Firefighters rescue pup: ‘We couldn’t just let it die’ |

Firefighters rescue pup: ‘We couldn’t just let it die’

by F.T. Norton
Dr. Lesli Hewitt, DVM, nuzzles tiny Dexter at Sierra Veterinary Hospital on Tuesday. Hewitt, technician assistant Andrea Mundt and a group of firefighters saved the puppy's life after crews responded to a call of a choking baby. Rick Gunn Nevada Appeal

Carson City firefighters responding to a call of a choking baby found instead a puppy gasping for breath.

One of a litter of 10 Labrador/akita mix pups was choking Dec. 14 when a tearful wife called her husband at work and told him as much, said Capt. Bob Schreihans.

The husband panicked, thought his wife said their baby was choking and called 911. That’s how Schreihans and firefighters Dave Parker and Bob Stanford ended up at the house about 7 p.m.

Once they learned it was a puppy, Schreihans said they couldn’t just leave.

“We thought maybe we can help,” he said. “We’re into saving lives, whether their human or puppies.”

The woman showed the men to a 3-pound, 41Ú2-week-old pup – who was rounder than he was long – struggling to breathe.

The crew went to work.

“We suctioned out the puppy, gave it some oxygen, and tried to figure out what was wrong with it, but its little neck was swollen,” Schreihans said. “We couldn’t just let it die.”

The children in the home were upset by the scene, and the homeowner allowed the firefighters to take the puppy with them.

Dr. Lesli Hewitt of Sierra Veterinary Hospital said she opened her door that night to find the 240-pound Schreihans in his firefighter uniform cradling a ball of black fur in his arm. A fire truck was parked in the street behind him. Parker and Stanford stood by.

“We needed a vet, and you’re the only one I know,” she recalled him saying.

Hewitt took the men to her Saliman Road clinic, where they met with Nancy Smith. Hewitt admitted she wasn’t sure what the problem was, but suspected an allergic reaction and gave the men a series of Dex steroid shots to administer throughout the night.

Schreihans and the others did so every four hours, but the puppy wasn’t getting any better, he said.

Wednesday morning, they took the pup back to Hewitt.

There was talk of putting the puppy down, she said, “But sometimes someone just takes a piece of your heart and says, ‘Hi, I need some help.'”

The condition of the pup, now named Dexter, was still baffling everyone until technician assistant Andrea Mundt said it looked like puppy strangles.

Strangles, a disease that commonly afflicts horses and is brought about by malnutrition, is uncommon in the canine world, Hewitt said.

She’s never seen a case before, but once it was diagnosed she knew what to do.

Dexter went under the knife. Hewitt lanced the sores on his throat that were restricting his airflow and began antibiotic treatment.

When she spoke with the owner, the woman said another puppy had died since Dexter was taken. She agreed to surrender the remaining pups to the Carson City Animal Shelter.

Hewitt said one other puppy had to have sores lanced, but the rest seem to be responding well to antibiotics. Once they are old enough, they will all be put up for adoption.

“I would so much, in a heartbeat, keep him,” she said Tuesday as she nuzzled the furry Dexter to her. “But I have three dogs already. I just can’t.”

Schreihans said there should be no problem finding Dexter and his siblings homes.

“They’re just really cute.”

Contact reporter F.T. Norton at or 881-1213.