KENNETT SQUARE -- Sophie the dog is alive today thanks to quick actions by Kennett Fire Company EMT Mark Plumley and the resuscitation equipment the trucks carry with them.
The beagle mix was carried out of a smoke-filled apartment in respiratory distress on Monday, July 2, and many witnesses on the scene said they wondered if the dog was even alive, based on her appearance.
The fire occurred on the second floor above the Michoacana Grill shop at Cypress and Union streets in Kennett Square. It was a fairly smoky fire, and responders had to break some windows and clear out the roof to vent the place.
Soon after they arrived and determined there were no people inside, Plumley did a secondary search of the scene and found Shophie on the second floor barely breathing. He carried her down the steps onto the sidewalk, and what happened next probably saved her life.
He administered oxygen from the specially adapted animal oxygen devices that are in both ambulances and two of the company's trucks.
'It made all the difference; it absolutely saved her,' said veterinarian Dr. Jerry Auman of the Kennett Square Veterinary Hospital, where Sophie was taken.
Auman said Sophie was 'pretty out of it' when she was brought in to the clinic on Mill Road in East Marlborough Township. In addition to receiving additional oxygen and being placed in an 'oxygen cage' overnight, she was also given medications to treat peripheral injuries and irritation the often accompany smoke inhalation.
Auman said the owner took Sophie home the next night, and, although the dog was 'a little subdued,' she was much better and is doing well now.
He added that the story of Sohpie's survival shows the value of stoking the devices. He also said it is important for pet owners to have stickers on their windows indicating that pets live inside.
The resuscitation devices for animals are plastic cone-like objects that hook up to oxygen tanks that are routinely used to deliver the gas to people. They come in three sizes -- for large and small dogs, and for cats. There is also a 'bag-valve mask' in the kit that can be used to force air into the lungs of an animal that shows no signs of breathing at all.
Kennett Fire Company EMS Captain Matt Eick said there were also two cats that survived the fire, but they were not injured because they hid in the cellar and did not need to be administered oxygen.
Eick said it was also fortunate for Sophie that Kierstin Boivin, a veterinary technician training with the Longwood Fire Company was on the scene and had knowledge of animal rescue.
This was the first time in Eick's memory that the devices had to be used, and they are included with the fire truck and ambulance equipment thanks to the donation by animal lovers Ann and Tom Nale of Kennett Township.
As Tom Nale tells it, he saw a dog being resuscitated in Philadelphia on a television news program. 'You could tell it was a special device. We thought it was important for the local fire company to have them because of all the people who have pets around here,' he said.
Nale contacted then-Kennett Fire Company President Tony Talamonti who came up with a catalog that contained the kits.
The Nales purchased four kits and contributed them to the fire company. They are manufactured by Wag'n Enterprises, which makes a wide variety of animal items.
Since then, Eick said, Chester County has given grants to other responders to purchase the kits. He said Kennett declined the grant because they already had them.
Bob Hotchkiss, executive director of Southern Chester County Emergency Medical Services Medic 94 said its response vehicles also carry animal resuscitation devices.