For the week of November 18 thru November 24, 1998  

First of all, don’t panic

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Even now, tears come easily when I think of beloved Tanque, a big black Lab who died in my arms several years ago in Phoenix during a seizure.

My sorrow isn’t only because I miss him.

I’m still haunted by the nagging question: "Could I have done something to save Tanque?"

The vet who’d seen Tanque for most of his life assured me death was quick and certain, and nothing could be done. Tanque was going on 13 years, and had been treated for Valley Fever since he was a pup.

Yet, in that moment when perhaps something – anything-- could’ve been done, I panicked, paralyzed by helplessness and the sight of my dog in a state of collapse, and totally ignorant about what could be happening to Tanque.

If ever again confronted with the sight of a dog in distress, I’ll feel better prepared, having spent a couple hours last Sunday in a unique class learning emergency first-aid procedures for canines – including the most vital lesson: don’t panic.

Since he began giving advice years ago to friends headed for the backwoods with their dogs, longtime Wood River Valley veterinarian Dr. Randy Acker has formalized a class for dog owners to teach first-aid procedures covering a wide range of emergencies.

He’s also put together a first aid kid with medications and equipment.

Although hikes with my two Labs are confined to well-traveled trails close to civilization, I found the class absolutely indispensable, since the unpredictable and unexpected can happen almost anywhere to a dog, and not always convenient for a vet to treat.

Take a lacerated ear, cut perhaps while the dog is running through woods. The bleeding, as Dr. Acker explained, can be profuse and worsened by a dog flapping his ears.

Solution? An old sock with the toe cut out does the trick: fitted over the dog’s head, the sock prevents the injured ear from flapping, and instead the blood is allowed to coagulate.

Dr. Acker told the story of a backpacker whose dog slid on ice into a stump, ripping its jugular vein. The hiker panicked, and the dog nearly died before reaching a vet. Had the hiker tied off the vein, the spurting blood could have been stopped.

A common problem in these parts are fox tails – that wild grass whose seeds seem attracted to the eyes of dogs running through the woods. Left unattended, the seeds trapped under an eyelid can destroy a dog’s vision. Dr. Acker demonstrated how the seeds can be removed even by a clumsy layman.

And so it went for two hours.

No place in Creation are dogs more adored than in the Wood River Valley. They and their owners are inseparable.

But how many owners would know what to do back on the trails if their beloved animal was injured, perhaps immobilized, far from a vet?

Cruelty to dogs can take many forms. The worst may be ignorance about caring for them in an emergency when they need us most.

Pat Murphy is a past publisher of the Arizona Republic and a former radio commentator. 


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