TALTY, Texas _ Alicia Pederson awoke to her dog Izzy squealing in pain. Alicia knew Izzy was pregnant and due any day. But what she found in her living room at 2 a.m. took her breath away: Two puppies on the floor. One healthy and wriggling. The other cold, gray and seemingly lifeless.
“I’m thinking one may be OK but the other may be gone. It’s not uncommon for one pup in the litter to not make it,” Alicia recalled. She quickly cleared away the amniotic sacs still surrounding the puppies, then handed the healthy one over to her boyfriend, Kenneth.
In the back of her mind, Alicia figured the puppy in her hand was doomed. Yet as a mother, she knew she had to try something. And then, something even more important happened – Alicia’s extensive training as an American Heart Association employee and CPR instructor kicked in.
“I’m trying to see if there are any signs of life, but it’s limp and cold and my heart’s breaking,” Alicia said. “So I tried to stimulate the puppy. I cleared its airway. I’m even giving it little back blows. And then I start thinking, ‘I am a CPR instructor, I’ve got to try this.’”
Leaning over the kitchen counter, she turned the puppy on its back in the palm of her hand. She cleared the puppy’s airway by aspirating its mouth and snout. Then, using her thumb, she pressed firmly just under its ribcage to perform chest compressions, going about an inch deep.
“It definitely was a modified CPR technique,” Alicia said.
Nothing was happening.
Yet Alicia continued her mouth-to-snout routine, mixing in tiny chest compressions and some encouraging back rubs.
The process continued for about five minutes, as Alicia’s boyfriend and his daughter, Caytee, looked on, everyone assuming the worst. After about five or six compressions, the puppy made a gentle gasp. Suddenly, the ghostly white skin around the puppy’s nose and paws were flush with life.
“Once I heard that sound, I stopped and cleared the airway again,” Alicia said. “As soon as that happened, I could literally see pink returning to the puppy’s face. I was like ‘Oh my gosh, this is working.’”
Within minutes, Alicia said, the puppy had fully perked up. Soon after, Izzy delivered two more siblings. In honor of the puppy’s miraculous recovery, she was named Miri.
Miri and the other pups now spend their days sleeping, eating, crying and sleeping some more. Three weeks after their birth in early March, the puppies don’t venture far from their home, a plastic container layered with blankets that gets frequent visits from Izzy.
While you don’t often hear about puppy resuscitation, Alicia’s story illustrates a larger point about CPR: Even if you are uncertain about a situation, attempting CPR is always a good idea.
Especially now that CPR for humans is easier than ever using Hands-Only CPR. If you see a teen or adult suddenly collapse, call 9-1-1, and push hard and fast in the center of the chest until help arrives. Victims of cardiac arrest are two to three times more likely to survive if a bystander jumps in to perform CPR.
“The training that I’ve received, the instinct kicked in. It’s a crazy thing,” said Alicia, who is a committee manager for the association’s Emergency Cardiovascular Care Science Program. “I’ve trained on manikins but never had to perform CPR on a living thing. Though I’m not trained in pet CPR, I never doubted the technique I’ve learned and taught. Still, to see it actually happen, it definitely reassured me that I could do it on a person, and that I know enough to apply those skills to help someone.”
The American Heart Association doesn’t offer animal CPR training but is a leader in CPR training and education, training nearly 15 million people last year. Alicia said she hopes her experience helps people understand the importance of CPR training.
“As a CPR instructor, I always tell my students that this is something I’m glad that you’re wanting to learn,” she said. “And just to help drive that home, I’ll say, ‘It could be a friend or loved one’s life you could be saving.’”
Back at Alicia’s home on the outskirts of Dallas, the plan is to send three of the puppies to friends and family once they’re ready. But Miri, a furry splotch of brown and white with an impossibly wrinkled face typical of a Boston terrier-bulldog mix, will be staying home for good.
“After all of that, she’s going to stay with us,” Alicia said.