07/14/10 — A hero of a hound

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A hero of a hound

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on July 14, 2010 1:46 PM

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Jamie Frowein was awakened by her dog, Harley, early Saturday when her Sandhill Drive home in Mar-Mac was on fire. Frowein credits Harley with saving her life.

Jamie Frowein stood outside her home Monday and surveyed the damage, its roof completely destroyed by a Saturday fire caused by a strike of lightning.

But she knew she was lucky -- lucky to be alive, she and others say, because of her dog, Harley.

Mrs. Frowein suffers from sleep apnea. So when she goes to sleep at night, she wears a medical device which uses forced air to keep her breathing. The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure unit, or CPAP, works fine. But it also puts her in such a sound sleep that it can be nearly impossible to wake her.

When lightning struck about 2 a.m. Saturday and the fire started, her husband, Michael, was at work and was not there to hear the alarm sound.

But Harley, her large mixed-breed dog, was.

"I didn't hear anything," Mrs. Frowein said. "I didn't hear the smoke alarm go off. I didn't even know we had a thunderstorm going on. I put that thing on and I was just out.

"Finally, he (the dog) just grabbed my arm and snatched me out of the chair, and when he did that, I opened my eyes and I saw the whole house was full of smoke," she recalled.

After being pulled out of her state of stupor, she quickly made her way to a back door and called authorities to their Sandhill Drive home.

Mar-Mac Fire Chief Bill Harrell was first on the scene. Firefighters from Mar-Mac, Thoroughfare, Arrington and Grantham volunteer fire departments soon arrived. Despite the quick response, the home was too fully involved to be saved.

But thanks to a loyal four-legged friend, Mrs. Frowein was.

Most of her belongings can be replaced, she said. But one item, a painting by her grandmother, Stella Sanders, who was a professional painter, was badly damaged by smoke and water. After calls to art restorers inquiring about the painting, a Venice-like waterway, she learned the painting could not be restored. That's when the reality of the fire truly hit home, she said.

"When my husband told me that it couldn't be restored, I lost it. He got his parents' picture out. That's the only thing he wanted," Mrs. Frowein said.

Although she suffered a bruise on her leg from falling out of the chair, Mrs. Frowein certainly isn't blaming Harley.

She said friends have asked if the dog will soon be getting a big steak dinner, but since the fire Harley hasn't been in much of a celebratory mood. Losing their home has been as tough on him as on them, Mrs. Frowein said.

"He's the one who's traumatized," she said, while Harley shuffled about behind his burnt out home.

"He's a 108-pound Chihuahua," she said.

Her husband, a man with a stern face and a firm handshake, said he was trying to take the fire in stride.

"You can put it this way, I don't go by Murphy's Law.... Murphy was an optimist," Michael Frowein said.

But he had nothing but praise for the dog who saved his wife's life. The dog is truly a part of the family, he said. Harley has always slept with the couple at night, to the point of forcing them to buy a king-sized bed to accommodate him.

Frowein said Harley reminded him of another beloved dog, Ginger, who died in the early 1990s.

"I honestly believe God only allows you to have one really good dog in this life, and I think I've been fortunate enough to have two," he said.