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How To Save A Choking Dog: 911 Dispatcher Walks Caller Through The ‘Doggie Heimlich’

When a caller’s pet was choking, she reached exactly the right 911 dispatcher to help save the day — and the dog.

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Woman Calls 911 After Her Dog Starts to Choke on Bone
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Woman Calls 911 After Her Dog Starts to Choke on Bone

A woman calls 911 after her dog starts to choke on a bone and 911 operators help her through the Heimlich.

At Chagrin Valley Dispatch, a communications center covering the greater Cleveland area, dispatchers are trained to deal with the unexpected when any 911 call comes in. 

The staff knows that life-and-death emergencies can happen to every member of a family. That includes a beloved family pooch, as seen on a recent episode of Oxygen’s new series, “911 Crisis Center,” airing Saturdays at 9/8c. 

Earlier this year 911 dispatch supervisor Marra Wargo answered a call from a distraught woman whose pet was having difficulty breathing: “My dog is choking. My dog is choking. He’s got a bone in his mouth,” she said.

Wargo, whose experience includes six years as a dispatcher and, as luck would have it, two years as a veterinarian assistant, was just the right dispatcher for this call. She stayed cool and did her best to calm down the caller. 

“This dog is choking and I am going to do what we have to do to save this dog,” Wargo told producers. 

The first step was to have the pet owner open the dog’s mouth to locate and remove the object. When that failed, Wargo turned to Plan B to help the pooch she later learned was named Chester.

“We’re going to try to do a doggy Heimlich,” she told the caller. She instructed the pet owner to gently lift the dog’s back legs so he was in a wheelbarrow position that would help gravity aid in the attempt.

When they failed to get results, Wargo guided the caller to do compressions on the canine just like you would on a person. “Put your hands underneath him right where his stomach is,” the dispatcher said. “Try to push up, like towards his mouth.”

“The other thing that you can do if you put your hands right in the middle between his shoulder blades on his back … and pat it like you would a baby,” said Wargo.

Although the dog was breathing, his condition didn’t rapidly improve. Wargo dispatched officers to help at the scene. As the caller continued to pat her pup’s back, he began to act like his old self. It appeared that he swallowed the bone that was causing him problems.

“I think he may have gotten it down,” she said with audible relief. “He’s breathing and he’s normal.” 

Chester the dog made a full recovery. It marked a first for Chagrin Valley Dispatch, the center shared on Facebook

“The caller reached just the right dispatcher,” the post read.While dispatchers are trained to handle human emergencies, most are not trained to handle animal emergencies.”

It was a reminder that Chagrin Valley Dispatch staffers bring everything they’ve got to a call — life experience, career knowledge, and more.

“Dispatcher Marra went above and beyond the everyday call of duty for a dispatcher, and truly did what she could to help the caller,” the Facebook post continued. “Since this is not a normal occurrence for our dispatchers, we decided to get Dispatcher Marra a paw print pin so that she can always remember the difference she made for this caller.”

In addition to making the local news, Wargo was featured on "LIVE with Kelly and Ryan," where she talked about the Doggie Heimlich. 

“I knew it was a thing and I just walked her through every step of it,” she told the TV hosts.

In other calls, Chagrin Valley dispatchers handled a woman having a panic attack and a caller whose 96-year-old father was having difficulty breathing.

To learn more about these calls and others, watch “911 Crisis Center,” airing Saturdays at 9/8c on Oxygen or stream episodes here.

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