By Maureen Chodaba
They light up our lives with unconditional love. They touch our hearts and teach us valuable lessons about life itself. They are our pets and we love them dearly. Have you ever been faced with an emergency involving your beloved furry friend? Have you ever wondered what would happen to your pet if you were suddenly not there due to a health emergency of your own? The Marco Island Fire Rescue Department knows of these occurences all too well. They recently launched their Emergency Pet Care program with a presentation, sponsored by the Coastal Breeze News, at Canine Cove, the dog park at Mackle Park. The event was well attended by many distinguished four-legged guests and their human counterparts.
Highlights of the progam included demonstrations of pet CPR and the Heimlich maneuver by Firefighter/Paramedic Heath Nagel and Fire Rescue Public Education Coordinator Chris Bowden. The real star of the show was Shogi, the dog CPR mannequin, donated to the Fire Rescue Department by Marco Islanders Steve and Carole Roberts.
Shogi was named by the Roberts in memory of their beloved Tibetan Terrier, who Carole refers to as “the shaggy child of my heart.” With loving memories of her beloved Shogi, Carole described this special breed, saying, “The Tibetan Terrier is NOT a true terrier. These shaggy dogs were known as the holy dogs of Tibet. The breed is very sure-footed and they are powerful jumpers. They are well suited for many tasks. In ancient Tibet, they were never sold, but were given as gifts to promote good fortune or as a mark of great respect.” How appropriate that the namesake of the Roberts’ generous gift to facilitate instruction of emergency pet care would be a dog from this amazing breed! The couple now own two other Tibetan Terriers, Izzy and Roxy. Steve said “You can never be too safe when it comes to your dogs. That’s why we always put life jackets on them when we go boating. Now I’m eager to learn how to do CPR and the Heimlich maneuver for our dogs.” Their donation of Shogi, the CPR mannequin, is truly a gift from the heart, as Carole herself was once saved by the Heimlich maneuver.
As Nagel and Bowden urged everyone in attendance to become certified in CPR for humans through free instruction that is offered each month at the fire station, they demonstrated the similar CPR technique for pets. The procedure begins by checking the pet for breathing and a pulse. Use your middle and index fingers to feel below the pet’s wrist or ankle, inner thigh or where the left elbow reaches the chest. You may also check for a response by touching the area near the animal’s eye where a natural reflex will be triggered if there is indeed a pulse. Other warning signs include gray lips and gums or dilated pupils. If there is no pulse, begin compressions by laying the animal on its right side and placing your hands over the ribs where its elbow reaches the chest. Do NOT give compressions if the animal has a pulse. If there is no breathing, give mouth to mouth. For cats and small dogs, place your mouth over their nose and mouth and blow air in. For medium and large dogs, place your mouth over just their nose and blow air in. Be sure to check again for a pulse after one minute and then again every few minutes. Continue CPR until the animal has a pulse or is breathing. Discontinue CPR after 20 minutes.
The Emergency Pet Care program offers many other features as well. The Fire Rescue Department has created an Emergency Pet Care card that pet owners can post on their refrigerator. The card will contain information provided by the owner, including alternate pet caregivers, the pet’s name, type and age; food location and requirements, special needs and medications, and the veterinarian’s contact information. The card will assist the fire rescue team in finding care for pets in the case of a 911 emergency when the owner is not present.
This important information about your pets can also be listed with Smart 911, a database used by Collier County first responders that provides them with exactly what you want them to know about your personal medical history, location and other pertinent information. Smart 911 is a secure way to keep all members of your household safe and informed in the case of a 911 emergency. Please visit www.colliersheriff.org/stay-safe/smart-911 to learn more and register.
Finally, the Marco Island Fire Rescue Department is initiating a Pet Foster Guardian program in emergency cases where none of the listed alternate pet caregivers are available. This is a great way for all animal lovers to participate, even if they do not have a pet of their own. To volunteer as an emergency foster guardian, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although he has passed, the original Shogi will not only live eternally in the hearts of Steve and Carole Roberts, he will go on to touch the lives of many pets and their owners through CPR instuction, the Roberts’ gift of love to Marco Island. He will be the perpetual guardian of the Emergency Pet Care program. May Shogi’s spark of hope and message of healing live in the hearts of the many pets and pet lovers of Marco Island for many years to come!
To learn more about the Emergency Pet Care program, register for CPR certification (for humans) and other programs of the Marco Island Fire Rescue Department, please call 239-389-5040.