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Knowing Pet First Aid Can Save Your Best Friend’s Life


Chris Thompson never expected to use lifesaving measures to resuscitate her swimming pup, while on what was supposed to be a fun trip to the water. Thankfully, she was prepared when a leisurely afternoon on the lake quickly turned into a terrifying ordeal.

Jade, her 17-year old cow dog and spaniel mixed breed is normally at home in the water; nicknamed “fish herder”, Jade swims with the agility of a puppy. He didn’t even start to wear a lifejacket until he turned 13, and only then as a precaution. Swimming is Jade’s therapy for his aging body. He takes a dip at least once a day in the local lake, which helps ease his aging muscles. He is trained to swim to the dock ladder and touch it with his paw when he is ready to get out.

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary about the swim on the Fourth of July. After swimming for about an hour, Thompson pulled Jade out of the water, took off his life jacket, and laid him down for his routine nap in the boat. When she left the boat and stepped onto the dock for a moment, Jade tried to jump off to follow.

Instead of landing safely on the dock, Jade lost footing and fell into the water. Slipping under the pontoon boat, which was next to the dock, Jade was unable to find the surface. Thompson jumped in to retrieve Jade but could not find him. She searched and searched and finally found a ball of wet fur that she quickly pulled to the surface.

Jade wasn’t breathing. As a veteran Red Cross volunteer, Thompson sprang into action. She knew she needed to clear his lungs of water, so she held Jade with his head lower than his back end, - squeezing his chest and administering First Aid until Jade coughed up water and began to breathe again.

Thompson knew that she could resuscitate Jade using the mouth to snout CPR technique but the primary issue was getting the water out of his lungs. He was under the water for approximately 20-30 seconds.

Chris recounts several lessons she learned from this nightmare scenario.

“Just like a child, even if they are not intending to swim, pets should have a life jacket on,” said Thompson.

She also added, “You actually can revive a dog if you react quickly enough. You just need to know how to resuscitate him. I am very grateful for what Red Cross classes taught me.”

Having volunteered for the Red Cross while she lived in Dallas, TX, Chris was trained in Red Cross First Aid and CPR. She also knew specifics of pet First Aid and CPR and had taken Red Cross water safety classes.

Jade has since put the scary experience behind him. After receiving a snack and taking a rest, he was back in the water swimming within hours. He continues to swim in the water at least once daily.

The American Red Cross offers Dog First Aid classes and materials for purchase. Visit www.RedCross.org to contact your local chapter.

Chris Thompson lives in Boydton, VA. She uses the Twitter account name – RedCrossmom- which has been her nickname for 10 years. She became a member of the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team on September 10, 2001 and the next day was deployed to help with Red Cross efforts at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport during the 9/11 attacks. She created her own non-profit, http://humanityroad.org and still uses Red Cross materials. She can be contacted at redcrossmom@humanityroad.org.