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Man teaching pet first aid

November 19, 1998

Pet first aidBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




WAYNESBORO, Pa. - You're standing on the sidewalk as your pet pup runs into the road and gets hit by a car before your horrified eyes. You rush to his aid.

It's the worst thing you can do, Gustavo A. Becce told 18 members of the Antietam Humane Society of Waynesboro and the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter from Chambersburg, Pa. "If you get hurt yourself then you can't help the animal," he said.

The agencies came together at the society's shelter on Lyons Road on Wednesday for a one-day seminar on first aid for pets.

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Becce, 29, a paid Montgomery County, Md., firefighter, is a trained emergency medical technician who has been teaching first aid courses to humans for eight years.

He said he runs into a lot of situations on his job in which pets, as well as humans, need to be rescued.

"I know what to do and I'm on the scene, anyway," he said.

Becce remembers one of his first pet rescues. It was at a house fire in Tacoma Park, Md. He pulled a miniature schnauzer out of a burning house and laid it on the grass thinking it was dead. He decided to try first aid and administered mouth-to-nose rescuscitation on the animal for about 10 minutes before it came around, he said.

A second dog, who was badly burned, was also saved from the house and lived, he said.

He decided that since he already had the skills to save humans he would try to teach people to save their pets. He took a course in pet first aid in Canada and read numerous books before he started Heart 2 Heart, his one-man school for pet first aid. He started putting on seminars to humane societies in Maryland.

He said he wants to start including in his seminars such groups as kennel clubs and police agencies that use dogs.

Betsy Camp, director of the Antietam Humane Society, decided to invite Becce to Waynesboro after she learned what he did. She said Becce's seminar is part of the humane society's semi-annual public education series. Last year a psychiatrist spoke to the members about the stress involved in doing animal shelter work.

Becce's textbook is "Pet First Aid," put out by the American Red Cross and the Humane Society of the United States. He uses its simplified messages to teach his classes such basics as approaching injured animal safely. He also warned those attending his class that keeping themselves safe is first and foremost.

Any wounded animal must be approached slowly, he said. He demonstrated by bending low and moving toward one of the stuffed-dog props he brings to his lectures. He closed his fingers to show how to keep from getting bitten and extended his hand toward the dog's face, talking soothingly to it so he could get close enough to muzzle it.

In addition to CPR, Becce covered treating such injuries as bleeding and burns and how to stabilize a pet so it can be taken to a vet.

Becce can be reached at 301-694-5090.

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