Awake but unable to convert thoughts into action, Marcia Allen knew something unusual happened last month when she found herself on the ground in her Bettendorf back yard, caked in mud.
“I knew I slipped to the ground, but I didn’t know why,” the 66-year-old Allen recalled this week about the Jan. 17 incident. “I couldn’t grab my phone out of my pocket, and I'm not sure I would've known how to use it if I had gotten it out."
But Allen, who had suffered a stroke and lost control of the left side of her body, was not alone.
“All of a sudden, I could hear the dog next door,” she said, referring to Mac, her neighbors' 7-year-old black Labrador retriever. “He never barks, but he was barking frantically. He knew something was wrong.”
The noise at 7 a.m. alerted Dave Scott, Mac's owner, who was drinking his morning cup of coffee before driving his children to school and heading to work. The family wondered what prompted their usually mellow pup to make all that racket during a routine run in the yard.
Mac's high-pitch yelps made it sound as if he was fighting another dog, said Scott, who checked on his neighbor of 21 years and helped her inside.
Scott eventually connected the dots when he noticed that the left side of Allen's face was droopy, her speech was slurred and her left arm was limp.
Allen lives alone, but her daughter and granddaughter had slept at her house the night before, so Scott woke them to call an ambulance.
First responders transported Allen to Genesis Medical Center-West Central Park, Davenport, before transferring her to University Hospitals in Iowa City, where she spent two nights.
Allen, who takes blood-thinning medication to treat her irregular heartbeat, learned that a blood clot had formed in her heart, which caused the stroke. Just four days before the incident, Allen said she underwent an electric shock procedure called cardioversion in an attempt to restore her normal heart rhythm.
About a month since the "disconcerting" incident, Allen said she considers herself "extremely lucky" for Mac's heads-up play.
When representatives of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, recently learned of the story, they sent Mac a Heroic Dog Award.
"This dog sensed that something was wrong, and he didn't rest until his neighbor got the lifesaving help that she needed," Colleen O'Brien, PETA's vice president, said in a news release.
Except for a nagging cold, Allen said she feels better for the most part. However, the retiree cannot drive until the sight in her left eye, which was hindered by the stroke, improves. She is undergoing occupational therapy to address the issue.
Until then, she's planted at home. The proud grandmother, who worked 37 years as a medical transcriptionist, frequently babysits friends' dogs to keep busy.
In the coming weeks, Allen has family vacation plans in Denver and Cancun.
On Tuesday, she made the time to visit Mac and his owners. The friends caught up as they watched the now-popular canine repeatedly fetch a tennis ball in Scott's front yard.
"That's his favorite game there," Scott said. "He just goes and goes and goes."