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Audience gets serious about first aid for household pets

April 03, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

SHARPSBURG - A goofy video clip offered a cheesy moment, which is why some audience members were chuckling Saturday afternoon.

But the audience that had gathered at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center also took the subject matter - first aid for household pets - very seriously.

"We have dogs, so it's important," said Paul Withun, 38, of Chambersburg, Pa.

Withun, his wife Ann, and friend Lori Miller car-pooled from Pennsylvania to take the class Saturday.

Ann Withun, 28, said even though it probably makes her sound crazy, "I think we'd be as worried in a crisis if it were our own children."

The four-hour course showed several methods of how to deal with life-threatening and emergency medical situations for dogs, both large and small, and cats.

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Although there were no weasel owners present Saturday, the class also can be geared toward those pets, said Ann Ford, a member of the Mason & Dixon Kennel Club and the coordinator of the event.

Ford said that in addition to average pet owners, others who attended Saturday's class included breeders, trainers, animal shelter volunteers and animal emergency workers.

The Withuns said they volunteer for a new group out of Cumberland County, Pa., that trains for emergency animal rescue, such as during floods or fires. The class Saturday was required as part of their training.

"You see it on the news all the time," Paul Withun said. During human emergencies, the rescuers are prepared to deal with people, but "someone needs to be there to take care of the pet."

Peggy Ritter, 51, of Cearfoss, said she attended the class because she's a Great Dane breeder.

"Great Danes have their health problems, and I wanted to know exactly what to do when those problems come up," Ritter said.

Saturday's class covered what to do to prepare pets so they can be taken to a veterinarian. Some of the emergencies included bite wounds, burns, broken bones, drowning and shock.

Lynne Bettinger was the instructor Saturday, and she said the popularity of pet first aid classes has been growing, especially since Sept. 11, 2001.

"I think it's just because pets have become such a big part of their life and their family," Bettinger said during a break.

Bettinger said, however, that while there is growing interest, resources still are scarce. The video she was using to teach is the only one she knows of, and it is about four years old. There also are few certified instructors, and she said she has taught some of those herself.

Bettinger said she's had her own close calls with her pets. A condition in dogs that causes bloating and twisting of the stomach occurred with her cocker spaniel, but she knew what to do to get the dog to the veterinarian so it could have surgery.

"A lot of the things in the video have happened in my household," Bettinger said.

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