A Chilliwack woman is appealing to pet owners who may not know what to do if their dog suddenly stops breathing or needs emergency help.
Laurie McPhee teaches canine first aid and CPR. She is one of just a handful of instructors in B.C., and the only one in the Fraser Valley, who offers Dogsafe Canine First Aid. It’s an educational course created by former Vancouver police officer and professional dog trainer, Michelle Sevigny.
McPhee has been a paramedic in Abbotsford for 24 years and the fact that Dogsafe was created by another emergency services worker is what drew McPhee to it – that, and Sevigny’s story about her own dog’s need for first aid one day.
“When her dog had a seizure, she was at a loss. She felt totally out of control,” she said of Sevigny.
McPhee could relate.
Back in 2005, her 11-year-old-dog Grizzly died after having a reaction to his annual vaccinations.
He vomited the night of his shots and McPhee notified the vet. Things didn’t change much after that. But, two weeks later she woke up and Grizzly was not in her bedroom. She found him on the main floor where he had lost his bladder several times and couldn’t stand up.
“Unbeknownst to me, he was in the later stages of shock at that time,” she said.
Grizzly later died that day.
“If I knew then what I know now, I might have stopped it,” she said, with tears in her eyes.
Now she’s giving people the education they need to hopefully prevent them from experiencing what she did.
McPhee took the Dogsafe training and then later took Sevigny’s course to become an authorized instructor in 2012.
Over the past eight years, through her company K9ABCs, she’s taught Dogsafe to a variety of people; from your average dog owner to folks who are thinking about getting a dog, to people who run canine businesses (dog walkers, doggy daycares), and people who do agility with their dogs.
At her most recent session, four people were taking the training. Mid-way through the eight-hour class, the students were practising CPR on dog dummies.
McPhee started playing Stayin’ Alive on her phone and told everyone to do chest compressions to the beat of the song. She wandered around the room helping her students – repositioning hands of one, quickening the rate of compressions with another.
The purpose of CPR is not to restart the heart, she said, but to keep the brain oxygenated until the patient is in the hands of emergency personnel.
McPhee has two dogs, a four-year-old Louisiana Catahoula leopard hound named Skye who’s deaf and is very high-energy, and her much more laid back senior dog, Quincy, a 14-year-old Nova Scotia duck toller.
Quincy is her demo dog. She helps teach people how to train their dogs to accept a muzzle, students learn how to take a femoral (thigh) pulse on her, and McPhee uses her to demonstrate the Heimlich manoeuvre.
She also displays canine calming signals.
“As she’s getting older, she’s demonstrating the unconscious dog more and more,” McPhee laughed.
The Dogsafe course covers CPR, choking, assessing a dog, recognizing the signs of injury or illness, and preventing and dealing with injuries.
So how does canine first aid differ from human first aid?
McPhee said there are a lot of similarities, but there’s one main difference which she compares to pediatrics.
“[Dogs] can’t talk to you. They can’t tell you when they hurt. You have to learn their language, their body language. You have to learn how to approach, or not approach, them so you can better help them.”
A lot of this training for canines does in fact apply to felines as well, but cats communicate differently, she pointed out.
McPhee’s next two Dogsafe courses are on Saturday, March 28 (Langley), and Sunday, April 5 (Chilliwack), from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cost is $150 and certification is good for three years. To register, go to k9abcs.com.
She will also be at the Pet Lover Show at the Tradex in Abbotsford this weekend at her K9ABCs booth. McPhee will be providing emergency services if needed, plus she’ll be leading a handful of seminars: canine first aid (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.), CPR (Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m.), and hiking with your dog (Sunday at 1:30 p.m.).
And if anything happens, dog forbid, to your furry friend when you’re at the trade show, your pooch will be in good hands.