Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Instructor Profile: Heather Rankin of First Aid "Fur" Pets Preventative Care Centre, BC

Heather Rankin has been a Walks 'N' Wags Instructor since completing her training in summer 2011. Although most of her courses are in BC's Fraser Valley and Burnaby BC, since that time, Heather has travelled all over the province offering Pet First Aid courses wherever she has been needed.

We have found that Heather is not only committed to readily offering the program but she is also very energetic, fun, and inspiring. You also may have seen Heather at many local Pet events sharing information about Walks 'N' Wags with local animal lovers.

Here, Heather shares a little about herself:

"Growing up with an Irish ‘terror’ terrier from puppyhood, and having experienced the aftermath of seeing him jump out of, and back in through, a closed window – was an unexpected experience that could happen to any pet owner. The resulting injuries required a successful trip to the veterinarian. Hearing of Pet First Aid, years later, prompted me to become a Walks ‘N’ Wags Pet First Aid Instructor, so that others would learn how to cope with unexpected incidences with animals, especially cats and dogs.
This knowledge would have been useful throughout all the years of having lived with a variety of animals: a stray cat, a Greek tortoise, an English hedgehog, twenty budgerigars, the dog, the school science lab’s stick insects, a Rex rabbit, and a couple of box turtles.

Even as a young child on holiday, when a donkey mistook my hand for food, chomped on it, and swallowed it and my arm with it; I fed him again at the field on subsequent days, without fear. I recall, also, going within an arm’s length of a Guillemot, until a brash approaching cameraman caused the bird to dive back into the sea at the Giant’s Causeway, Co. Antrim.

From childhood, animals of all kinds have fascinated me, though years later, I realized that becoming a Veterinarian would be best left up to others. Instead, a career in teaching and another in art, followed. Both have been useful in delivering the Walks ‘N’ Wags first aid course throughout BC, from the Lower Mainland to Clearwater, and Kelowna, BC, to name a few.

My time is divided between teaching and marketing the course, private tutoring in the Vancouver, BC area, writing ESL books, and occasional article writing in magazines and newspapers, and keeping up with the necessary bookkeeping.

I look forward to meeting many more people who are interested in taking the initiative not only to prepare themselves for emergency situations with animals, but in gleaning from the course some knowledge of early detection and prevention of illness and disease. I thoroughly enjoy meeting all the participants with their dogs and having the opportunity to share this important skill and information, as well as learning from you all. Thank you!"

We sincerely appreciate Heather's enthusiasm to share her knowledge and hope that she will be with the Walks 'N' Wags family of Instructors for many years to come.

If you are interested in taking a course with Heather, she can be reached at: and has upcoming courses in Surrey, Cloverdale, South Burnaby, and Whistler BC.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Creating a home-made Pet Disaster Kit

I am the first to admit I am not a Disaster Relief specialist of any kind. I have, however, witnessed disaster a few times. In December 1989 I visited San Francisco 2 months after a devastating earthquake took its toll. In October 2011 I saw the destructive flooding and mudslides that heavy rain storms caused while traveling with World Vets in Guatemala. Both of these tragedies resulted in loss of life and displacement of many people and animals from their homes.

Most recently, there was a call out to Emergency Social Services volunteers right here in Vancouver Canada. Rising river waters threatened to displace many and destroy homes. Fortunately the water levels receded and crisis was averted. Vancouver is also near a faultline that is due to cause an Earthquake at any time. Last month, when questioning my house insurance cost increase the Insurer blamed the looming earthquake. The reality finally settled in: I am not prepared and this could really happen!

My home consists of 4 people, 1 dog, 2 cats, and a rabbit. No small feat to prepare for us all. I decided to start with what I know best: my animals. Yes, I know it is all backwards but I figure we as humans are resourceful and will figure something out in the meantime, while my pets don’t have that option. Responsibly I must recommend that you do the reverse and prep for yourself first.

I went online and found several useful website including:
ASPCA Disaster Preparedness
City of Vancouver Pet Emergency Resources
The Humane Society of the United States Disaster Plan for Pets
Canadian Disaster Animal Response Team

I won’t share with you every item these web sites suggest packing; I am sure you will want to review the sites yourselves. You can see in my photo many of the items I included anyway (note I did not include my labelled animal crates in the photo).

