City honors police, fire heroes

October 1, 2005

Hood River Firefighter Paul Henke delivered a Chihuahua puppy on Sunday – a little more than 24 hours before he was to be honored by city leaders for service “above and beyond the call of duty.”

Henke, also a paramedic, was a little surprised to be called upon to play the role of veterinarian. But after eight years as an emergency responder, he had learned to expect the unexpected.

So, when a Hispanic couple pulled up to the fire station off May Street on Sept. 25, he went into action.

The first order of business was to find an interpreter since his clients didn’t speak English. Firefighter Jeremy Cervantes filled that niche and Henke quickly learned the dog owners could not reach their veterinarian. And they were worried about the tiny dog’s ability to deliver puppies on her own.

So, Henke donned his latex gloves and cleared off a work bench to serve as a delivery table. Within the next few mintues he had gently helped ease one puppy out of the birth canal and suctioned its mouth and nose.

He had a moment of worry when the newborn’s heart rate slowed and he appeared to be having difficulty breathing.

“I was almost thinking that I’d have to do CPR when he pinked up pretty good and his heart rate picked up,” said a relieved Henke.

He thought there might have been a couple of other puppies inside the dog’s womb — but she wouldn’t let him get close again.

“When she growled at me I knew that we were done,” said Henke. “I did tell the owners that if they had more problems they could come back and we would see what we could do.”

Hood River Asst. Fire Chief Devon Wells said Henke was honored on Monday by Mayor Linda Rouches and the council for just that kind of service. In August, Henke helped raise $10,300 for families living with neuromuscular disease. Each year, Henke spearheads the Fill-the-Boot campaign to bring in revenue for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

“He definitely shows his dedication to helping others and that is the very essence of a firefighter – to always be there to meet a need,” said Wells.

Henke said the recognition for his work on behalf of children was unexpected. He said it was only right that the community support youth who were living with severe health problems. He said his true reward was getting smiles of thanks from children who, because of local contributions, were able to pay the $500 tuition for a special week-long camping adventure.

“I just want to make their lives a little better,” Henke said.

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