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In the dead of night an alarm begins to blare. Woken from a deep slumber, you're disoriented, and it takes a few seconds to fully register the sound. It continues to blare. BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! Realizing what it is, you spring out of bed. Smoke is clouding your vision and you can feel the warmth of flames before you see them. You quickly gather your family and race to get out of the house. Once outside, you count your family, make sure everyone is there, rush to a neighbor's house to have them call for help. Before the sirens of the fire department's engines come roaring to your home, you remember: "My dog is in there!"
You are faced with a dilemma: go in and save him or wait outside for the fire department. The sirens are within earshot now, but the smoke and flames are also becoming more pronounced. You hear his desperate barking and you believe he is begging you to save him.
You start to run back into the house, your family at once shouting at you to stay and be safe but also crying over their beloved pet.
The sirens are not only louder, but the light emanating from them is visible. The fire trucks are close. Within seconds they are in front of your house. The sound is shut off, but the lights continue rotating, lighting up the night. A firefighter leaps off the truck, wraps you and your family in blankets and asks if you're OK.
All you can say is, "He's in there."
If the firefighter asked you who you meant, you did not hear him. You just say, "Save my dog." Your eyes do all the begging. You are used to this from your clients, and it feels strange to be on the other side of it.
Everything else is a haze of chaos. Firefighters unravel their hose and attach it to the hydrant in an attempt to distill the flames. Your dog's barking seems labored. Your children are crying. Your spouse tries to soothe them. Then all of a sudden everything slows. The firefighters run in what appears to be slow motion with your dog and you wonder, how will they save him?
"We put a lot of time into trying to find pets," said LaPorte Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief A.C. Pressler, according to NWI Times La Porte. "We pull out more animals from fires than we do people. People are often able to rescue themselves."
Pets need firefighters to rescue them. The North Central Veterinary Emergency Center of Westville, Indiana, sponsored an event, which included a demonstration on pet CPR and oxygen masks for pets. Several firefighters from LaPorte County participated.
The demonstration, performed on the veterinary practice staff's own pets, also included best ways to restrain dogs and cats to avoid bites and injury and finding a pet's pulse.
In addition to sponsoring the event, North Central Veterinary Emergency Center also donated pet oxygen masks to the fire departments.
"We are pleased to provide area fire departments with a gift that truly may make the difference between life and death for a pet caught in a fire," Lisa Polazzi, DVM, told NWI Times La Porte. "A pet specific oxygen mask is made in a cylindrical shape to fit snuggly over the face of a pet. We know that this snug fit can be the difference between life and death for animals."
The firefighters' training and the gift of pet oxygen masks aren't just for cats and dogs. Other pets caught in fires, such as horses, will also benefit.
But you aren't thinking of other pets as you watch the firefighters pull your dog out of your burning home. They restrain him, check his pulse. You watch them check for signs of smoke inhalation. Has his respiratory rate increased? Are his gums bright red or pale? Is his cough dry? Is he sneezing? Wheezing?
You continue watching as an oxygen mask is slipped over his nose and mouth. It fits him perfectly and you are glad they have the equipment to save him. As a veterinarian you know he will need medical care because effects from the fire may not be present yet. But they saved him. And for that you are grateful.
"[W]e have the equipment to help save the animals," Center Township Fire Department's Jason Kish told NWI Times La Porte. "We are ready to respond to the needs of people or pets."