Ask any of the attendees of the pet first-aid and CPR class in Anne Arundel County why they would take such a course and each has the same response: Pets are like family, and you take care of family.
"You never know when you might need it," said Nicole Angermier of Harwood, who attended because of her boxer, Diesel.
The 21/2-hour class at the South County Recreation Center in Harwood teaches owners to provide emergency aid to their pets before taking them in for veterinary care. It shows them how to look for signs of and respond to respiratory failure, heart failure, shock, choking, bleeding and broken bones. The class, which focuses solely on cats and dogs, also teaches students how to check a pet's temperature, blood pressure and pulse.
"Knowing what to do in an emergency is comforting," said instructor Laurie K. Scible, a dog trainer and animal behavior consultant. She stressed that the class is solely for emergency response until a pet can be taken to a veterinarian.
"It's not long-term care in a situation — just enough so that you can get to the vet," said Scible. "And keep in mind that they don't have 911 to call for pets. We have to be the 911."
Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold, who took part in the class last week, spoke of his pets, a black Labrador named Dora and a Himalayan cat named Francois Rabelais, after the French Renaissance writer and scholar.
"He was a 15th-century monk who irked the establishment. Sound familiar?" Leopold said. "I know because of the love I have for my pets how pets are such an important part of the family."
Most of those who attended say their pets never experienced a life-threatening crisis but that taking the class prepared them to act should the situation arise.
The class of about 10 students watched pet first aid videos and took turns providing emergency aid to a mannequin dog named CasPeR — the "CPR" in the name capitalized. They learned that in situations where CPR might need to be administered, they should check for breathing and for heartbeat on the left side of the body, where the heart is.
To perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a large dog, close the dog's mouth tightly and breathe hard into its nose until the chest rises. "You would do two to three breaths and then check" for breathing, Scible said. "With a cat you're actually putting your mouth around the cat's mouth and nose, just like if you have a dog that's less than 30 pounds."
For the actual chest compressions on a dog, kneel before the dog with its chest facing you. Then place the palm of one hand over another on the left side of the dog's chest, just behind the elbow area. With arm extended and elbows locked, individuals should compress the chest 1 to 3 inches, according to the video.
Student practiced performing compressions on the mannequin dog. To check the pulse of the dog, Scible showed how to find the femoral artery, inside the dog's upper hind leg.
Kirsten Foster, 12, of Tracys Landing, who has a Chihuahua named Harlow, said she took from the class on how to wrap a wound and how to properly lift a dog in case of an emergency. "It was a really good experience," she said.
Scible said she has four dogs, including a Labrador-Akita mix named Gypsy Rose. Last December, Gypsy Rose climbed atop a table and ate some chocolates, which Scible said can be lethal for some pets.
"I had to use hydrogen peroxide 3 percent solution to induce vomiting," said Scible, who said that was one of the few times she's had to administer first aid. She has yet to administer CPR and emphasized that her students want to know what to do before an emergency arises.
"One of the ladies said to me after the class that she would hate for anything to happen to her dog because she would be devastated because he was part of the family," Scible said. "Now she feels she could help him in an emergency."