Stephenville firefighter learning animal first aid

Chris Quigley
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Taking course online with British Columbia-based company

As a member of the Stephenville Fire Department, Nigel Pike has had to respond to quite a few calls involving pets.
Whether it’s dog that has fallen through the ice of a frozen pond or a cat caught in a tree, firefighters frequently have to approach threatened or injured animals in a safe and timely fashion.

Stephenville firefighter Nigel Pike and his dog Ralph pose for a photo on Friday. — Photo by Frank Gale/The Western Star

Pike, a third-year member of the department, decided he wanted to be a little more comfortable in those situations. For his own personal interest — and not an initiative of the Stephenville Fire Department — he discovered Walks ‘N’ Wags Pet First Aid, a British Columbia-based company founded in 2000 that offers a certification program in health care for animals.

It’s not just dealing with animal injuries or performing CPR, although that’s certainly covered. Pike estimates about 80 per cent of the course focuses on how to deal with animals, particularly in approaching the animals, making eye contact and recognizing signs of aggression or fear.

“From a firefighter’s standpoint, it’s really good to know those kinds of things,” he said.

Not that it’s been a major issue for him yet. He doesn’t recall any animal encounters he’s had getting out of hand.

“Maybe some close calls,” he said. “But nothing like, ‘Oh my gosh.’”

He’s hoping he serves as something of an animal first aid guinea pig for the fire department.

The 33-year-old Stephenville man just sent in his last test and final module for his course, which he did online through correspondence. He started it last April, so it’s taken him about a year to finish it.

“I think if you were there, you could probably do it in a couple of days,” he said, noting he needs to achieve a mark of 80 per cent for successful completion.

A dog owner, Pike isn’t fazed by the other aspects of pet first aid either. If he had to answer the bell and perform mouth-to-snout resuscitation on an animal — especially his own — he’d have no problem doing so.

The biggest thing, however, is avoiding that situation in the first place. Pike said prevention is the major battle when it comes to the health and safety of animals.

“A dog can’t tell you when it’s not feeling well,” he said.

“By the time you need first aid for an

animal, it’s really late in the game.

Preventative maintenance ... taking your animal to the vet once a year — it’s just better for your animal.”

The Western Star

Organizations: Stephenville Fire Department

Geographic location: Stephenville, Western Star

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Recent comments

  • Judy
    May 29, 2014 - 09:27

    I can't understand why the town of Stephenville doesn't show more support for there career firefighters, Mr.Pike didn't get any help from the town at all. when it comes to bettering the service they provide the town should do what they can to help.