Benny, an 8-year old Boxer, was treated like a celebrity when he returned Wednesday to Biscuits & Bows, his regular pet grooming facility and day care center in Palatine.
During his last visit Sept. 11, Benny's heart stopped beating. Quick thinking and action on the part of his groomer and the massage therapist on staff saved his life.
Employees could hardly believe their eyes when the 8-year-old dog walked in normally with his owners, Diane Saber and her husband Scott Schwartz of Kildeer.
"He looks great. You'd never know what he's been through," said Laurie Kay, a pet massage therapist who formerly trained as an emergency medical technician with the plan of becoming a nurse. "He's our hero."
Actually, Benny's owners say Kay of Lake in the Hills is the real hero. She, along with groomer Donna Stepanek of Ingleside, acted without hesitation when they found the dog collapsed without a pulse.
"Usually they bring me in when a dog is shaking and nervous. But he was down. He flat lined," Kay says. "Even though I've been trained in CPR for people and for dogs, I never thought I'd have to use it."
Faced with a life or death situation, she fell back on her medical training.
"It was an out-of-body thing. I just did it," Kay says. "Only it was different than in class. In class, we practiced on dog dummies. This was almost like doing it on a person. It was much more intense. I felt like each compression was important."
She began doing mouth-to-nose resuscitation on Benny, before doing 15 compressions on his chest. Stepanek rotated in to relieve Kay, and together they kept at it for five minutes before he revived.
"My mother has been a breeder for 20 years, and lots of times I've had to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on some of the puppies who came out not breathing," Stepanek says. "You have to, or you'd lose the puppy."
Kay trained in pet first aid with Pam Booras, an animal trainer and behaviorist based in Ottawa.
"I use a program developed by the American Red Cross," Booras says. "It gives people the basics of what to do in an emergency, and it's becoming more popular. I offer the classes a couple of times a year, and they're always full."
Only one other time in her six years at Biscuits & Bows has Stepanek had to perform CPR on a dog. They've had to transfer four dogs to an emergency specialist in that time and all have survived.
Performing CPR on a Boxer is difficult, Stepanek said. "I had to grab all his jowls and cup my hands completely around his mouth and nose in order for the air to go in."
When Benny revived, the entire staff worked together to get him to an emergency veterinary facility in Schaumburg. From there, Benny was referred to a cardiac specialist at Animal Emergency and Referral Center in Northbrook.
Dr. Michael Luethy, the group's lead cardiologist, diagnosed Boxer cardiomyopathy, a weakening of the heart muscle that is fairly common in Boxers, but that if caught in time, responds well to medicine.
Luethy says treating a dog revived by CPR is rare, even in his emergency cardiac treatment center.
"In my line of work, I probably see it a half dozen times a year, where owners have tried using CPR," he said. "But I'm seeing just cardiac patients. For regular practitioners, that number's far less."
Benny remained on a heart monitor and medical drip under 24-hour care by Luethy's cardiac team for the next four days. He was discharged last week, but will need medication for the rest of his life, Saber says. The bill was just under $2,000. Saber says it was money well spent, adding that she had thought the intensive care might cost more.
"He's such an important part of our family. Our children love him. He's like another child to us," she said. But the veterinary heroics wouldn't have been possible if Benny hadn't been revived first.
"We're so grateful to the staff at Biscuits & Bows," Saber says.