By Mimi Teller/American Red Cross
As an American Red Cross volunteer, I am encouraged to keep current with my first aid and CPR training, but only for humans! As a dog mom, I decided a few years ago to get certified in pet first aid as well, and not a moment too soon, as two weeks after I completed training, I saved a dog’s life.
Our neighbor adopted her poodle-mix pup Pixie about the same time my husband and I adopted our poodle-mix Djinn Djinn. Our dogs ended up in the same obedience school and remained the best of frienemies. While Pixie would have given all her kibble to be Djinn Djinn’s BFF, our little girl has a low threshold for other dogs, tolerating them in the best of times.
Despite our dog’s objections, we frequently took Pixie on walks with our dog and hosted sleepovers when Pixie’s mom traveled for work. We knew all of Pixie’s quirks (and there were many), including walking in exactly seven circles in one spot before piddling and not willing to eat her food unless someone stayed next to her. What we didn’t know, nor did her mama, was Pixie’s allergy to bees.
As luck would have it, two weeks prior to encountering Pixie’s health issue, I had completed pet first aid training. I learned various signs of dog and cat illness, how and where to check their pulse and to inspect tongue color, along with dozens of other important tips, including making sure your pet groomer and kennel staff are trained in pet first aid too. My instructor was top notch with over 30 years’ experience in pet first aid, and I came away confident with my knowledge and skills. Little did I know how soon I would have the chance to put them to work.
It was a sunny Saturday in Redondo Beach and like dozens of times before, my husband and I offered to take Pixie on our afternoon dog walk. 15 minutes into our walk Pixie suddenly let out a piercing yelp. We could tell immediately something was off – we didn’t know if she had stepped on glass or if something was stuck in her paw as she was limping, and her demeanor started to change. We called her mom immediately and asked her to pick us up. While we waited, I went through the routine of first aid checks — Pixie’s pulse was too fast, and her tongue was turning from pink to grey.
While we waited for Pixie’s mom, I also called ahead to the emergency vet, a number I had just put on my phone’s speed dial only two weeks prior. I let the hospital know we were on our way and gave them Pixie’s basic info along with her symptoms. Just as our neighbor’s car pulled up, my husband noticed a dead bee; we determined it the culprit, snatched it up and jumped into the car.
We immediately provided our friend directions to the pet hospital, but she just wanted to go home, pull out the stinger and see how Pixie fared. That’s when I showed her Pixie’s grey tongue and explained it was a bad sign and that we needed to get Pixie medical care asap.
We called the vet en route and updated them that we believed a bee sting was to blame. When we arrived, they immediately whisked Pixie into the back and left us hugging and scared for an intense 20 minutes. When the nurse came back out, he soothed us with the news that Pixie would be fine, but had we been five minutes later she would have died from anaphylactic shock. Five minutes.