Firefighter Uses Pet CPR to Save Lifeless Dog

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Pets are not just family to those who parent them. In fact, some first responders will get down on all fours to prove it.

Giving CPR to a family dog was probably the last thing on Andrew Klein’s mind as he and his fire crew were dispatched to a raging fire last Tuesday in an apartment complex in Santa Monica, a beach community just west of Los Angeles.

But that’s exactly what the firefighter did after pulling Nalu, a lifeless, 10-year-old Bichon Frise Shih Tzu, from that burning building. The dog had been overcome by heat and smoke inhalation.

“A crowd of about 50 people were crying and praying over us,” Klein told KFI Radio today. “Failure was not an option.”

Fortunately, Klein, like many firefighters, are trained in the art of pet CPR which requires a different - and much more nuanced touch - than human CPR.

Klein described the process for reviving the pooch once they were both safely outside. First, the dog’s tongue was pulled out beyond the canine teeth to open up the throat and airway. Next, a special, soft, plastic mask was placed over the dog’s snout and a seal was created with gentle, downward pressure. Klein then gave the dog a series of “rescue breaths” through the mask while rubbing the dog’s chest.

Billy Fernando, Santa Monica Fire Department

Billy Fernando, Santa Monica Fire Department

Twenty minutes after he began “mouth-to-snout resuscitation,” the dog stirred back to life to the cheers of those gathered at the scene. After spending the next 24 hours in an oxygen tank, Nalu fully recovered.

Of course, Klein took the accolades in stride. And his attitude was as commendable as his actions heroic:

“That dog is someone’s family member,” Klein said.

This was not always the attitude among people or first-responders. A mere 12 years ago, amid the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, families on rooftops awaiting airlift to safety were not allowed to bring their pets on board helicopters or gondolas. Some people, refusing to be separated from their pets, perished in the rising and toxic flood waters.

It was only thanks to the founders of Animal Rescue New Orleans that a groundswell movement to recognize pets as family members gained popular and political traction. In a bi-partisan effort, U.S. Congress passed Public Law 390-108 in 2006 to ensure that first responders to a disaster rescue the family pet as well as all human family members.

The fact that pet CPR even exists is testament to how far we have come as a society in reshuffling our values.

But for Andrew Klein, it was all in a day’s work.

Click here to learn pet CPR when a mask is not available.