By Kati Blocker
When Poudre Valley Hospital paramedics arrived on the scene of a vehicle rollover in northern Colorado, they quickly determined the vehicle’s driver, though banged up, had no serious injuries. However, the vehicle’s passenger wasn’t so lucky — he met full trauma criteria.
Despite having fur and four legs — one of which was severely broken from the accident — PVH EMS crew members Lea Steinhoff and Aaron Perry wasted no time attending to their critically injured patient, Buddy.
“The driver was out of the vehicle and down on the ground by his dog,” Steinhoff said. “We could tell that he was deeply concerned about him.”
Buddy, an 8-year-old schnauzer, has been a part of his owner’s life since he was a puppy. They’ve been through a lot together. And even though his owner, who also is a great-grandparent, has family nearby, Buddy is the only companion consistently by his side.
Buddy_owner“We’ve always tried to do the right thing for our patients, and sometimes taking care of the entire family is what’s in the best interest of that patient, and that includes not just the obvious, like their significant other or a child, but it also means their animals,” said Braden Applegate, PVH EMS manager and operations chief. “It’s something we saw during the  floods. The overall family health is impacted by the well-being of their animals.”
Over the past several years, PVH EMS has formed strong relationships with area vets in order to train and prepare their employees for treating animals, specifically working dogs, in the field and/or while en route to the emergency veterinary clinic. Although helping man’s best friend was something most EMTs would agree they did anyway, the law didn’t officially allow this until Colorado Senate Bill 14-039 was put into law.
SB39 granted limited authority to emergency medical service providers to voluntarily provide preveterinary emergency care to certain domesticated animals.
“The law now gives first responders legal permission to begin treatment on animals in the field,” said Robin Van Metre, a veterinarian and coordinator of the first responder training at Fort Collins Veterinary Emergency and Rehabilitation Hospital. “It’s not meant for EMTs to be an ambulance service for pets. If they are responding to an accident, they will always treat humans first, but for those cases, like with Buddy, they know how to do basic lifesaving treatment.”
After Steinhoff medically cleared the dog’s owner, she moved her attention to where her patient’s had already been directed — to Buddy.
It was clear Buddy needed help, Perry said. Their calculated response to the owner and Buddy assured that the owner stayed calm, knowing his dog was cared for. Meanwhile, they continued to monitor the owner.
“And it let the owner know that his concerns are also ours,” Perry added. “It helped us raise the standard of care beyond the physical and into the emotional.”
Buddy’s owner remembers that day well.
Buddy_river OR Buddy_lake“She [Steinhoff] never made me leave Buddy’s side, and that was so important to me — he is so important to me,” the owner said. “If they hadn’t done what they did, he probably wouldn’t be here today.”
When Buddy was thrown from the vehicle, his back leg was almost amputated —it hung on by only a one-inch piece of skin, Van Metre said. The paramedics loaded Buddy, accompanied by and with permission from his owner, into the back of the ambulance and headed to the veterinarian’s office. While en route, they called Van Metre, who instructed them in the care of Buddy, which included giving him oxygen. When PVH EMS arrived at the clinic, they carried Buddy in on a gurney, an image that Van Metre now can chuckle about.
“Buddy isn’t a very big dog, and the gurney hardly fit through our door, but it just shows what caring nature these people have,” she said.
Buddy had lost half his blood volume before Van Metre amputated his back right leg and stitched him up. But it’s been about a month since the accident, and Buddy is back where he used to be — right alongside his owner.