‘We saved each other’

Wiscasset man credits rescue dog’s ‘vigil’ with helping him survive heart attack
Mon, 12/23/2019 - 8:00am

Wiscasset’s Richard Harvey said when he met an apparent terrier mix early last year at then-Lincoln County Animal Shelter, now Midcoast Humane, some ham the longtime Bath Iron Works pipefitter brought helped break the ice. By the end of the visit at the Edgecomb shelter, Harvey stood cradling Paul, asleep in his arms.

“He turned into a glass of water.” Paul is Vlad now, befitting of his bat-like ears and fangs, Harvey, 62, said in a phone interview Sunday.

He said he spent the prior weekend lying on his back on his living room floor, unable to move and just trying to keep breathing. “This whole time, that dog laid right on my chest ... and he put his little bitty paws on either side of my neck, like he was checking my pulse or something.” For about two days, Vlad didn’t get up to eat or anything else, Harvey said. “He stood the vigil.”

Harvey recalled at first suspecting food poisoning; he’d had that before, but no heart problems, he said. And since he was focusing on breathing, he didn’t give it more thought, until he realized: If Vlad wouldn’t leave him, “something serious must be going on with me ... I finally mustered up enough energy. I got to the kitchen and I called the doctor.”

It was  a heart attack, Harvey said. Days later, he left Portland’s Maine Medical Center with two stints in his chest, he  said. Neighbors cared for Vlad while Harvey was gone. “And when I came back, he just kept spinning and spinning and spinning at my chest, he was so happy,” Harvey said.

“We’re pretty tight, me and this dog.”

Harvey said he is so proud of, grateful for, and indebted to his dog, he wanted other people to hear the story, especially at Christmastime.

The two might start motorcycling together next spring. Years ago, the biker had two smaller dogs and rode each around secured to him and wearing goggles and a leather helmet. He became known for it, he said.

Vlad, a possible rat terrier-Jack Russell mix, would need a bigger helmet. Harvey plans to custom-make him one.