When Myrl Sizemore collapsed from a heart attack outside his Manchester, Kentucky, home, his dog Sarge was the only witness.
Myrl’s wife Leslie was inside working on wedding plans with their daughter Maggie and her fianc , thinking her husband was fast asleep in bed.
But when a massive heart attack caused the healthy, active 50-year-old to collapse, Sarge immediately ran to his aid.
“Sarge realized something was wrong, and he kind of burrowed under Myrl’s shoulder,” Leslie tells PEOPLE. “He kept licking his face over and over until Myrl regained a little bit of consciousness.”
The 116-lb. lab then tucked his nose under his owner and helped him to stand up. “Myrl was able to brace himself on Sarge and Sarge brought him to the door and then into the house,” Leslie says.
Myrl’s heart attack happened in January, when temperatures in Kentucky can dip below freezing. “I didn’t know he was outside, so if it hadn t been for Sarge, he likely wouldn t have survived,” she says.
Prior to the incident, Sarge had developed a notorious reputation around their neighborhood. “He’s kind of like a bad news bear,” Leslie shares. “He’s always tearing stuff up – he jumped into the UPS truck and it took me and the driver to get him out.”
At times, the dog was even barred from entering the Sizemores’ home. Instead, he’d sleep in the family’s heated garage. “He had been on very thin ice for a very long time,” Leslie says.
But after Sarge came to Myrl’s rescue, that dynamic changed forever. “When Myrl was in the hospital after his open-heart surgery, one of the first things he said was ‘I’m gonna get [Sarge] some color swatches and have him put his paw on the color he wants his bedroom,” Leslie says.
Sarge remained by Myrl’s side throughout his recovery and treated his owner with an out-of-character delicacy. “He’s very rough with people because he’s so big,” Leslie explains. “But with Myrl [after the surgery], he never did that – he would just walk very carefully and calmly beside him.”
And when Myrl’s cardiac rehab mandated that he walk very small laps around his yard, Sarge stayed by his side for every step. “If Myrl took a break, he would get right next to him and either lay his chin or his paw on his foot,” Leslie tells PEOPLE. “He always wanted to be touching [Myrl]. It’s almost like it’s second nature.”
Last week, the Sizemores hosted their daughter’s wedding at their home, but one very important guest was missing. “Sarge wasn’t invited,” Leslie says with a laugh. “Maggie said she knew that the cake would end up on the ground, and the tablecloths would get pulled off the tables and probably two big paw prints on her dress.”