkable recovery, said Dr. Cesar C. Agustin, who is treating the dog at American Animal Hospital in Oak Park. When Regis arrived at the hospital, he "wasn't even moving." He was administered antibiotics, fluids and placed under oxygen therapy because he was having trouble breathing, Agustin said.

Regis also suffered first-degree burns on his tail and was treated for flea infestation.

Today, the dog was eating, drinking and moving around, although was still having trouble walking straight, Agustin said. "He's doing much, much better than yesterday," Agustin said. "But let's take it one day at a time."

--Gerry Smith

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