Man Saves His Dog's Life After Learning Pet CPR

Manuel Franco said he suspected his Maltese was waiting for him to get home to die.

What should you do in case of a pet emergency?

While most pet owners would anticipate taking their furry companions to the hospital, that may not always be an option depending on the situation.

Just ask Manuel Franco of New York, who had to save his Maltese from the brink of death.

“My dog Sagira was on the floor, gasping for air,” Franco told “It seemed like she was waiting for me to come back, and it sounds very creepy but they tend to. They like to die in your arms. As soon as I got back home and I pet her, she extended her arm and rolled her eyes back.”

Sagira was about 10 years old at the time and suffering from lung disease.

“I was in a panic, I didn’t know what to do,” Franco said. “But something clicked. I started performing CPR until she went back to life.”

Sagira ended up living another six months before she passed away from old age.

“As a pet owner, I think it's a must because the situation can occur at any time, at any moment and I think we have to be ready,” Franco said.

Franco had thankfully learned how to perform CPR on his dog about six months before the emergency, during a pet wellness course taught by Lorna Li of OnetreeWholistics.

“You never know when an emergency can happen,” Li told “We're living in a time where animals are a part of our lives. They're not seen as objects or things we own. They really are, truly, family members. Being able to be proactive and be more responsible for them in their care is really the goal here.”

Li’s course covers everything from packing a first aid kit, performing snout-to-tail examinations, how to recognize a seizure or choking, and how to perform abdominal thrusts or CPR in case of an emergency.

“Not everyone can actually get to a vet right?” Li said. “It is a race against time. There are outside elements that can prevent you from getting to the vet.”

Franco and his partner Irene Liao are co-owners of a dog boarding facility Three Monsters Pet Lodging located in Astoria, Queens.

While Franco said he originally was hesitant to take a course in pet wellness and CPR, Liao insisted they gain the skills necessary to care for their animals in case of emergency.

“We own a pet hotel and it’s critical,” Liao told “If the dogs start fighting or something, we need to have the knowledge about how to do damage control, meaning first aid, and obviously, what scenario is there that we need to perform pet CPR.”

When it was their own animal that required saving, Franco said he was thankful to have the skills to fall back on.

“It seemed like all the symptoms that [Sagira] passed away,” Franco said. “So I start performing the CPR that I learned. I did that around one cycle, which is maybe 15 seconds, 20 seconds. Luckily, she revived and she start back to the normal breathing and all the vital signs were back to normal.”

Class Overview 

During Li’s demonstration, she explained a tell-tale sign of a dog in distress is when they stop breathing.

“Think about it like a wheezing or a tea kettle that’s about to boil at a high-pitched noise,” Li told her students. “That’s what a stridor noise is and that’s when you need to take action.”

Her class demonstrates the proper technique to care for dogs of any size, including where on the ribs an owner should press down to help remove the object blocking the airway.

“You can do this until the animal gets the object out or it goes in,” Li instructed. “Or guess what happens? You’ve been doing this for a while, nothing’s changed and it almost seems like [the dog] has slumped over and become unconscious.”

Li then taught her class to perform CPR, which includes chest compressions and breathing into a dog’s nose, in case of an emergency, and invited her students to practice on stuffed animals of various sizes to get the technique right.

“You see how painful this could possibly be?” she said. “The potential for cracking a rib or causing bruising are very likely.”

She also taught her students to create a makeshift muzzle using things that could easily be found around the dog park, as well as how to conduct a snout-to-tail exam and to find a pulse on a dog.

“We're living in a time where animals are a part of our lives,” Li explained. “They're not seen as objects or things we own. They really are, truly, family members. Being able to be proactive and be more responsible for them in their care is really the goal here.”

Li, who also does rescue work with a Honduras shelter Rescatistas De Animales Villanueva Cortes, encourages everyone – from pet owners, to professional animal handlers, to people who are not generally around animals at all – to take a pet wellness course in their area to be prepared for any emergency that may arise.

“You never know when an emergency can happen,” she said. “Be proactive. I think we can always do better and do better for our pets and our family.”