Petra the Havanese hero dog

<p>Karen Hessen</p>

Bernie says Petra is Cindy’s dog. Clearly, no one has convinced Petra.

During my visit to the Ertells’ home, the little Havanese companion dog did significant lap-hopping, spending about equal time with each of her humans. My guess is if you asked Petra, she would claim “dual loyalty.”

When the Ertells brought their strikingly beautiful puppy home for a trial stay at Christmas eight years ago, they wanted an unusual name for her. They named her after a fashion model, a Christian band and one of the original twelve disciples. While she looks more like a wispy eight pound cloud than a stone, her name, Petra, means rock. There are no disparities in her silky white coat, but the coal black eyes with their surrounding mascara-like rings, black lips and nose set themselves apart in contrast. Little did Bernie and Cindy know her name would be such an excellent descriptor of her character.

One morning, while Cindy was at work, Bernie was preparing to take his prescription medication and went to the cabinet to get it as usual. Little Petra got up in his face to keep him from reaching his drugs. Again, Bernie tried to take his medication, only to have Petra repeat her performance and stop him. Three or four times when Bernie reached for his dosage of meds, Petra managed to prevent it by being right in Bernie’s face . Finally, Bernie thought, there must be some reason God does not want me taking this medicine today.

Petra realized what Bernie did not – Bernie was experiencing a health crisis. Along with Bernie’s prescription drugs he had been taking some over the counter non-steroidal medications (NSAIDS). The combination of pharmaceuticals had caused multiple organ systems in his body to fail. The prescription medication Petra kept Bernie from taking is cleared from the body by the kidneys. Since Bernie’s kidneys had shut down, his system now contained toxic levels of the potent drug. The doctor told Bernie that had he taken that one additional dose, it likely would have been fatal.

Petra was not through being a hero that morning. Bernie was not aware that, on the inside, his body had quit working. When he opened the door to let Petra outside to take care of her personal business, Bernie passed out. When he fell he broke two bones in his right leg and seven bones in his foot. Bernie transitioned in and out of consciousness. The leg fracture was compound. Bernie was alert enough to know he had a broken leg. With the door open to the outside and Bernie on the floor, Petra went seeking help for her injured friend. It required crawling under two sets of steps and under a deck, but eventually Petra found a neighbor out in his backyard. Unfortunately, the neighbor just sent the agitated Petra back home through a shared gate. The neighbor acknowledged later noticing the Ertells’ door was open, but not looking closely enough to see Bernie on the floor.

Later in the morning a friend called to invite Bernie to a movie. It was the ringing of the phone that made Bernie aware of the phones location – above his head, but within his reach. He was then able to call Cindy and start the process of getting help.

Petra, the rock, got to spend a few days with her brother, who lives with Cindy’s father, while Bernie was in the hospital recovering from his broken bones and getting his system recharged and purged of it toxicities.

Superheroes don’t always wear leotards and red capes. Sometimes they look like a bundle of fur on the end of a leash. If you’re lucky, they jump in your lap and lick your face.

Note to Sandy, the goat lady: I got your email but lost it before I could reply please resend. Thanks.

Karen R. Hessen is a retired mail carrier who lives in Seaside and Forest Grove. She may be reached at To have your own animal tales considered for publication in “Out of the Ark,” contact Karen at the email address above.


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