Sicklerville resident thanks volunteer firefighters

Three members of the Berlin Fire Co. helped saved the life of a Sicklerville woman’s dog earlier this month

Members of the Berlin Fire Company happily meet with Ava, an English cream golden retriever, after saving her life just days earlier. Pictured, left to right, is Chris Lattanzi, Chief Mike Kernan, Ava, Rushi Panda and Debbie Mazza.

Many of us say we would do anything for our pets. But what happens when you don’t know how to react to save them?

For one Sicklerville resident, that fear became a reality earlier this October during National Animal Safety and Protection Month. However, this story has a happy ending thanks to the quick response of three volunteer firefighters with the Berlin Fire Company.

Traveling through Berlin Borough, Debbie Mazza was on her way home from a therapy dog training class with her dog Ava, a 16-week-old English cream golden retriever, who was in the back seat in a crate with her collar on. After a full class, Mazza says Ava often ends up being very tired and takes a nap on the way home in the crate.

Within just a matter of seconds of seeing Ava laying peacefully in the back, peace turned to fear when Mazza says she heard yelps unlike anything she’s heard before coming from Ava’s crate.

“I never heard a scream so powerful before, I almost didn’t believe that it was coming from her. From what I could see, her paw got caught and twisted in the crate into the letter ‘S,’” Mazza said. “And because of the pain and from twisting around so much, she lost control of her body functions and started to pass out and her eyes rolled into the back of her head.”

Immediately, Mazza called 911 for assistance while David Archambabult, who was also in the car, tried to help free Ava. Responding to the situation was three members of the Berlin Fire Co., including Chief Mike Kernan and Chris Lattanzi, as well as Berlin Borough Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Rushi Pandya.

On the way to the scene, Kernan said the report of “a dog with its paw stuck in a cage” turned out to be much more dire than anticipated. After seeing the frantic owners, he and the other two firefighters quickly worked to dissemble the crate and cut the dog’s collar to make it possible to breath once again.

Three days later on Tuesday, Oct. 22, Mazza visited the Berlin Fire Co., along with Ava, to thank in person the three individuals that reacted so quickly to save her dog’s life.

“Heroes are what they are,” Mazza said. “She wouldn’t have made it if they had showed up a few minutes later, or of course if they hadn’t showed up at all. They take time away from their family and friends to go help strangers. My family still hasn’t really fully absorbed it, but every time I look at (Ava) now, I think of these firefighters.”

After meeting with Mazza and her dog days after the incident, Kernan says he’s happy the fire company was able to respond quickly and correctly to the call and save the life of another living thing.

“To hear how important that dog is to this family makes it just that much better that we did what we did,” Kernan said. “We do stuff like this every day and we’re not asking for thanks as volunteers, but this dog is their lifeline and we’re happy to have created what hopefully is a friendship for years to come. You hear stories like this throughout the year, but it’s pretty cool to have actually lived it.”

Pandya says that, having responded to such a dire situation, it was just another example of local firefighters able to assist in various situations when residents need assistance.

“Nobody ever calls the fire department because they’re having a nice day,” Pandya said. “To them, it’s often the worst day of their life. A dog is a family member to all of us here and plenty of people out in the community as well. We deal with animals calls throughout the year, but this situation was very unique, and to have formed that bond gives that family some friends for life and we’re happy to see the dog a lot better than we found her.”