I will tell you that there were a few items that I would never have thought of. For example:
• Cat litter and an empty litter tray – Of course, what was I thinking? I had only thought about food and water.
• Flashlight and extra batteries – We have these in the house but if we couldn’t get inside and there was no power these would come in handy.
• Papertowel, dish soap, hand soap – Cleaners are important. Especially when there may be no power nor running water.
• Food: my pets eat raw food, tricky for a disaster kit. I chose foods that were similar proteins to what they are used to in order to try to prevent stomach upset. Don’t forget a can opener!
• Blank ID tags – your pets may have to relocate to stay with someone else or in a City Disaster shelter. Blank ID tags will allow you to fill out their appropriate temporary contact information.
• Include photos of each of your animals – a few copies of each pet so you don’t give away your only one if you lose your pet.
• Label your animal crates with your pet’s names and their descriptions

A few things to consider when designing your own kit:
• Rotate food, medication, and water frequently to prevent spoilage. This is easy to do! For example, when you run out of pet food go buy some but instead of using it, use what is in your Disaster kit and put the new items inside.
• Plan for longer periods without food/water/electricity versus shorter…better to have too much food then too little.
• Leave the kit in a safe place outside of your home (like your garage), or if that is not possible leave it somewhere you can easily grab it when exiting.
• Tell people what you are doing, they may have creative ideas of how to secure supplies, or you may just be the inspiration they need to get their own kit going.

I have to admit, it took two pet supply stores, an outdoor store, and a grocery store to complete my kit, but overall it was relatively painless to find all of the items. When packed up, the kit also doesn’t take up as much space as I had anticipated and it now resides in my garage. My pet disaster kit will hopefully never need to be used, but I feel much better having a “better safe then sorry” attitude.

My future plans now that my pets are cared for? Preparing for the humans in my household…


Lisa Wagner is the Operations Director of Walks ‘N’ Wags Pet First Aid, International provider of Pet First Aid training for cats and dogs. Learn more about Walks ‘N’ Wags at or on Facebook at:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Instructor Profile: Krista DeCarle of Royal Pooch Pet Services, Calgary Alberta

Krista DeCarle has been offering the Walks 'N' Wags Pet First Aid program in Calgary, AB for the past 12 months. Here is her story: "I have a loving husband who has accepted my crazy love of animals and joined in by my side. Our 5 year old daughter and 19 month old son are in the mix of all these animals and learning how important animals are. I have always been passionate not only about animals but the welfare of them, including volunteering at a feline rescue for over 3 years. There I worked with domestics to ferals, giving the abused a second chance at trusting and being loved. I also worked at a veterinarian's for 3+ years which I found so interesting especially when I was able to watch the surgeries. Over the years I was always the person friends/family would ask to care for their pets. When I was on maternity leave with my son I decided to turn my passion into a business that could not only benefit my family but also benefit those families out there looking for quality pet care! I opened Royal Pooch Pet Services and it is one of the best decisions I ever made. Seeing clients feeling at ease and returning time after time because their pets are happy is why I do it. Then when I had the chance to be able to teach Pet First Aid I was thrilled. It was an honour to be able to teach others what to do in an emergency situation, how to care for their pet day to day and to even teach professional pet care workers how to make their work place a safe environment. I am excited to see what the future holds and excited to be able to touch even more pets and their owners." Pictured here with rescue dog "Georgie", Krista recently volunteered at a spay/neuter clinic at a reserve near her home community. Between her job, teaching, and her family we are always amazed when she is able to add extra activities like this to her schedule. Krista is a dynamic and kind Instructor who is full of energy and passion for what she does. Krista actively teaches public classes in Calgary, and is also open to offering private courses to rescue groups and other private businesses. Krista has 2 upcoming public courses for you to choose from in North Calgary: June 2, 2012 (full day) or June 16/17, 2012 (2 half days). You can reach Krista and Royal Pooch Pet Services at: or 403-701-9609.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Letter to My Best Friend

Dear Buddy,

There you were at the shelter. You were curled up in the back of the dog kennel, peering up at me suspiciously behind those long “bangs” of yours. I asked the shelter attendant what had happened to you to make you so afraid. She said she didn’t know but you’d been there for five weeks since they found you and didn’t like anyone. That was enough for me. I asked her to take you out and when she did you firmly dug all four of your feet into the ground. We had to carry all 40 lbs of you away from the building and when I put you down you pulled with all your might to get back inside.

We went back in and I said “I’ll take him!”. The woman looked at me in surprise and went to get the paperwork. When she returned she cautioned me that you would be a “difficult” dog. I didn’t care, I couldn’t leave you there. Soon, we were on our way home and en route you threw up all over yourself and my car. When we got home you promptly moved into my bathroom, where you lived for about a week before you were brave enough to come out and explore our 2 bedroom apartment.

You didn’t like me. You sized me up every time I came close to you. Every walk I continued to carry you away from the house and then put you down so you could pull me all the way home. One night, about a week after we came home you slipped out of your collar. It was before cell phones and I was yelling at 10:30 pm “Buddy!!! Buddy!!!”. Crying, I went home. I knew there was no way I’d ever see you again. I got there, and there you were sitting by the front door. That was when I knew you trusted me.

