Lifeline Ambulance EMTs rescue injured dog on Interstate-10

Contributed Photo: Lifeline Ambulance EMTs Mike Ortiz, left, and Joshua Garcia transported a badly injured dog to a veterinarian on Thursday after coming upon the animal on Interstate-10 on their way home to Safford.

“Maybe God put us there for a reason and there was a reason we took the transfer this morning even though we were tired and wanted to go home and play Call of Duty on Xbox for hours.”

Mike Ortiz

By Jon Johnson

BENSON – After a 48-hour shift and a medical transport to Tucson, all Lifeline Ambulance EMTs Mike Ortiz and Joshua Garcia wanted to do was to relax and maybe play Call of Duty to unwind. Instead, they answered a real call of duty on their way back to Safford on Thursday and assisted a pet owner get emergency treatment for their injured canine.

Lifeline Ambulance Operations Supervisor Riley Woods told the Gila Herald that Ortiz and Woods were riding in the company’s third unit that day, and with two other ambulances covering the area were able to take a medical transport to Tucson.

According to a Facebook post made by Ortiz, the duo was eastbound on Interstate 10 around noon and had just made it through Benson when he noticed a vehicle pulled over on the side of the road. Ortiz switched to the outer lane for safety but as he passed by noticed a person waving at them frantically.

Ortiz pulled over to the shoulder when he safely could and backed up to the scene. Upon seeing blood on the ground and guardrail, Garcia ran back toward the vehicle and came upon a badly wounded German Shephard named “Little Brave” that had jumped from a vehicle while traveling down the interstate.

Contributed Photo: Lifeline Ambulance paramedics Joshua Garcia, left, and Mike Ortiz check on their patient at the Benson veterinary clinic.

As Garcia attempted to stop the dog’s bleeding, Ortiz called 911 and the ambulance’s dispatch while retrieving bandages. A couple of Arizona Department of Public Safety troopers arrived and Ortiz inquired about any veterinary services nearby. A trooper located All Creatures Veterinary Services in Benson and advised that they would be able to take the dog. The paramedics then made the decision to strap Little Brave onto their gurney and transport the animal to the vet.  

“As I wrap my arms around his body and fur, I feel the moisture from the blood from the dog all over my arms and, at that point, don’t care if it gets on my uniform,” Ortiz wrote in his post. “I think to myself, ‘I hope I don’t get bit by this dog.’ I lift and he yelps from the pain . . .”

“They all decided that the best thing was to not have the owner drive that puppy because she was a little distraught,” Woods said. “So, they decided to put the dog on the gurney of the ambulance and transport him.”

The ambulance then headed to the vet with Ortiz driving and Garcia tending to Little Brave in the back just as he would any patient. The ambulance rode code 3, with lights and sirens blaring while being escorted by the DPS. Upon arrival, the vet staff looked quizzically at the paramedics as they had never had an animal brought in by ambulance before.

“Yes, transporting an animal is not something that is done normally and is not protocol,” Ortiz wrote. “However, being in EMS is not just taking care of people, it’s taking care of all living things whether they have two legs or four paws.”

The last update provided listed that Little Brave had been bandaged and given fluids and medications at the Benson vet and that the bleeding had stopped. At about 8 p.m. that night, Little Brave was then taken to an emergency animal hospital in Tucson for further treatment but was in stable condition.  

“As a company, we’re really privileged to have such compassionate people,” Woods said. “I think that’s what makes EMS such a great field is these people are willing to serve those in their community. This one was obviously a different scenario with it being a pet and an animal. Not something that we typically do in an ambulance; not a standard practice of ours. But, they saw somebody in need and acted and we admire them for taking those actions.”

For his part, Ortiz advised that he felt a higher power was at play for the whole situation.

“It cannot be coincidence that I just happened by chance to look over while driving 75 mph at this one car because there’s always cars on the side of the interstate,” he wrote. Why was this one any different and why was I able to distinguish a frantic wave in the .2 (of a) second it took to pass the car?” (sic)

“Maybe God put us there for a reason and there was a reason we took the transfer this morning even though we were tired and wanted to go home and play Call of Duty on Xbox for hours.”

Woods also praised the DPS troopers for their assistance and the vet for going above and beyond her standard practice.