(RAINY PASS, Alaska) — When Marshall collapsed on the Iditarod trail, Scott Janssen did what any good friend would do: He stopped the sled and gave mouth-to-mouth CPR.
Or mouth-to-snout, as the case may be. Marshall is a veteran sled dog, and a personal pet of Janssen and his wife Debbie Janssen.
On Monday night, 22 miles from the next checkpoint at Rainy Pass, Alaska, the dog suddenly fell.
“Marshall was running really tight on the line, no problems at all, and all of a sudden, he collapsed,” said Debbie Janssen.
When Scott Janssen stopped the sled and grabbed Marshall, the dog wasn’t breathing, so he closed the dog’s mouth and began breathing into Marshall’s nose, all the while compressing the animal’s chest.
Scott Janssen had to administer mouth-to-snout twice, because after the first attempt, Marshall woke up but then quickly fell unconscious again.
The second time, Debbie Janssen said, her husband could see in his dog’s eyes that he was coming to.
“He looked at Marshall and said, ‘Come on! Come back to me!’” Debbie Janssen said. “And Marshall did. He came back. He started breathing.”
At 9 years old, Marshall is one of the oldest dogs on Scott’s team. He has competed in about six Iditarod races, and given his age, this was to be his final attempt.
After Marshall was resuscitated successfully, Scott Janssen tucked the pooch into his sled bag and then approached the front of the sled to reassure each dog with a quiet voice or a gentle hug.
“They were all freaking out,” Debbie Janssen said. “They’ve been a team and could tell something was wrong.”
The team then continued on to Rainy Pass, where Marshall showed no signs of stress, according to Iditarod spokesperson Erin McLarnon. Leaving Marshall with the Iditarod vet, Scott and his team of 14 dogs continued on toward the finish line in Nome.
Marshall is being flown back to Anchorage, where the Janssens own a funeral home.
Scott Janssen, who calls himself the “Mushing Mortician,” is competing in his second Iditarod. He trained with experienced musher Paul Gebhardt for four years. And it was Gebhardt who taught him how to perform mouth-to-snout resuscitation.
“It’s his dog,” said Debbie Janssen. “He loves all these dogs. He told me he couldn’t imagine Marshall dying in front of him.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio