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Ranger Rich: Life and death on TV news


Peanut butter makes the mask inviting. - RICH TOSCHES

We love our pets. We scratch their ears and teach them to sit and roll over and we romp with them and shout "Who's the good dog?" in a silly, childish voice even when we only have cats, although maybe that's just me. We play with them and hug them and, on a somewhat related note, we get the Gazette because the plastic delivery bags are perfect for picking up our pets' doo-doo and also because we love to read those deep and insightful editorials.

OK, it's the doo-doo bags.

We also neuter our pets and then replace the missing testicles with Neuticles-brand artificial testicular implants and I am not kidding about that and perhaps we'll discuss the Neuticles fake pet testicles later. But now we will switch our attention to oxygen masks for our pets.

The masks are used by our village firefighters and are designed specifically to fit over the snouts of our dogs and cats and even our hamsters and rabbits, too, because if there's one thing we don't want it's a dead, beloved, smoky-smelling pet rabbit. Although, God forbid, if you ever find yourself in that situation, remember these two important words: Worcestershire sauce.

Seriously, the snout-appropriate oxygen masks are used by firefighters and paramedics to help revive our pets after our homes have caught on fire and our pets have inhaled a lot of smoke, which makes them terribly sick, unless they are swimmer Michael Phelps' dogs and have built up an immunity to smoke. (Phelps' dogs also burst into hysterical laughing fits when they see the mailman.)

The pet oxygen masks were on display the other day at village Fire Station No. 12, on the northwest side. Twenty of the masks had been donated to the fire department by the animal lovers behind Invisible Fence, a fine product that uses brief bursts of electricity to keep our dogs from sneaking off and getting into mischief. (A new 900,000-volt model is currently being tested on a famous dog who should have his testicles removed: former U.S. Sen. John Edwards.)

Arriving at the fire station early for the dog mask demonstration were the local TV folks, who set up their cameras, tripods and microphones with a seriousness that seemed to indicate that Colorado Springs was in the midst of its 3,987th consecutive Slow News Day.

Station 12 Capt. Kathleen MacLaren explained that in many house fires in our lovely village, pets are left inside as the occupants flee with only the clothes on their backs, their priceless family photos and heirlooms, their framed college degrees and, of course, the meth-making supplies.

For years, the fire department was forced to use ill-fitting human oxygen masks on the pets and, sadly, lost many of our furry companions despite their valiant efforts. On a brighter note, it made the Sunday fire station potluck dinners pretty interesting.

Today, however, fire department rescuers can choose between masks that are designed to fit over many different-sized snouts. This would include those of cats, dogs and actress Tori Spelling. Modeling one of the masks at the fire station last week was a 4-year-old yellow Lab named Cody, who livened up the proceedings quite dramatically when, as the TV cameras rolled and MacLaren was speaking, he began feverishly trying to mate with a surprised-looking female dog named Kaya, forcing the TV folks to halt the production.

And if you're wondering, I do not know whether Cody has been "fixed" or whether he carries a pair of actual Neuticles — which are offered in sizes ranging from a stunning 5.75-incher to the tiny, half-inch John Edwards model.

I do know that as the cameras rolled later, Cody willingly plunged his nose into the tight-fitting, plastic oxygen mask. He did this because he is a dedicated and loyal pet that seemed to sense this was his big moment in the bright lights of TV and also, perhaps, because his owner — I am not kidding — had smeared yummy peanut butter inside the mask.

Animal behavior experts say the exact same training method is used on popular radio host Rush Limbaugh to get him to ring a doorbell with his nose.

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