By Patrick McArdle
A fundraiser at the Rutland Veterinary Clinic and Surgical Center will make it easier for local fire departments to extend rescue efforts to the dogs and cats they encounter when responding to a crisis.
Dr. Rob Macpherson, one of five veterinarians at the clinic, said Friday that a raffle at an open house last year raised the money to buy two “FIDO Bags” for area fire departments. Clinic staff matched the raffle proceeds so they would have four kits to donate.
FIDO Bags — created by the fetch Foundation of Scottsdale, Arizona — include a special oxygen mask that can fit an animal’s head.
“If (firefighters) find an animal unconscious or maybe not breathing well, they can deliver some oxygen to those animals in the house,” Macpherson said.
Protective gloves, needed for a firefighter to safely help an animal likely to be fearful because of the crisis, a splint, a leash and a collapsible water bowl also are among the equipment in the bag.
The kits were donated to fire departments in Rutland City, Rutland Town, Pittsford and Clarendon.
Macpherson said he didn’t believe it would require extra training for a firefighter used to handling first-responder equipment for humans to use the pet-friendly FIDO items successfully.
Firefighter Mike Barrett, of the Rutland City Department, said he could already see how the kits would be useful. He said there were was a recent incident during which a dog was hit by a car and another when a dog was injured fighting with another dog. In those cases, the dog didn’t need oxygen but the protective gloves would have been useful, Barrett said.
The leash is another tool Barrett said had been needed in the past when the department responded to a car crash and had to remove a dog from a vehicle but be sure the animal wouldn’t run off.
Barrett, who has been with the department for almost 30 years, said Rutland City had had a specialized equipment bag for what he estimated was a decade, but the FIDO Bags have updated equipment.
While the fetch Foundation does not say that “FIDO,” which is spelled in all capital letters, is an acronym, Barrett said the label would be useful, especially for new department members, as the FIDO label will ensure they grab the right bag.
The FIDO Bags have benefits beyond the practical tool. Barrett said when firefighters are at a scene and being watched by members of the public, there is a noticeable sense of happiness and relief when they are able to rescue a pet.
“You save an animal … glory be,” Barrett said with a laugh.
Firefighters have their own appreciation for the importance of pets, Barrett added.
“I think all of us have dogs here. I can’t think of anyone here who doesn’t have a dog,” he said.
Barrett said he knew some firefighters would try to use their own oxygen masks to try to resuscitate a dog found in a smoke-filled building, but the size difference between a human and dog makes it an inefficient way to get the dog the oxygen it needs.
Macpherson said pets can be left behind when humans have to escape a fire, although he also said he was aware that some people might stay in a burning building longer than they should out of concern for the animals, which they consider family. The FIDO Bags will provide new tools for the firefighters responding to either situation.
“The staff loves it, knowing that animals can get to it and (emergency responders) could get oxygen to them right away. That’s a whole world of difference rather than waiting 10-15 minutes,” he said.
The clinic has made other efforts to make community contributions, like providing support for the city’s K-9 officers.