As Aldergrove resident Heather Purcell described how a stranger saved her beloved Jack Russell Rex from drowning, her voice got shaky and she had trouble talking.
“I thought I’d lost him,” she whispered.
On Sunday, the mother of three had taken the four-year-old dog to Jackman Ponds on 272 Street when Rex chased another dog’s ball into the water.
“It was quite a ways out for him,” she said.
“He’s not a great swimmer.”
She could see Rex beginning to tire as he swam back to shore.
Then his head slipped under the water.
That was when Lars Sveinungsen intervened.
He’d thrown the ball for his dog, a border collie named Faith, who is a strong swimmer.
Then he saw Rex struggling.
“I thought, oh, he’s in trouble,” Sveinungsen recalled.
The fully clothed Sveinungsen jumped in the water and brought Rex out.
“I didn’t think about it,” Sveinungsen said.
“It had to be done.”
Back on land, Rex took a couple of gasps for air, then stopped breathing.
“He was on his back and his little head just lolled back and his heart stopped beating,” Purcell said.
“He looked at me and he was gone.”
“You could see the glitter go out of his eyes,” Sveinungsen said.
Sveinungsen, who has occupational health and safety training, had just finished a refresher course a month earlier.
He gave Rex mouth-to-mouth, working to get him breathing again.
“The hardest part was maintaining the seal,” Sveinungsen said.
It worked. Rex came to, and other than extreme exhaustion, seemed just fine.
“I think anyone would have done the same, ” Sveinungsen said.
“I’m not a hero or anything.”
“It’s amazing when a stranger steps up,” she said, then had to stop talking again for a few moments..
She called Sveinungsen her dog’s ”guardian angel.”
After it was all over, he left before Purcell could get his full name or phone number.
Using social media, she managed to track him down Monday, to say “thank you” one more time.
As it turned out, Sveinungsen is also an Aldergrove resident and lives a few blocks away from her home.
By Monday, Rex seemed to be fully recovered, a bouncy, typical Jack Russell, pursuing a ball — or squirrel — in the family back yard with unbounded enthusiasm.
Purcell was preparing to take him to a vet for a just-in-case follow-up exam.
And when she and Rex return to the ponds, Purcell promises, her pet will be wearing a life jacket.