November 02, 1998 12:00 PM

When it comes to pet heroics, dogs are the usual champs. But Jo Ann Altsman would rather take her chances with a pig. While vacationing on Presque Isle, Pa., on Aug. 4, the 58-year-old grandmother of seven recently revealed, she suddenly felt pains shooting down her left arm. Having survived a heart attack in 1996, she knew the feeling. She fell to the floor of the trailer she shares with her husband, Jack, 63. “I thought I was going to die,” says Altsman, who was alone with the couple’s American Eskimo dog, Bear, and LuLu, their Vietnamese potbellied pig. (Jack had gone fishing.) “Bear just stood there and barked at me,” she recalls.

But LuLu swung into action. The 150-lb. pig squeezed out the doggie door, scraping her belly. When her whines brought no notice, the plucky porker waddled to the road and plopped down. Witnesses later told Altsman a man driving a convertible stopped for the bleeding LuLu, who led him to the trailer. He knocked on the door and yelled, “Your pig is in distress.” Altsman cried, “I’m in distress, too. Call an ambulance.”

He did. After bypass surgery in September, Altsman went back to work in her home of Beaver Falls, Pa., as a volunteer for the local Republican party (Jack works in a foundry), and word of her tale spread. Altsman hopes the driver, who didn’t tell paramedics his name, will step forward to be thanked. Meanwhile, a healed LuLu—whom the Altsmans bought last year as a 40th-birthday surprise for their daughter (she said thanks, but no thanks)—is getting lots of her favorite grapes and french fries. Now, says Jack, “I know the Lord gave LuLu to us for a good reason.”

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