By Catherine Lague, Greater New York Red Cross Assistant Director, Outreach and Preparedness
Unable to resist her charms, I dropped a piece of watermelon in her bowl. She scurried over to enjoy her treat while I resumed watching a movie from the couch. Lola started heading back to the couch when as usual she decided to double-check her bowl for missed treats.
After ensuring that she got every morsel, Lola meandered back to the couch and stared at me. I motioned her to jump up onto the couch, but she just sat there staring. I called her repeatedly when finally she went to the corner of the room, where she continued staring unresponsively.
Getting nervous, I went over to pet her while cooing her name. Still unresponsive, she stared down. As I petted her, I noticed her tummy was rock hard. Immediately, I checked her breathing with my ear to her snout hoping to hear her breath and feel it on my cheek. There was nothing.
Realizing that she was choking and already a few minutes had passed, I had to act quickly. Hoisting the little dog’s hind legs in the air and shaking her, I hoped to use gravity to dislodge the food. Nothing. I picked Lola up upside down. Still nothing. Slightly panicked, I put the little dog down, leaned her over, and gave a few rapid hits between her shoulder blades while fishing for an object in her throat. Finally, Lola coughed up the watermelon piece and began breathing normally.
With the worst over, I began shaking while gratefully hugging my little dog for a few moments. Keeping Lola in sight, I called the local 24-hour emergency veterinarian. They advised me to keep an eye on her and not to feed her large amounts of solid food in case her throat was swollen.
Almost immediately after the incident, Lola returned to her normal self and even begged for more watermelon. I meanwhile have remained cautious and extremely grateful to still have my pooch. I have taken extra care to review the lessons from Pet First Aid and save the 24-hour veterinarian’s phone number. Luckily, my actions mirrored official recommendations except for a few small details.
I’ve also shared Lola’s story to encourage friends and family to prepare to help their pets in an emergency.