It’s been a long road since then. I graduated from university, got married, and spending time with you inspired me to start my business. Then my brother became very ill and passed away. You were there for it all. Later, we bought a condo and then a house, adding 2 cats, a bunny, and 2 children to your life. You took it all in stride and never complained. In fact, over time you grew to love it all…and us. Your stubborn and regal personality are still there, but combined with it is the immense amount of love and loyalty that you only offer to us – the people that you trust.

Today, you are 14 and going strong. You are my best friend and you have been there for me for every important moment of my life. You have taught me about patience, strength, loyalty, and most of all unconditional love. I’m telling you this now before you are gone so that you will always know how much you have changed my life and remember it forever.

I love you forever my friend.

Monday, April 23, 2012

My experience with World Vets in San Andres, Colombia

My second trip with World Vets International Aid for Animals ended on Saturday April 21, 2012 after 8 amazing days on San Andres Island, Colombia. 
It all started April 14, 2012 when I arrived in San Andres after 25 hours of travel.  I was introduced to our team, made up of myself, 6 Veterinarians, 1 Registered Veterinary Technician RVT), and 4 others of varying qualifications.  We were made up of 11 Americans and myself (a Canadian) and after 2 days of exploring the island we quickly gelled into a cohesive group.
By the time it was our first day at the clinic the Island was well aware of our arrival. A roomful of strays along with local residents and their pets were waiting outside when we arrived an hour early the first day.  The clinic space was made up of several rooms in a government building – it was bright and would suffice as a makeshift Veterinary hospital.  Our goal was to spay, neuter, and medically assist as many cats and dogs as possible in the next 3 days.
World Vets operations are well-planned and take every volunteer’s commitment and skill set to run smoothly.  Several locals (including army, government, and rescue workers) were on-hand to assist us.  Their dedication and love of animals made the 3 days even better.  The World Vets volunteers I worked with also made the experience enjoyable and educational for me.  The Vets were skilled and efficient, the RVT was highly trained, and everyone else was committed and competent at their assigned tasks. 
My job for the three days would be a duty called “Recovery”.  Recovery involved the monitoring of every animal’s vital signs and surgical site post-surgery, administration of needed medications and parasite prevention, catheter removal, and discharge with care instructions to the owners.  I also distributed the leashes and collars that myself and one other member of my team had brought – many thanks to Sweet Paws Dog Walking, Big Heart Rescue, Yaletown Veterinary Hospital, and Laughing Willow Pet Care for your generous donations.  Recovery suited me perfectly – it was fast paced, ever-changing, and involved getting up close and personal with every dog and cat that had received surgery.  While I didn’t know how to do absolutely everything, the Vets educated me on what I needed to know and were always there when I had any concerns.  The support was truly spectacular.  My biggest challenges were avoiding dehydration from the heat and humidity, and keeping up with the surgeon’s quick work!
By Day 2 we were all in our groove and I decided that Recovery and me were a good match.  One of my Recovery volunteers adopted a little female puppy that had been spayed day.  I asked “Does she have a name yet?”  The answer was “No”.  I jokingly said, “Well, Lisa’s a great name for you little one!”.  Her new owner quickly replied, “Perfect, I will call her Lisa then!”.  The tears welled up in my eyes; a little piece of me would remain in San Andres when I left and I was honored (see posted picture of us together).
By Day 3 I could barely walk when I woke up – my legs were incredibly stiff from the hours of squatting and my knees were in pain from all of the kneeling on the hard floor.  I didn’t care; I couldn’t wait to get to the clinic.  That day, the line was even longer then the previous 2 days and I wasn’t sure if we would be able to accommodate everyone.  To add to the challenge, the power went out midway through the day.  Since the power supplies the fresh water it was uncertain of how many more surgeries could be performed.  We continued in Recovery (wearing headlamps) and the power was fortunately restored.
The day wrapped up and exhaustion set in.  We picked up some food, went back to our house, and slept like babies.  The next day was reserved for one last chance to connect and see the island.  We spent it at the beach relaxing, snorkeling, and jet skiing.  I was sad to go to sleep that night knowing that I would be leaving my new little “family”.
The next day at the airport we were sent off by the local Veterinarian and Staffperson of the Sanitation department.  My mind was spinning with thoughts: “Would I ever return here?”, “How many of our stray “patients” would be adopted”, and “How would the animals recover from their surgeries?”  And most of all, “Did we make a difference?”.  I was told that 12 of the animals had already been adopted.  I was then later told that 307 animals had been treated by World Vets – a record for a 3 day pilot trip.  My questions were answered!
Now that I am back at home in Canada, I realize that even if I hadn’t gotten those answers, I know we made a difference.  And in addition, another difference was made within myself.  I have 11 new amazing friends, contacts in Colombia that I would never have made, and an experience that I will cherish for a lifetime.  That and I got to work with the sweetest dogs and cats in need for 32 wonderful hours.  I got much more back then I ever could have given and can’t wait to do it all over again.
To learn more about World Vets International or to pledge your support, please visit .
Lisa Wagner is the Operations Director of Walks ‘N’ Wags Pet First Aid, an International provider of Pet First Aid training for cats and dogs.  Learn more about Walks ‘N’ Wags at or on Facebook at:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Avoiding a Lost Yard Dog

Apologies in advance to my neighbour if this post offends them. Last week, while walking with my dog Buddy and 3 year old son, we heard a loud "screeeeach" and saw a large Golden retriever quickly jump out of the way of a moving car.

