Mia, a 10-year-old black labradoodle, is part of the extended Lincroft Fire Company family.
“Look at her! She smiles!” said owner Aimee Russo, president of Ladies Auxiliary for the fire company.
Little did Mia know, she was at the center of the celebration on March 14.
Joined by Middletown Township Mayor Stephanie Murray, Deputy Mayor Kevin Settembrino, Middletown Township Fire Chief Ryan Clarke and Lincroft Fire Company Captain Anthony Russo, the Lincroft Fire Company would be the first of 11 Middletown fire stations to receive a lifesaving device catered specifically for pets.
Donated by the Canine Company, pet oxygen masks are now on the official rescue roster in Middletown.
The kits will be used to deploy oxygen to animals on the scene of house fires and other emergencies, so clean air can be administered to trauma-stricken pets quickly and effectively.
Alison Tharp, Monmouth County sales representative for the Canine Company, oversaw that the first batch of masks made it Lincroft.
“Canine Company was derived from a love for pets. So this donation only came natural to us,” Tharp said. “Everyday, it’s our goal to keep pets healthy and safe. This was a way to give back to the community. In the past year alone, eight animals that we know of have been saved because of these devices. We want to keep hearing those stories.”
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than 40,000 pets die in house fires each year – most as a result of smoke inhalation.
A small crowd of public officials, firemen, family and friends gathered to watch a bashful Mia voluntarily test the station’s first pet-catered oxygen mask. Designed to securely fit an animal’s unique face, the largest size mask adapted to her snout.
“This is a first for us,” Fire Chief Ryan Clarke said. “The charity was brought to our attention by one of our local residents who put us in touch with the Canine Company. This is the largest single donation to any one fire department in the state. We were able to secure one of these respirators for each fire house in the town.”
Lincroft resident Staneerae Murray is credited with contacting the Lincroft Fire Company and suggesting the implementation of the lifesaving devices within the community.
Murray said she had originally come across the Canine Company’s charity, “Project Breathe,” on Facebook. From there, she reached out to Dennis Fowler, last year’s fire captain, through the fire station’s website.
“I’m an animal lover. Pets are an important part of our families, and for some people, it might be their only companion. This rescue method is much more effective than using an oxygen mask designed for a person,” Murray said. “ I just want to thank the charity for their donation.”
According to the Canine Company, Project Breathe is an initiative aimed towards the ultimate protection of pets in distress. Each fire station in the United States and Canada qualifies for a single donation. Currently, 10,000 pets have been rescued with the help of these devices.
“It is residents like this that take the time out of their day to come find us and point out something that is potentially available to us. We need people like you as much as we need the firefighters, the EMS and the police officers. Residents are just as important to us. Working with the public allows us to have an opportunity to learn about important things we might not have otherwise known of. I want you to know how much we appreciate people like you,” Clarke said.
Tharp noted that although the oxygen masks are designed for canines, they also can be used on cats, rodents and other small animals.
“Our hope is that you never have to use these. But now, you have them if you do,” Tharp said.