by Susan Spisak
Back in ’09 his plan was hatched. He was an EMT and the Animal Control Officer in Naples at the time. An empathetic person, Bobby explained they didn’t have anything appropriate in the field to give animals necessary oxygen for smoke inhalation, “We would use human masks,” he said, adding that some personnel would fashion masks out of Styrofoam cups or cans. “You do what you can do.”
His wheels started turning after a few pets lost their lives in a “tragic” Naples house fire. He wanted to find a way to help animals from perishing. He thought he was on to something when the Cumberland County Animal Response Team or CCART was established. He joined CCART and became certified in the American Red Cross CPR class. Being involved with CCART deepened his awareness of the need for necessary tools to assist animals. (CCART provides community awareness of disaster planning and preparedness related to companion animals and large animals. They also assist in emergency sheltering of companion animals. Many animal response teams blossomed after Hurricane Katrina and the creation of the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards or PETS Act, which authorizes FEMA to provide rescue, care, shelter, and essential needs.
“One day it occurred to me to raise money for pet oxygen masks,” he shared. Back then, this animal lover was a board member with Harvest Hills Animal Shelter in Fryeburg. His goal was to figure out how to finance nineteen masks for all the shelter’s contracted towns’ fire/rescue squads, “That seemed a natural fit.”
Serendipity. He got a call from a café owner in a nearby eastern New Hampshire town who’d heard about the POM mission and asked him to stop by for a chat to expound on his mission. Boby explained that he planned to raise $1750 for Harvest Hill’s contracted towns. The café owner left him sitting there for a minute and came back with a check for that amount. Thoughtfully Bobby said, “That was a lifechanging moment for me.” Goal met, he decided he was going to continue.
How to raise necessary funding on his own so he could donate the pet oxygen masks? “I put a lot of thought into this when I started this,” he said, adding that he knew it had to be free of charge to the departments.
So, Bobby went through the necessary steps to be certified to teach lifesaving cat and dog First Aid/CPR classes to individuals and groups. He has and continues to offer these classes all over the state at venues such as pet stores, fire departments, libraries, vet offices, and grooming salons who allow him to teach there without a fee. He charges $80 to each student who attends. Attendees receive a book on pet CPR and a lifetime certification, and they can attend refreshers free of charge.
This program is a win-win. He’s providing a particularly useful tool to animal owners, and their fee is used to purchase a set of POMs that costs $80, including shipping and handling. Each set includes a small, medium, and large mask. He strives to hand deliver the POMs so that he can educate on the proper use of the masks.
While a Pom has been used to revive a dog who took in too much water swimming, the main purpose is for smoke inhalation. And these POMs aren’t just for canines and felines. “They’re very versatile,” he explained. From gerbils, lizards, canaries, to goats and sheep, they can be utilized where oxygen is required. He relayed the story of a family who lost their home in a fire, but the fire department had retrieved a terrarium with a dying corn snake in it. Oxygen was pumped into the terrarium – the snake was revived.
He gave a shout out to his “big” sponsor – Invisible Fence of Southern Maine. “They’re a huge partner.” He’s thankful to volunteers and all businesses who support Maine’s POM Project. He’s also proud that he’s donated scores of masks to intensive law enforcement K-9 training programs for working dogs and their handlers. (He will continue this as well.) The POMs are for their field first aid kits. “It can be very dangerous work,” he added.
Now a full time Animal Control Officer for Cumberland, Yarmouth, and North Yarmouth, he continues to plug along on POMs mission that will live on indefinitely. He said he’s provided POMs for “many, many municipalities.” He’s also started providing kits into New Hampshire and had a few calls from Texas. Of course, he gladly provided them.
Some departments contact him, or he will ring them up. He'd like to get word out to other fire/rescue squads. If readers know of any municipalities that need a POM set, please visit his website below or Facebook page, facebook.com/The-Maine-POM-Project-109983675697408/ and send him a note.
To donate to the POM project or K-9 training efforts, mainepomproject.org/.