Stephenville firefighter Nigel Pike and his dog Ralph pose for a photo on Friday. — Photo by Frank Gale/The Western Star
As a member of the Stephenville Fire Department, Nigel Pike has had to respond to quite a few calls regarding pets.
Whether it be a 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.
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 — though 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 native 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 up.
“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 himself, 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.
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.”