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June 6, 2011

6 pet oxygen mask kits donated to Maine ambulance co.

The Sun Journal

MEXICO, Maine — Six pet oxygen mask kits and training were donated Friday afternoon to Med-Care Ambulance Service by volunteer firefighter Bobby Silcott of Naples.

The $75 kits each contain an emergency leash, laminated directions and three snout-friendly masks: small for cats, medium for small dogs and large for big dogs and some large animals.

"We're happy to get them," Dean Milligan, Med-Care director of operations and chief of service, said.

"We certainly recognize and understand the importance that pets have in people's lives and we'll do our part if the situation arises."

"We'll do what we can to save whatever we can save," he said.

Two years ago, Silcott, a member of the board for Harvest Hills Animal Shelter in Fryeburg, launched the Maine Pet Oxygen Mask Project.

It's an initiative to get pet oxygen masks on every ambulance and oxygen-equipped firetruck in the state.

Last year, the project teamed with Invisible Fence, which provided bags for the kits and some of the material inside.

"This has been huge for us," Silcott said. "Hopefully, when I'm dead and gone, these things will still be around."

In the past, rescuers used human masks on pets, but Silcott said the dome-shaped pet masks fit more snugly around an animal's muzzle.

That helps rescue workers revive animals that inhaled smoke during a house fire or needed cardiopulmonary resuscitation after being rescued from the water.

Pet oxygen masks "are a way to treat a patient without actually putting anything in their body or physically touching them," Silcott said.

Such masks came in handy on Wednesday when a lightning strike caused the house of a Naples firefighter to catch fire, he said.

The firefighter and his wife fled the home, but their Maine coon cat didn't make it out.

"All he was thinking about was the cat," Silcott said. "He tried to find his cat before he left but it had hid."

On the second walk through, a firefighter found the unconscious and unresponsive cat lying behind a wood stove and brought it outside.

Using a small pet mask, Silcott then successfully revived the cat.

"It was amazing," he said.

"For this firefighter and his wife, that was their main concern. The cat is just a huge part of their life."

"I really believe that saving a pet post-fire is the emotional glue that holds people together after that happens," Silcott said.

He said the first thing people say if they have animals and aren't home when a fire breaks out and arrive on scene is, "Where's my pets?"

"Almost everybody does that. They want to know how their animals are doing," said Silcott, who is also the animal control officer for Denmark, Naples, Sebago, Casco and Baldwin.

Pet oxygen masks "are a way to treat a patient without actually putting anything in their body or physically touching them," he said.

Milligan said Med-Care once revived several kittens at a fire in either Rumford or Mexico and took them by ambulance to McKennel's Animal Adoption Agency in Rumford.

"We brought all the kittens out into the ambulance and started giving each one oxygen with regular masks," he said.

"It's not something that we do every day," Milligan said. "I mean we wouldn't dedicate an ambulance to transport kittens, but it was just around the corner and everything else was safe, so we did it."

"So, we'll certainly use the masks. We're definitely glad to get them."

Reprinted with permission from the Sun Journal.