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First Responders Breath Life Into Pets At Fire Scenes

Chicago Sun Times via YellowBrix

June 03, 2010

CHICAGO – The fireman trudged out of Kristi Cahill’s smoke-blackened West Rogers Park bungalow Tuesday evening, cradling a small, limp cat.

“Her eyes were bulging and her tongue was sticking out,” recalled Cahill, 42, of her beloved cat, Roux.

Then something remarkable happened: Firefighters slipped a pet-sized clear plastic mask over Roux’s face, and condensation bloomed inside the mask. Roux was coming back to life.

Tuesday was the first time Chicago firefighters used their new pet resuscitation oxygen masks and, apparently, with great success. Cahill credits the masks with helping save the lives of three pets rescued from her family’s bungalow.

Cahill returned home that evening with her two sons to find smoke billowing out of the bungalow in the 6600 block of North Fairfield. She feared her two dogs and two cats had perished.

“There was not a sound coming out of my house,” Cahill said.

Cahill ran to her rear door. Her panicked Newfoundland dog, Puck, bolted out into the yard.

The air was soon filled with the sound of splintering glass and crashing furniture, as firefighters tramped through her home. And a frantic Cahill, with her children looking on, kept reminding firefighters that three of her pets were still inside.

“They were telling me to move and get away,” Cahill said.

But one by one, firefighters pulled the pets out — first Boudin, a 19-year-old Himalayan cat, then the family’s Pekingese, Wonton, and finally Roux.

By Wednesday evening, the Cahills were on their way to collect Puck and Roux from a Skokie veterinary clinic, where Wonton was set to spend another night to monitor his breathing.

The Cahills decided to put Boudin to sleep because he had been sick with a mouth tumor.

“There’s a happy ending to this tragic story,” Cahill said. "Everything else is replaceable, but not’’ the pets.

The Fire Department has about 250 pet mask kits — all donated by an invisible pet fence company, said Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford.