When Bonnie Odem Harlan's son brought a mixed-breed puppy home from college, 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, 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.
Harlan 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.
According to Preventive Vet, it can take less than five minutes for a pet to lose its life when trapped in a bag. The bag keeps tightening when the pet inhales as it rummages through the bag, looking for every last crumb. Eventually, the bag is too tight for the dog or cat to escape.
According to a survey of more than 1,300 pet owners who experienced pet suffocation, 42 percent were home when it happened and, of those who were gone, 21 percent were out less than 15 minutes.
Spreading the word
In late February 2018, Christina Young found her dog Petey had suffocated while eating chips from a bag while she was at work. Young's post about the horrific discovery went viral with more than 366,000 shares, as she spread the word about the danger.
Like, Young, Harlan was inspired to spread the word about the danger. Blue's death motivated her to start a website to raise awareness about the unexpected threats of empty food bags.
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.
Photo: (chips bag) Anna Norris
Editor's note: This story has been updated since it was originally published in June 2015.