Man dies after going into fire to save dog

Man dies after going into fire to save dog

Cicero officials say 68-year-old became unresponsive after being put in the back of a patrol car

Cicero officials said a 68-year-old man who didn’t want to leave his dog in his burning home became unresponsive after being put in the back of a patrol car and later died at an area hospital.

John Petrik lived alone with his 13-year-old German shepherd mix, Regis, in a home in the 1600 block of South Lombard Avenue.

Petrik was pronounced dead at 2:10 a.m. Wednesday in MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn, the Cook County medical examiner’s office said. His dog suffered smoke inhalation and burns and is under intensive care with an Oak Park veterinarian.

Officials said that when they arrived at the home about 2 a.m., Petrik was in the house. After being approached by emergency crews, he refused to leave, saying he didn’t want to leave his dog.

Petrik ran into a back room and held a door shut, according to town spokesman Dan Proft. Police forcibly removed Petrik. As paramedics were called, Petrik was put in the back of a squad car, where he was frantic saying his dog was still in the house, Proft said.

When emergency officials arrived, Petrik was unresponsive and rushed to MacNeal. Proft said firefighters went into the house and saved the dog.

Officials said, according to a preliminary investigation, the fire likely was caused by a short in a space heater.

Neighbors said the home was a neighborhood corner store, which Petrik and his mother ran in the 1970s. He was liked by neighbors, who said he looked out for them and helped them with their cars.

Dr. Cesar C. Agustin, who is treating the dog at AAmerican Animal Hospital in Oak Park, said Petrik stopped by his office every two weeks, for vitamins and other things for the dog.

“He’s one of those people . . . he just cared deeply for this dog,” Agustin said.

Agustin said that Cicero’s animal care and control office has received three calls from people who would adopt the dog. Agustin said he will likely know the dog’s fate in the next 24 hours.

Joseph Ruzich is a freelance writer, and John Bisognano is Tribune reporter.