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Local Hero – Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

Firefighter with Rescued Dog and FIDO BagPhoenix resident helped to save 15 abandoned dogs, while her day job allows fire fighters the opportunity to save even more

On Super Bowl Sunday, while most were enjoying the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Marie Peck was being called to a horrific scene where she found more than a dozen dogs living in the backyard of a foreclosed home.

Peck, the founder of The Fetch Foundation, whose vision is to help firefighters and first responders save the lives of animals, isn’t generally involved in major rescues such as this. In this instance, though, she didn’t think, she just acted.

“I immediately got into the car with 15 pounds of dog food and as many bottles of water as I could find,” she said.

Not knowing what to expect, Peck was shocked upon arrival.

“There were 15 dogs locked in a caged area, emaciated, completely dehydrated, and starving,” she said. “They were dying. They were left in the back yard of a mobile home in north Phoenix, they were left to die.”

The dogs, German Shepherds and Labradors, were left when their guardian’s home was foreclosed on and he could no longer afford them.

“Unfortunately, it is an epidemic right now,” she said. “If we went looking, we would find this everyday. The economy has taken its toll on people, and they feel they have no choice but to abandon their animals.”

Peck successfully, with the help of volunteers, saved the lives of all 15 dogs. About half have been adopted, but the rest are slowly being rehabbed. Peck said it has been some time since they have felt the touch of a human, let alone been cared for.

For Peck though, dog rescue isn’t what she set out to do, it is just something she can’t say no to. Peck’s main priority is to ensure that all fire trucks are equipped with a FIDO BAG, which provides the necessary equipment to save animals affected by a fire.

Each year in the United States, an estimated half million pets are affected by fires. More than 40,000 pets die from smoke inhalation alone. Which is where the FIDO BAG comes in — since fire departments are only equipped with human emergency supplies, the oxygen masks available do not fit on a pet’s face.

“The FIDO BAG has a specialized breathing apparatus that is formed to fit any pet’s muzzle,” she said. “This allows for a secure seal on the pet’s face giving them the oxygen they need to survive. The bag also features specialized burn sheets, bandages, rinsing saline, protective restraints, collapsible water dishes, and toys.”

Peck said between 80 and 90 percent of homes have pets, and it was necessary to take steps to ensure that first responders and firefighters had the tools to not only save human lives, but the lives of people’s beloved pets.

Locally, about a dozen dogs have been saved because of the bags.

“The response of the bags has been amazing,” she said. “When you hear from firefighters, and they are just distraught because their hands are tied when it comes to saving pets because of lack of equipment, it is heartbreaking. We are giving them the tools and training to, so they have the opportunity to try to save the animals.”

The majority of donations to purchase and distribute the FIDO BAGS are private. But Peck is currently applying for grants and additional funding to not only be able to provide the entire state of Arizona with bags — but every state.

– By Kelsey Duckett

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