These Columbus Fire Heroes Saved A Future Service Dog From Overdosing And It’s A Good Reminder That Not Everything Is Terrible

When Columbus Fire Lieutenant John Wisenbarger heard someone frantically banging on he door at Station 10 in Franklinton last weekend, he wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.

When he opened the door, he found local resident April Speakman holding what he thought was a child wrapped in a blanket. He immediately rushed April to the medic bay where medics John Hagan and Mike Canter were working.

When the blanket came off, the crew realized that April had in fact brought her puppy Elo to the station for help. April told the medics that she had taken Elo out to the backyard where he had found a piece of plastic near the alley. April took the plastic scrap away from the pup and shortly after realized that something was very wrong.

“I brought him in and sat him on the couch with his bone, and he started acting strange. He just passed out, went totally limp. He was hardly breathing, so I gathered him up and ran over to Grandma’s Pizza across the street where I have friends,” April shared with Columbus Fire.

“My friends splashed water on him, which revived him for an instant, but he went limp again. His breathing had stopped and his tongue was hanging out of his mouth. I was frantic. I gathered him up and rushed out the door. I could see Fire Station 10 from where I stood on the street, so I ran over there as fast as I could.”

April had grown up in Franklinton and she remembered from her childhood that the fire station was always a safe place for kids. When she arrived at the station, the puppy was experiencing respiratory depression.

“Puppies typically have a respiratory rate roughly double that of humans. They also breathe faster during hot weather to maintain a homeostatic temperature because they don’t have the ability to sweat like we do. The puppy’s pupils were also non-reactive and somewhat constricted considering the time of night. Given the symptoms and the fact the puppy was non-responsive to both verbal and physical stimuli, these are classic signs of an opioid overdose,” said Columbus Fire Medic John Hagan, who treated the puppy along with Medic Mike Canter.

Although the medics knew that they could use Narcan on dogs due to their previous Police K9 training, they weren’t exactly sure how to administer the medicine. They decided that a pediatric nebulizer mask would be the best option and got to work.

After a nerve-wracking four minutes, Elo’s breathing began to improve. He opened his eyes and began to look around, perking up after his traumatic accident. After that, April was advised to follow up with a 24-hour emergency vet to be sure that Elo wouldn’t have any permanent damage. The next morning, the crew at Station 10 followed up with April, who informed them that Elo was doing wonderfully.

“I’m just so grateful that the medics didn’t hesitate when they saw that Elo was a puppy. Many people make a big distinction between animals and humans when it comes to care. John and Mike simply brought us into the truck and immediately started treating him,” said April.

“I was pretty sure at one point that night that little Elo was completely gone. But the medics showed so much compassion. They first thought I had a baby in my arms, but you couldn’t tell they were treating an animal,” said Speakman. “I appreciate what they did more than they’ll ever know.”

Ohio’s ongoing opioid epidemic means that adults need to be more vigilant while kids and pets are playing. For April, her dog is more than just a pet. Due to her health issues, April adopted Elo to be her service dog. Now that he’s feeling better, he will begin service dog training at Pilot Dogs in a few weeks.


All quotes and images via the Columbus Division of Fire Facebook.

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