When Bonnie Odem Harlan's son brought a mixed-breed puppy home from college in 2008, she didn't expect to fall in love with the dog her son had named Blue.

However, she bonded with the puppy, and when her son moved out, Blue stayed with her.

She was accustomed to being greeted by Blue, so when she returned from the grocery store one day in 2011, Harlan was surprised that Blue wasn't waiting for her.

Noting the bag of paper trash strewn across the floor, she assumed Blue was hiding, knowing he'd be in trouble for making such a mess, but when she found her beloved dog, he was lying on the floor, his head trapped inside a Cheetos bag.

empty chips bagHarlan pulled the bag off Blue's head and administered CPR, but it was too late. A dog that had recently survived a near-fatal run-in with a car, had suffocated in an empty snack bag.

"The irony is not lost on me that in the end, it wasn't a 2,000-pound vehicle that killed him, but a 9-ounce chip bag," Harlan told PETA.

Blue's death inspired Bonnie to start a website to raise awareness about the unexpected threats of empty food bags.

The bags may seem harmless, but when an animal sticks its head inside to lick up any remaining crumbs, the "Mylar-like material creates a vacuum-like seal," according to the Prevent Pet Suffocation website.

"When a dog cannot remove the bag from his head, he will usually start to panic, desperately running around until he collapses and dies from asphyxiation. This happens within minutes."

To keep your pets safe, make sure food bags are kept out of reach and secure the lids on trash cans. Before throwing a bag away, use scissors to cut down the sides of the bag to prevent animals from getting their heads stuck inside.

Harlan also encourages pet owners to lobby snack, cereal and pet-food manufacturers to place warning labels on their bags.

For more information on how you can protect your pets from suffocation, visit PreventPetSuffocation.com.

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Photo: (chips bag) Anna Norris/MNN