STOW: Kathy Cordaro spoke of the night she was called to assist firefighters with several dogs that were badly burned and suffered smoke inhalation in a Portage County barn fire just over a year ago.
As many as 16 adult dogs and puppies perished in the Jan. 7, 2012, fire in Edinburg Township. More than a dozen animals were sent to various places for emergency medical care. Four dogs with what were thought to be less serious injuries were taken to the Portage County Animal Protective League, said Cordaro, a humane officer and dog care coordinator.
“We aren’t called out to many barn fires, but we had two in a month with more than 60 dogs lost,” she said on Sunday.
It wasn’t until a few hours later when she realized how badly the dogs had been burned when the roof collapsed on their kennels. APL employees rushed Gracie and Annie to the Stow Kent Animal Hospital for medical attention when they realized the extent of their injuries.
On Sunday, the “girls” were briefly reunited with firefighters who helped save them at Stow Fire Department’s Community Center, where 13 Portage and Summit county fire departments accepted 21 pet oxygen mask kits.
The kits were made possible by a donation from the animal hospital and Invisible Fence Brand.
“This sends a message to our community that our pets are part of our families,” an emotional Cordaro told the crowd that gathered for the event.
Hospital staff members were so concerned after the fire, they began collecting donations to purchase the masks in September. Just two months later, they had raised more than $700, said Diana Grutzmacher of Stow Kent Animal Hospital. Donations were collected at several events and from the hospital clients, said Grutzmacher.
Staff members contacted the Invisible Fence Brand after learning of Project Breathe, the company’s national effort to equip fire stations in the United States and Canada with oxygen masks for pets.
Although the number of pets that die in fires is not a statistic kept by the U.S. Fire Administration, it is estimated that more than 40,000 to 150,000 pets die each year in fires, most from smoke inhalation, according to the company’s website.
Representatives from each department got some practice using them on Labrador retriever and fire survivor Annie, who just recently passed her Good Canine Citizens test, a behavioral test from the American Kennel Clubs.
“Annie is a great ambassador for helping others,” said Cordaro. “If she were a human, she would be paying it forward.”
Shannon Paulus, one of the firefighter/emergency medical technicians who rounded up the animals and began treating them at the scene of the Edinburg Township fire, said all she could do to relieve their suffering was cool them down with wet blankets.
“I’m sure we could have saved more if we would have had masks for them,” she said.
Capt. Rick Hohenadel of Stow Fire Department said firefighters could have used the masks last summer when four animals suffered smoke inhalation from a dryer fire that filled the house with smoke after their owners had gone to work.
“They called 911 when they got home, but those dogs were sick, sick, sick.” Hohenadel said.
The donation of three masks will ensure there is one available for each of Stow’s fire stations, he said.
Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.