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Fur and rescue: Cottage Grove ambulance crews outfitted with pet oxygen masks

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Ava, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, reluctantly demonstrates a pet oxygen mask Feb. 15 for fire and emergency medical personnel at the Cottage Grove Fire Station. Ava's owner is Mary Francis of Invisible Fence in Hastings. The company donated three animal resuscitation kits as part of their Project Breath program. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

Ava did not look happy about having to wear an oxygen mask. But the brown and white Cavalier King Charles Spaniel submitted to the fitting with a minimum of fuss.

Her owner, Mary Francis, demonstrated the life saving device Feb. 15 to fire and emergency medical technicians at the temporary Cottage Grove Fire Station.

The masks can be used to help resuscitate pets that are rescued from a structure fire or car wreck.

Francis is a pet consultant for Invisible Fence in Hastings. The company donated three pet oxygen kits to the city as part of their Project Breathe initiative.

"We're in the business of saving pets lives,' Francis said. "This is an obvious next step."

According to their website, about 40,000-to-150,000 pets die annually in fires, most from smoke inhalation.

Before applying the mask, try to grip the dog's head gently but firmly from behind, she told her audience.

"If you control the head, you control the dog," she said. "They could be scared and they may not have the best manners at that point."

Presumably, that also goes for scaredy cats and jittery gerbils.

The reusable kits each contain an small, medium and large mask. The estimated value is about $150 each, she said.

The kits will be placed onboard city ambulances, said Cottage Grove Fire Chief Rick Redenius, who applied online to receive the kits from Invisible Fence.

First responders know that pets are considered family, he said, and they'll always try to rescue and resuscitate pets if they can do so safely.

No pet oxygen mask? No problem."You improvise," Redenius said. "You do mouth to snout."

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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