Image Credit: Steven & Michele Burt

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Quick-Thinking Crew Saves a Struggling Dog on a JetBlue Flight

'The fact that the attendants were responsive and attentive to the situation may have saved Darcy's life,' says the owner

Pets are family members for many Americans, and we’ll do just about anything to have them with us, even when we’re far from home. As more pets travel on airplanes with their families, stories have emerged of animals tragically not making it to their final destination.

The U.S. Transportation Department says that the major airlines flew more than half a million animals last year. Of those, 24 animals perished.

In March, a French bulldog puppy died in the overhead storage bin of a United flight. The same airline also accidentally sent a family’s German shepherd to Japan instead of to Kansas City — and a dog named Dudley was put on the wrong connection from Newark, the Mercury News reported.

So when Steven and Michelle Burt were traveling on a JetBlue flight recently from Orlando, Florida, to Worcester, Massachusetts, with their French bulldog named Darcy, they were concerned when their pup began struggling.

“Her tongue was blue and I am aware that is a sign of insufficient oxygen (hypoxia),” Michelle Burt said in part in her letter to JetBlue. “I pulled her out from under the seat and placed her on my lap to cool down and help her relax as she was panicking and breathing frantically.”

Alert flight attendants were on the case, however, doing whatever they could to help Darcy. They brought water, ice, and even used an oxygen mask meant for humans on the 3-year-old bulldog.

“So I called the captain and I told him, said, ‘I think I need to use some oxygen,'” flight attendant Renaud Fenster said to ABC-7 in New York. “And he said, ‘Go ahead.’ And right then and there, I placed the oxygen on the dog, and the dog revived like nothing else.”

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“It actually fit her face really well because she’s got a round face,” said Michelle Burt said, according to Westernjournal.com. “You couldn’t help but notice the change in her eyes. I know [she’s] not a child or a person but she is a family member. I just felt very grateful.”

While air travel and its high altitudes can be dangerous for any kind of dog, it’s especially dangerous for brachycephalic dogs — dogs with short faces, according to the AVMA (the American Veterinary Medical Association). That includes pugs, French bulldogs, Boston terriers, and shih tzus, as well as other breeds.

These dogs have a difficult time regulating their internal temperature and breathing even in the best of situations — with four paws firmly on the ground — so air travel, with its pressure and altitude changes, can be dangerous, says the AVMA.

The dog’s owners credit the flight crew for saving their pooch’s life.

“We all are affected by cabin pressure and oxygen fluctuations, human, canine and feline, etc., but the fact that the attendants were responsive and attentive to the situation may have saved Darcy’s life,” Michelle Burt wrote on her Facebook page.

After the incident, JetBlue issued this statement to ABC News: “We all want to make sure everyone has a safe and comfortable fight, including those with four legs. We’re thankful for our crew’s quick thinking and glad everyone involved was breathing easier when the plane landed in Worcester.”

Deirdre Reilly is a senior editor with LifeZette. Follow her on Twitter.