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Dog lover buying oxygen masks for pet fire victims

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For more than a dozen years, Richard-Lee Wilson’s beloved Dalmatian, Koochie, loved to visit fire stations and pose in front of fire trucks. 

Koochie died two years ago. In her memory, Wilson, an artist and longtime Berryessa Highlands resident, has set out to raise money to buy pet oxygen masks and donate them to fire stations in Napa County.

Wilson, who is in his late 40s, was inspired to start collecting to purchase the $70 emergency kits after reading an article about pet oxygen masks and learning that fire stations in Napa do not have any.

He orders the masks, which are similar to humans’ but with longer snouts, from Wag’N Enterprises LLC, a Virginia-based company.

“I just wanted to do something good for the community,” said Wilson, who gives handmade cards showing Koochie to donors. 

Capell Valley Fire Department, the station near Berryessa Highlands, where Wilson has lived for the past 19 years, is the first fire station to receive two pet oxygen masks.

Sandy Storck, assistant chief at the Capell Valley Volunteer Fire Department, is grateful for the donations.

She wrote on Wilson’s blog that the “Capell Valley Fire Department is very honored to have received our very first pet oxygen mask kit from Richard. His hard work and dedication to our animal community is commendable.”

If needed, firefighters use a human mask on the animal in danger, CalFire Assistant Chief David Shew said. 

Calistoga Fire Department Capt. Kris Breiner said firefighters at his department used a human oxygen mask a few years ago on a dog that had been struck by a car. The dog survived, he said. 

Shew, who has heard of Wilson’s project, said he would support having oxygen pet masks as long as firefighters were trained on how to use them.

Pope Valley veterinarian Saley Kimsey finds the efforts to buy pet oxygen masks “great,” although she cautions the best thing for an animal suffering from smoke inhalation is to place it in an oxygen cage — a cage into which oxygen is piped. But oxygen cages are fairly expensive, she said.

To raise donations, Wilson has canisters at the Capell Valley Volunteer Fire Department and the store at The Crossroads at Berryessa at the intersection of Highways 121 and 128. People can also send donations to: Richard-Lee Wilson, 1049 Arroyo Grande Drive, Napa 94558.

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