Giving the breath of life

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Foothills firefighters now have more life-saving tools when it comes to furry friends found at emergency scenes.

The Foothills Fire Department recently received six oxygen mask kits for pets after senior firefighter Chad Demers applied to be able to get the equipment through Project Breathe, a pet oxygen mask program operated by Invisible Fence.

The idea came after a fellow firefighter’s wife had to perform CPR on their family pet and revive it when it suffered a collapsed larynx and was struggling to breathe.

“It brought to the forefront the need for these oxygen masks, because all we carry are people masks and they’re not very helpful when it comes to pets,” said Demers.

He hit the Internet and searched for pet masks, which brought him to the Invisible Fence website. The company donates kits with three sizes of pet-shaped masks to fire departments all over Canada and the US. Each kit costs about $120.

Demers said he’s never come upon a situation where he wished he had the kits, but it’s nice to have them on-hand for when the time comes.

“A lot of the equipment we have we hope we never use, but if we ever need it we hope we have it,” said Demers. “That’s kind of the situation with this – we hope we don’t have to use it, but if it helps our community even just one time then it’s well worth it.”

The six kits will be disbursed among Foothills fire halls at Heritage Pointe, Cayley, Blackie, Priddis and Longview, he said.

Invisible Fence manager Greg Deitz delivered the donated kits to Heritage Pointe fire hall on Nov. 23. He said Project Breathe began in 2007 in Knoxville, Tenn., and since then more than 6,200 mask kits have been donated to fire halls in North America.

“We give them out to the fire departments and hopefully someday, if they need them, they’ll be there in a timely fashion to rescue the dogs and cats,” said Deitz.

Through the program he’s heard success stories about times departments were able to save a pet because of the masks they’d received, but also some stories where there wasn’t a mask available, he said.

There have been times first responders gave pets mouth-to-mouth or provided their own oxygen masks to try to revive them, he said.

“They save the people, they get the people out, they do what they can for the house, then there’s these poor pets lying on the lawn who need resuscitation,” said Deitz. “It’s nice to be able to give them the equipment to do that.”

For more information on Project Breathe visit www.invisiblefence.com/O2.

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