Moriah Deno knew something was wrong when she heard Pumbaa bark.
It was a warm March afternoon, and Deno was home sick from school. When she let the 3-year-old Boston terrier out on the deck, the puppy, Vanuchi, wanted to go too.
Deno was inside getting dinner ready when Pumbaa got her attention.
She ran to the deck, where she saw Vanuchi’s leash tangled around the grill, then disappear over the edge.
At the other end, the 5-month-old French bulldog dangled lifeless in his collar.
Deno put the puppy on the deck. The 18-year-old senior at Black River Falls High School had worked as a lifeguard. She knew how to perform CPR, though she’d never had to do it.
Vanuchi had vomited. She put her mouth on his and blew once.
Deno called her mother. She was sobbing.
‘Noochi’s dead, she said.
Did you try mouth-to-mouth? Kyle Deno asked.
It was too gross, Moriah said.
Do it again, Kyle said.
Moriah cupped her hand over the dog’s snout and blew into it. After four attempts, Vanuchi opened an eye. Then she heard him take a weak breath and saw his belly moving.
Kyle Deno was on her way home when Moriah called back.
I think he’s alive, she said.
By the time he got to the vet, Vanuchi had perked up. The Denos said they were told he’s a lucky dog who probably wouldn’t have survived without Moriah’s quick action.
Dr. Micki Vollmar saw Vanuchi for a follow-up and said he’s fine.
Though she learned mouth-to-snout resuscitation in veterinary school, Vollmar said it’s rare to see it used.
“Some people know how to react,” said Barb Pfaff, the Jackson County Humane Officer.
Pfaff runs the animal shelter where Deno has volunteered for the last two years and said the teenager has a knack for connecting with the dogs.
“There are some people who just get it,” Pfaff said. “Moriah is just one of the very best.”
Vollmar warns against leaving any dog unattended with a collar, particularly a choke collar, which can easily snag and cause a dog to suffocate.
That’s a lesson the Denos learned. Now Vanuchi wears a harness.