We walked over to the poor golden and I thanked my lucky stars that my 10 years as a dog walker quickly earned his trust. I gathered up the dog's martingale collar in my hand and thought to myself "how am I going to get these 2 dogs and a 3 year old to the school and go inside to get my Kindergartener?". I decided to practice what I teach in Pet First Aid class and
looked around me for help. 

A male cyclist was coming by and I shouted “Hello!” and he stopped.  I told the cyclist (named Steve) our predicament and he agreed to help.  We looked for tags on the dog but only found his City of Vancouver dog licence.  Phew, that was a start. 
Steve kindly walked his bike and the Golden up to the school with us and en route I called the City of Vancouver to report that I’d found the dog.  We sent another parent in to collect my daughter and said “bye” to Steve and set out for home.  The City Pound staff would be there shortly to collect the pooch.
On the way home, a lady was outside her home unloading her car and happened to know which house the dog lived in.  “Woohoo” we exclaimed and off we went to return the pooch home – a mere ½ block from where we had originally found him. 
When we knocked on the door the owner of the dog was shocked to see his dog with us – he had no idea that his beloved Golden had escaped from the back yard!   Fortunately, it was a happy ending but we hope this story and the following tips will give you some ideas to avoid an event like this from happening again.
* Tag your pets.  The City would not give me the pooch’s owner’s information, nor would they contact the owner until the dog was in their possession.  A simple tag would have reunited pooch with his family much quicker
* Secure your yard.  This pooch simply walked out the back gate that was unlatched.  Ensure your fence is high enough, there is no way to dig under it, and that all gates are secured tightly.  Add a sign saying “keep gate closed” if needed
* Hang out with your pets.  Pets like to be with their people and it’s easiest to keep tabs on them when they are with you.
* If you are faced with any animal emergency, don’t be afraid to ask for help!  Steve was a great help to me in this situation, as was the parent who went in the school to collect my daughter.  Even if someone doesn’t like animals, they can still help you in some way.
* Train in Pet First Aid.  Our dear Golden friend was nearly creamed by a car on his neighbourhood stroll.  It’s better to be safe then sorry!
Pictured: Levi learns how to walk the dog to pickup his big sister.

To learn more about Walks ‘N’ Wags Pet First Aid, please visit our web site at or visit us on Facebook at:  

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Instructor Profile: Lynda Kitson of K9 Compass, Ontario

Introducing Walks 'N' Wags Pet First Aid Instructor Lynda Kitson, based in Ontario, Canada.

During the day, Lynda works in the corporate world. Over the years, she has spent a great deal of her time training people as a Dale Carnegie Instructor and a True Colors Facilitator. Lynda also has a Certificate in Adult Education.

In the evenings and on weekends, Lynda loves spending time in the canine world. She decided to put her training skills to use helping people train their dogs at Who’s Walking Who Dog Training Centre

Lynda soon discovered the majority of dog owners had no idea what to do if their beloved pet became injured. This led Lynda to attain certification as a Pet First Aid Instructor through Walks ‘N’ Wags. Pet First Aid is something she is very passionate about and believes it is an integral part of being a responsible pet owner.

Lynda has 2 Golden Retrievers and a Great Pyrenees/Lab mix. Lynda loves doing obedience, rally, agility and freestyle with her dogs. She is also an associate member and volunteer with Golden Rescue Lynda and her dogs are part of the Who’s Walking Who Woofjocks team and you’ll often see them performing at various events throughout the year.

Student feedback tells us that as an Instructor Lynda is dynamic, kind, and patient. One student even wrote a blog about her! You can read it HERE.

Lynda's passion for Pet First Aid is crystal clear. She checks in with us to share her real-life Pet First Aid experiences and they usually involve her going out of her way to help a stray animal in need. In one instance, Lynda spotted a sweet dog (later named Dixie) on the edge of some train tracks. Lynda pulled over her car, earned Dixie's trust, fashioned a makeshift muzzle, and transported Dixie to receive Veterinary care. The result of this event? Lynda now has a new dog! That's right, Dixie is now part of Lynda's family.

Lynda always has a number of dates and locations on our course schedule. Visit our web site HERE to register.

For more information about Lynda, you can also visit her web site at