Brent Ross’ voice wavers as he talks about his last moments with his dog Jack.
The Salmon Arm’ man’s seven-year-old healthy chocolate lab died on Sunday, Nov. 29, after asphyxiating on a ball lodged in his throat.
During an interview the following Tuesday, Ross, still heartbroken, said he’s been trying to stay focused on all the good times he and Jack got to share.
“I’ve had dogs all my life,” said Ross. “I’m 56 years old and I’ve always had my labs and never had an issue. It just goes to show how freak of an accident this was and how painful it can be.”
On Sunday, Ross drove Jack to the dog park in South Canoe, where they met a friend and fellow dog owner. While playing fetch with their dogs, Ross remembered he’d lost a ball there during a previous visit. Following a successful search, the dogs now had three balls to play with. Ross explained how at one point his friend’s pup dropped the third ball and Jack, who already had two balls in his mouth, was quick to scoop it up.
Then the ball farthest back in Jack’s mouth became lodged in his throat.
“I had him on the ground, I had my hand in his mouth and I was trying to dislodge this ball from his throat,” said Ross. “I had my fingers in behind the ball and tried to rub it up through the other side, trying to get him to throw it up. It wouldn’t come up. I was hoping he might ingest it – at least it would save his life and we could get it surgically removed later.”
Ross said it was at this point he started to recognize he might be fighting a losing battle.
“I quickly loaded up the dogs in my truck – Jack was lying in the field and thought I was leaving him,” said Ross. “I went back and said, ‘Jack, I’m not leaving you man.’ He made his way to the truck and then I was screaming down 10th to get to the vet.”
Because it was Sunday and his calls to the vet only got him a machine, Ross said he called his wife to say he’d pick her up on the way, hoping that her hands might be small enough to remove the ball.
“She jumped in and tried but to no avail,” said Ross. Jack died while en route to the vet.
After Jack’s death, “through beers and tears,” Ross said he shared a post on his Facebook page explaining what happened as a cautionary tale to others.
“I threw all my balls away and… I just recommended to my friends that I wish that you think twice when doing this with your dog,” said Ross, who has since taken time to do some research about dog toys and choking hazards. One thing he found was when selecting a ball for play, its circumference should be larger than the dog’s airway.
“The other thing I learned and didn’t know… apparently there’s a Heimlich maneuver for dogs,” said Ross. “I haven’t done a lot of research for it, but you get in behind their rib cage and pull up hard and see if it will dislodge the ball or bone or whatever these dogs ingest.”
Ross hopes his story will reach other dog owners and help to prevent a similar tragic occurrence.
“We lost him and it breaks my heart – I’ve got two dogs at home that are wondering where their pal is…,” said Ross. “It was an experience I don’t wish on anybody and it’s probably more commonplace than people know.