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First responders rescue, revive cat

By MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

It’s said cats have nine lives. If that’s the case, some say Smokey may have used up six or seven when her home caught fire Feb. 10.

The 13-year-old feline, who bore the name Smokey since nine weeks of age, apparently was trying to find her way out of the burning residence when she collapsed near the front door. If not for the fast actions of some local first responders, Smokey would have run out of lives that night.

Instead, she’s back with her family, and maybe even a little friskier than she was before the fire, according to owners Chelsea and Wilson Love.

Monday, the Loves and their two sons reunited Smokey with the men who worked over an hour to save her life. Smokey made herself at home, curling up in the cubbyhole of a desk at Pulaski Fire Department and taking a bath.

Chief Robbie Kiser said he and other firefighters mounted a search for Smokey in the Love’s Willow Avenue residence upon learning the indoor/outdoor feline might be inside. Black with soot, Smokey was near death, unconscious and taking a shallow breath only about every 20 seconds, when he brought her out of the house.

“She wouldn’t have lasted another five minutes” if not found and removed from the house, Kiser said.

He turned Smokey over to Pulaski Fire Marshal Todd Garwood, Newbern Fire Chief and Pulaski Fire Capt. Brandon Hamblin, and Andrew McClaugherty with Pulaski County Public Safety.

The three men went to work resuscitating the cat with one of three special masks designed for use on pets. Garwood said they didn’t actually give the cat CPR, but they helped it breathe and rubbed its body to help with warmth and blood circulation.

The men lay on the ground on their stomachs for around an hour working to save Smokey.

For those wondering why the men put so much effort into saving a cat, they pointed out pets are like family members and the Loves had already lost so much in the fire. They wanted to be able to return the family cat to them.

Besides, their came a point where “we were committed,” they said. “This cat’s going to survive.”

Pulaski Fire Department and other county fire departments received the set of pet resuscitation equipment about a decade ago either through donation or a grant. Kiser said the last time his department used them was on a dog about eight years ago, but he has seen emergency medical services use their equipment several times.

Smokey’s outcome isn’t common.

Kiser said pets, unfortunately, are usually beyond saving by the time firefighters arrive on the scene unless their owners were able to get them out.

He pointed out the Loves did the right thing when they exited their home. They closed the door, which helped keep the fire in check until firefighters arrived.

“It saved their home,” Kiser said.

The Loves lost most of their possessions in the 9:30 p.m. fire caused by cooking grease. The house sustained damage from heat and smoke, so it must undergo renovations before they can return. Wilson Love said it’s expected to take at least three months to complete the renovation, dependant upon the weather.

The family stayed in motel rooms until the last few days, when they signed a three-month lease on a house. The rental is less than two miles from their home, enabling them to be able to keep track of renovation work.

Insurance is paying the lease and also paid for the motel rooms.

The Loves said they are blessed to have had many respond to assist them during this trying time. They expressed their gratitude.

Chelsea became emotional talking about the assistance and the fact first responders took the time to save Smokey. She says she didn’t know it was possible to resuscitate a cat.

It took five or six baths to clean the soot from Smokey’s fur so the white looks white again. The feline was pretty docile during the first few baths, when she was still somewhat in shock from the fire and multiple moves. Eventually, she started displaying a cat’s typical response to being bathed, Chelsea said.

The Loves decided not to increase Smokey’s trauma by taking her to a veterinarian. Chelsea’s mother, a veterinary tech, looked the cat over. The kitty has a few burns on her paw pads, but they are healing.

For an elderly cat that may have been mere minutes from death, Smokey is fortunate to be able to celebrate her 14th birthday in May. One might even say she has finally earned her name.

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