One lucky dog: Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation saves dying canine

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 17, 2013 - 1:28 AM

Hudson hunter’s quick thinking brought his beloved springer back from death’s door.

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Tom Foster used mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on his lifeless springer spaniel, Sparkey. The desperate act saved the dog’s life.

Photo: Courtesy of Tom Foster,

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Hunting dogs regularly reward their owners with spectacular retrieves, unrelenting affection and unquestioning loyalty.

They forgive missed shots, empty water bowls and shabby motel rooms.

Rarely do humans get to pay back their canine companions with more than a scratch behind the ears, a pat on the head or the occasional biscuit.

But Tom Foster did recently — in spades — saving the life of his springer spaniel, Sparkey, with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation after the dog fell into a water-filled hole and nearly drowned while the pair hunted pheasants in southwestern North Dakota.

“I just wanted to save my dog,’’ said Foster, 72, of Hudson. “He’s really special.’’

Foster’s near-nightmare is a tale of perseverance, quick thinking — and love.

Here’s what happened:

Foster and Sparkey were hunting ringnecks in thick cover along one side of a river, while buddy Dan Hoffman, 65, of Orono, and his son, Nick, 34, of Waconia hunted adjacent on the other side. It was late October, just weeks after a snowstorm hammered the region.

“It was wet and muddy,’’ Foster said.

Then Nick Hoffman shot a rooster that dropped into the river.

“Sparkey saw it fall and started running toward it,’’ Foster recalled. “I made my way to the river to help him out. As I walked, I heard him splash. I didn’t think anything of it because he had been running through water for two days.’’

But Sparkey didn’t return with the bird.

“I called him and he didn’t come, then I blew my whistle, and he still didn’t come,” Foster said. “I knew there was something wrong.’’

Foster retraced his steps to where he had last heard Sparkey and found him in an obscured 6-feet-deep hole with water at the bottom. Swirling high water had carved the depression, 4 feet in diameter, from the clay riverbank.

“He was on his back, with his head underwater, obviously drowning,’’ said Foster. The 55-pound dog was unconscious.

“I jumped in the hole and grabbed him by the collar. It was deep enough that I couldn’t just lift him up. I worked my way up the side, digging my feet in and pulling on rocks and roots, and pushing the dog up at the same time. My adrenaline was going pretty good.

“Eventually I got him out, and then me. He looked pretty bad. His eyes were rolled back in his head, his lips had fallen down. He looked dead. I started giving him chest compressions. I could feel his heart beating, then it got slower and slower and finally stopped.

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