Pancake party to help injured pets

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By Stephen Knapp

Its your basic win/win/win situation do a solid for your local fire department and save the life of someones beloved pet just by stuffing your face.

Its called Cause for Paws, a flapjack-by-the-stack breakfast bonanza being served between 7 and 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20, at Evergreen Fire Rescues Station 2 on Bergen Parkway. Dreamed up and dished up by the Evergreen Fire/Rescue Support Auxiliary, the free pancake feed will help four-legged fire victims breathe easier.

"Were raising funds for rescue oxygen masks for dogs and cats," says auxiliary volunteer Maria McGinley, wife of firefighter Mike McGinley and the events chief organizer. "Theres no cost for the pancakes, but we would appreciate donations. Wed like to raise enough money to put two masks in each ambulance."

At about 60 bucks a set and four ambulances in stock, McGinley has good reason to expect that Evergreens pets will be oxygen-richer any day now. And it doesnt hurt that Best Friends Pet Care, the kennel company that founded the Cause for Paws campaign in 2004, will match all donations.

Still, since when do cats and dogs need their very own oxygen masks? Since forever, really. Theres no question that the sooner smoke-inhalation victims receive oxygen therapy, the better off theyll be. More than half of all house fires happen in homes with pets in residence and, while hard pet-casualty figures are hard to come by, its safe to assume there are plenty of them.

For starters, pets take smoke into their lungs faster than human types, and they tend to hide in a crisis, which means they arent always front and center when the rescuers come around. And while common people-grade oxygen masks will do the job in a pinch, theyre sadly inefficient when applied to a longish, bewhiskered snout.

"These pet masks are specially designed to fit animals," McGinley explains. "Of course, firefighters will always take care of any human victims before they tend to pets, but theres no doubt that these will be a big help when they have an injured animal and the time to work on it. Its just another tool they can use to save lives."

To nourish the spirit along with the tummy, four-footed celebrity guests will welcome Cause for Paws diners, and EFR firefighters will offer station tours, hands-on fire truck encounters and other such hearty fare.

Hundreds of fire and rescue crews from Portland to Portland now keep muzzle-friendly masks on hand, and use them to good effect. If the good folks attending Cause for Paws bring a little kindness along with their appetites, EFR and its hard-working auxiliary will do the rest.

"I think this is something the community will be passionate about," McGinley says. "We all love our animals, and people around here have pretty big hearts."