HUNTINGTON - Every time you think you've seen it all, something random and unexpected seems to pop up for paramedics. It's a reality Cabell County EMS is well acquainted with, especially considering the flurry of bizarre calls generated by the opioid epidemic.
But what happened one Thursday afternoon on an otherwise quiet mid-March day in Salt Rock notched close to the top of the strangest emergencies Darrell Ennis has ever dealt with - indeed a rare distinction coming from a veteran paramedic of 16 years who's given naloxone to hundreds of people.
But never a dog. At least not until Charlie Boy showed up at Cabell EMS Station 5.
"You kind of sit there and think 'Really? I just did this?'" Ennis began, recounting the story from his normal post in EMS Station 6 in Huntington's West End.
"I never thought something like this would happen, and that's the biggest thing - something like that will happen and then you just kind of sit back and think 'Why did this just happen?' ''
It was the middle of a normal weekday, and Ennis was working an extra overtime shift at the Salt Rock station -nearby his house - when a car turned into the lot in front of the station, paused and drove away. It was nothing out of the ordinary, he added; cars turn around there all the time.
Then someone began beating and kicking at the door, screaming for someone to "help my baby."
"At this point I'm thinking "Lord, this is bad," Ennis said, thinking it was a human infant.
But there cradled in the woman's arms, was the limp and near-lifeless Charlie Boy.
At first, Ennis thought the dog had been hit by a car before the woman explained. She had been cleaning out her house in preparation for her and her husband to move to South Carolina and placed a batch of unused OxyContin - which she had from a previous medical procedure - out on the nightstand. Charlie Boy, acting like any other dog would, decided to chew on the powerful opioid painkillers.
The woman didn't have a car but lived beside a nearby grocery store, pleading with a customer to drop her off at the EMS station when she found the dog had overdosed.
"They always say curiosity killed the cat, but it takes its toll on the dogs, too," Ennis quipped.
It was her idea to use naloxone on Charlie Boy. The overdose reversal drug is now commonly known to revive humans, but Ennis had no idea how to dose a dog.
"I didn't have a clue, and at the point I just thought it couldn't hurt," he continued.
A normal adult dose spraying into Charlie Boy's wet nose revived him after about 90 seconds, and minutes later he was trotting around the station like it never happened.
The woman was still hysterical, but it was tears of joy now. Charlie Boy, she explained, was a rescue pup she had bottle-fed, and even swaddled him to her chest in a sling as she washed dishes. Charlie Boy is the only child the couple had.
"They were so thankful, and I'd never seen anyone act like that," Ennis said. "But I guess to some people, their pets are their kids."
He checked up on Charlie Boy a little over a week later before the family moved out of state. He was happy and healthy, Ennis said, and ornery enough to slip through his leash and run loose in a nearby field as they all chased him.
It's not only become one of the best work stories Ennis can tell, it's one of the only ones. HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) does not apply to animals, making the story of Charlie Boy free to share.
Follow reporter Bishop Nash on Twitter at @BishopNash.
Tips for keeping pets safe from medications
n Store them out of your pet's reach.
n Do not leave them on tables or nightstands in their reach.
n If you drop any on the floor, immediately pick them up.
n Keep human and pet medications separate.
n Never give pets human medications.
n Contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) in an emergency
Source: Institute for Safe Medication Practices