Dog lovers, picture this: You’re watching your dog do zoomies around your yard when suddenly he begins shrieking and limping, then falls to the ground, still making the most gut-wrenching sounds you’ve ever heard. Do you have any idea what to do in order to be the utmost help to your best friend until you reach the twenty-four-hour emergency veterinary clinic?
Years ago, I found myself in just such a position. Although the pet first aid course I had taken over a year before had left much to be desired, once I came to my senses, I was at least able to fashion a muzzle out of an ace bandage to prevent my dog from biting the hands that were there to help him into my van so he could be rushed to the emergency pet medical center.
I wish I had taken my pet first aid course with Cara Armour, self-proclaimed Originator & Alpha Female of Active Paws®, Inc. in nearby Belmont, MA. Listening to her speak about the pet first aid program she offers, I’m somewhat jealous. It sounds like her program provides a much more hands-on, active experience than the one I attended so long ago. She says that her four-hour program “focuses on hands-on techniques rather than just learning terminology.” She elaborates, “When your dog collapses in the woods you don't need to know a fancy term to tell an EMT because there aren't any doggy EMT's—you are it! I teach the skills you need to save your pet in a fun, interactive way.”
So, what is pet first aid, exactly? “Pet first aid is the immediate care given to a pet that has been injured or suddenly taken ill,” explains Armour. “This includes home care, and when necessary, veterinary help.” Armour emphasizes that, “knowing the skills and techniques of pet first aid and CPR can mean the difference between life and death, between temporary and permanent disability, between expensive veterinarian bills and reasonable home care and between rapid recovery and long recuperation for the pet.”
Armour usually offers one, but sometimes two, pet first aid classes a month, most often at Flowdog in Waltham, MA but sometimes at other venues. You can find the list of upcoming classes and locations on the Active Paws website under the services tab. If you’d like to host a Pet First Aid Class at your business, Armour will travel up to thirty miles. You need just six students, although Armour can accommodate up to fifty in one class.
I was touched to hear the story behind Armour’s passion for pet first aid. She explained how one of her boxers, Tank, first taught her the value of these skills. “He had eye ulcers, knee injuries, allergic reactions you name it, I was a frequent flyer at my vet,” she said.
She had further opportunities to put her pet first aid skills to the test when she took Tank’s son, Dozer, into her pack: “Dozer was a super star athlete who’s ball drive was not to be broken. Trees, ninety-pound labs or broken toenails weren’t going to stop my boy,” remembers Armour.
Finally, Dozer met his match in the form of a debilitating disease called “degenerative myelopathy.” (DM is equivalent to ALS, or “Lou Gehrig's disease.”) Armour elaborated, “With this disease came a greater need for first aid than in all my years tending to ear and pad cuts, items in dogs’ eyes or even puncture wounds. Dozer’s last few months required daily bandage changes for a foot injury, bladder expressions and helping him do anything that able-bodied dogs take for granted every day.”
I asked what it all boils down to, and Armour replied, “I want pet owners who take my class to walk away with the confidence that, ‘they can do this.’ They can handle a pet emergency, they can save their pet from avoidable suffering and they can help better their pets in an emergency.”
My hero. My inspiration. Back to class I’ll go to brush up my pet first aid skills in hopes that I won’t need them any time soon, but with the confidence that I’ll be prepared if the occasion arises.