A Key Largo dog owner's training and quick thinking saved his furry friend's life earlier this month and raised awareness of a danger lurking out there for other South Florida pets.
Andrew Burtschin, 29, had just returned home from boating around 8:45 p.m. Oct. 1. Before docking at his mile marker 106 home, he pulled up to his neighbor's yard to chat.
He looked to his yard and noticed his dogs Shadow and Skunk chewing on something but he continued his conversation with his neighbor. Shadow then went to the edge of the dock to sit down, where she stayed for about five minutes, breathing heavy all the while.
While still talking to his neighbor, Burtschin saw Shadow's body go into contortions and she fell into the canal.
Burtschin drove his boat to his dock to get Shadow out of the water. He estimates Shadow was floating face-down in the water for about two minutes.
Once Burtschin pulled Shadow out of the water, he thought she was dead. But he did not want to give up. Burtschin is trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and figured what works on people should work on other mammals.
He began chest compressions and what he now jokingly calls "mouth to snout resuscitation."
It worked. Shadow began spitting up a lot of foam and her legs stiffened, but she was breathing again.
Burtschin called Dr. Geoff Bailey, who owns the Animal Care Clinic at mile marker 100.6. Bailey met Burtschin at the clinic and administered a steroid to Shadow, which seemed to get the animal out of her shock.
The culprit of Shadow's health crisis was a bufo toad, a nonnative animal that secretes a toxin out of its parotoid glands in the back of its head that can be deadly to animals that try to eat the amphibian.
It turns out Shadow and Skunk found a bufo and tore it apart. Skunk was fine, and Burtschin said the dog continues to kill bufos with no apparent health impact.
Bailey said dog and cat owners should be on the lookout for bufo toads. If your dog is salivating a lot more than usual, there is a chance he or she ate a bufo. Bailey said that if you suspect your dog consumed one, rinse its mouth out thoroughly with hose water.
"Just flush, flush, flush to get all those toxins out," Bailey said.
Burtschin has another dog, Rowdy, a 175-pound Rottweiler, who won't go near bufo toads.
But Shadow's experience didn't seem to make too much of an impact on her.
"She’s gotten into several of them since then," Burtschin said. "She hasn't learned her lesson."