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Donation of oxygen masks for pets saved Duluth dog's life

A recent donation from the Duluth Veterinary Hospital of pet-sized oxygen masks saved a pug's life in a house fire.

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These animal rescue kits which sit in each rig in the Duluth Fire Department are now more robust with various sizes of oxygen masks and other gear donated by the Duluth Veterinary Hospital on Sept. 30, 2021. Teri Cadeau / Duluth News Tribune
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One of the first questions Coralie Anderson was asked when she received a phone call from the Duluth Fire Department on Sept. 17 was "How many dogs do you have?" Her house was on fire in the 100 block of East 5th Street and the firefighters weren't sure how many animals they were looking for in her home.

"We'd just had puppies three days earlier, so we went from having three dogs to nine," Anderson said. "When I got there, I was frantically trying to figure out which ones were out, which were still alive and which were gone forever."

Unfortunately, of her nine dogs, only one, Ozzie, the 3-year-old pug, lived. And according to Duluth Veterinary Hospital veterinarian Kristin Dank, he only lived thanks to quick action by the firefighters on the scene and the recently donated pet-sized oxygen masks supplied to the department.

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Coralie Anderson's dog Ozzie is back to his usual self on Sept. 30 after surviving a house fire on Sept. 17. Ozzie survived thanks to oxygen administered by the Duluth Fire Department on the scene. Teri Cadeau / Duluth News Tribune

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"He was doing agonal breathing, which are the gasping breaths that are taken right as an animal is actively dying," Dank said. "They administered oxygen right away. Had he not had the oxygen administered, he probably would have passed. It was critical that he got that oxygen right away and the fact that he had a mask that fit him properly meant he got the oxygen he needed to live."

In 2014, Duluth and Hermantown Fire Departments applied for a grant to obtain animal oxygen masks for the departments.

Since then, the need for animal care equipment and supplies has continued to grow. In 2018, the fire department started implementing better equipped animal rescue kits on all rigs. In the fall of that year, all members received training on the medical treatment of animals. Since then, firefighter Tony Schilling estimated that hundreds of pets have been rescued from structure fires, car accidents, and other emergency incidents.

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Duluth Veterinary Hospital manager Denise Fish hands Duluth Fire Department firefighter Tony Schilling a donation of oxygen masks and other medical supplies to help animals rescued from emergency situations. The Duluth Veterinary Hospital has partnered with the DFD to help save animals' lives. Teri Cadeau / Duluth News Tribune

In 2021 alone, the department has responded to a higher number of calls for service that have involved pets needing medical treatment like Ozzie.

"Animal rescues make up a higher percentage than humans when responding to structure fires because people can generally get out on their own,” Schilling said. “Saving pets has always been a high priority for us. Until recently, we didn’t have the equipment or the training needed to treat animals. With businesses like the Duluth Veterinary Hospital stepping up to donate the equipment, supplies, and training we need, we can provide a better service to the public.”

The Duluth Veterinary Hospital has recently donated oxygen masks in different sizes, leashes, and medical supplies to fill the animal rescue kits. Staff from the Duluth Veterinary Hospital will also provide medical training to firefighters to prepare them for calls for service involving pets.

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Ozzie has been home with his family again for about a week now. Anderson said he's "back to his regular, wild self."

Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
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