Donated Oxygen Masks Help Save Hero Dog

Koda, a rescue dog, is being credited with saving the lives of his owners after their home burst into flames in the middle of the night. The fire occurred on the one year anniversary of the couple adopting Koda from a local shelter. 

When the fire started, Koda began barking and woke up the couple, Steve Mehnert and Jen Vaughn, allowing them to escape. "We would have died," Vaughn said. "We were told we would have been goners in 15 minutes from carbon monoxide."

Despite the family vacating the structure, the dog suffered from smoke inhalation. "He was in pretty poor condition, barely breathing," said Firefighter Brandon Rachwal. Luckily, the fire department had a dog oxygen mask to help save Koda's life.

The masks were donated by a Brookfield Central High School student group "PAWS" in 2018, and now every ambulance is equipped with the device. "These good things that they do really make a difference, right?" said teacher and PAWS advisor Jamie Silver.

Silver took her students to see how to device saved the life of a dog in need following the rescue. "What they did – they might not realize it now, but they’ll realize it someday," Mehnert said.

Investigators say the fire started after hot ashes on a grill outside combusted. Koda's owners hope that this story urges other departments to equip their vehicles with dog oxygen masks. The PAWS Group has said they will help raise funds for these devices if needed. 

Koda has made a full recovery and is back to his normal life. "He loves to run," said Mehnert. "He does the classic Lab/Retriever act – chasing ducks, pheasants and all that."

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