Man credits his dog for saving his life after suffering massive heart attack

Posted at 9:58 PM, Dec 06, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-07 23:29:55-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- A Grand Rapids restaurant owner says he probably wouldn't be alive today If not for his dog.

Steve Elkowitz, 43, suffered a massive heart attack at the end of November, but at the time said he didn't even know it.

Elkowitz owns Memphis Smokehouse, a barbecue joint in downtown Grand Rapids. He says he started having chest pains on Nov. 30 but didn't think it was anything more than indigestion. It wasn't until the family dog, Jake, began acting unusual--refusing to leave Elkowitz's side--that Elkowitz realized the dog, whom he and his wife had rescued a few years ago, was now trying to rescue him.

“I’m thinking this is a dog that we got four years ago for $20 off Craigslist that somebody didn’t want to spend the time and effort training, and four years later he saved my life," he said.

In and out of the bathroom that day with what he described as 'crushing' chest pain, Elkowitz said Jake, a 5-year-old rat terrier, refused to leave his side. "When I came out, Jake had followed me to the bathroom and was waiting outside the door," he said. "He normally doesn’t do that. He does his own thing around the house."

“A heart attack did cross my mind at one point, but I didn’t really think anything of it until the second time when he was following me, and I just thought, 'He’s sensing something weird.'"

A few hours into the pain, with Jake still acting unusual, it was enough to convince Elkowitz to ask his wife to take him to be checked out a the hospital. He never expected the diagnosis of a heart attack.

“I was there for two days, when the doctor discharged me, he said he’d never seen blood levels that high and somebody live to talk about it," Elkowitz said.
"He said, 'I don’t know how you lived through it.'"

A combination of genetics that made Elkowitz's body to produce too much cholesterol on its own, along with stress and long hours from opening his new restaurant this past summer, contributed to his heart attack, he said.

For now, Elkowitz is counting his blessings, including the one he has on four, tiny legs, who is also a trained therapy dog.

“He’s a diamond in the rough, a priceless, priceless dog," Elkowitz said

"This guy: somebody else got rid of him and he saved my life.”