Tuesday, December 23, 2014

SAINTS Rescue: Tux's Annual Adoption Anniversary Update

Today is the 2 year anniversary of our Chief Dog Officer Tux's adoption from SAINTS Rescue. It's becoming a bit of a tradition for him to share his yearly update.


It's been 2 years since I moved out of my home at SAINTS into my new forever family. I still miss everyone at SAINTS but wanted to let you know that I am very loved and happy here. Here's what happened this year:

The year started out with a BANG! Literally! We were away at our family cabin and got to watch some cool fireworks (which fortunately don't scare me). While there I also learned to ice fish and spent a lot of time exploring the frozen lakes and mountains.

By February I am pleased to say I met my goal weight! I am now just shy of 18 lbs, after losing a whopping 14 lbs. Yep, that's right I am almost half the man I used to be and I'm feeling grrrrrrreat!

Also in February, I went back to the cabin. This time it was still super cold! My winter wardrobe continues to grow...and my people always ensure I have lots of cozy blankets. Anyway it was so much fun!

In Spring I was featured (along with several other black dogs) in the Modern Dog Magazine article "Black Beauty". The article highlighted just how cool we black dogs are and I was honoured to be a part of it! Check out all the dogs featured HERE.

The year continued to fly by...and boy did I ever keep busy!

I taught a ton of Pet First Aid classes, including kids camps at BC SPCA.

Summer flew by because of all the cool activities I was doing, including attending a wedding and a visit back to SAINTS with some goodies at their Open House. Here are some of the things I did and I will save the biggest to last! You really won't believe it.

Okay, here's the biggie...drum roll...I climbed up one of the trails at The Chief in Squamish! Yep this little senior is in fine form my friends. It was grueling and I can't say I didn't need a little help due to my *ahem* "small" stature, but I DID IT!

You know, now that I think of it I did a few more fun things over the summer...

In the Fall I spent a bit more time inside because I really loath the rain. But as you can see I was pretty comfy. And I definitely liked to party it up any time it was a sunny day.

For Halloween I decided to remind my friends that chocolate is dangerous. You see, last year just before Christmas I had a little "incident" with chocolate. No need to remind ourselves of the details but let's just say I learned a valuable lesson.

In November, I attended a Remembrance Day ceremony and honoured those who have given their lives to serve our country and those who continue to do so. It was very touching to be a part of the event and I am proud to be a Canadian dog!

Also in late Fall I released another public safety announcement "It's Too Chilly For Chili". This time I modelled for an illustration. I was very happy with how the artist drew me, what do you think?

And I did a little more modelling for Walks 'N' Wags. I honestly think I've found my calling with this gig. They pay me pretty well too!

December I wanted to ensure everyone knew about rescue, and about SAINTS. I worked with my company to collect donations and took them out to my SAINTS friends. I also did a little shopping because I know you guys need a lot of cleaning supplies and I didn't want the livestock to be forgotten.

Well, that's about it. I spent the year having fun, working hard, and being loved by my 4 people.

I also have 3 furry family members who love me very much. Sometimes we even snuggle.

So, now 2014 is coming to a close and I had to let my friends at SAINTS know how things were going. And how much you will always hold a place in my heart. Without you, I wouldn't be where I am now. You loved me, accepted me, and helped me to find my forever home. I am eternally grateful and so are my humans.

Love you forever and ever.

Tux (aka Joey)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Veterinary Care vs Your Search Engine

The Facebook Group

A few months ago I joined an online pet health group on Facebook. The group seemed to have a lot of members sharing many curious-looking photos and stories about their pets. It seemed like an interesting resource!

I've been in the group for awhile now and some of the questions are in my opinion legitimate: people wanting to know if it's the right time to euthanize, people sharing the grief of the loss of their pets, people asking why their dog eats rocks etc...

These questions are discussion based and don't really have a right or wrong answer. They also aren't laypeople offering Veterinary advice, they involve sharing of thoughts, ideas and support.

However, some have been very concerning! From memory here are some examples: "My dog is vomiting blood what should I do?", "My dog has been hiding for 12 hours, won't come out, and won't eat or drink. What should I do?", "At what age should I spay my dog?".

The above 3 questions are of HUGE concern to me. My first thought is "Why are you on Facebook in a layperson group right now?" and "You should be at the Vet!". My second thought (as I read through the replies) is "Who are these people readily dishing out Veterinary advice? Surely they aren't Vets and RVT's, should they really be dispensing this sort of information? Is this really responsible?"

The Internet: friend or foe?

The invention of the internet has opened up a can of worms that I'm not sure we know how to manage. On the one hand, it's nice to look up the odd piece of information, to get news in real-time, and to watch your favorite tv shows. It's also nice to reach out to friends for support, celebrate our successes, and share our grief. But where is the line drawn with providing Veterinary/Medical advice?

To the defence of the aforementioned Facebook group, the vomiting blood dog received many "Why aren't you at the Vet?" and "Get to the Vet NOW!" responses. Phew, no one providing a home remedy of some random mushroom that's known to cure dogs who are vomiting blood. But I've also seen some VERY ignorant replies "I heard that..." "My neighbour says that..." for questions that a Veterinarian and only a Veterinarian should be answering.

Failure to provide Veterinary Care

Most places have laws regarding failure to provide Veterinary care. These laws are in place for a reason - to prevent unnecessary suffering to animals. I think we can all agree that most pet owners don't want to be responsible for our pet's pain and suffering, yes? So why are we turning to the internet instead of our Veterinarians? Answer: MONEY. Vets are expensive, period.

Well of course they are expensive! They spent $200-300k and many years to learn their craft and it's not cheap for them to offer a high quality of care. And frankly, for all of that effort, along with the high stress of their position, I think they should earn a decent living.

If you don't already have a good Veterinarian whom you trust, book a consult in with a new one and share with them what you are looking for in a new Vet. Give them the chance to say "I'm not that person" and move on if you need to. A good rapport with your Veterinarian is an absolute must and you should feel free to contact them at any time with "Do I need to bring my pet in for XYZ...?" types of questions. Please don't rely on the internet as your only source of Veterinary support!

Financial Aid Available

If you are in a financial hardship, there are many resources available to you. Here are a few for you to look into:

Assistance Providing Care for your Pet
Veterinary Financial Aid
Credit for Veterinary Care

Planning Ahead
Do you have Veterinary Insurance? There are so many options available now and it can be a lifesaver to both your pet and your bank account! I recently attended a VetGirl & Trupanion webinar and learned that only about 1% of North American's have pet insurance! That number is staggeringly low compared to the rest of the world.

What gives? Why are we not investing in our animal's health? This is a discussion that we could have for days...you would tell me: "It's too expensive" "There are too many exclusions" "I can't find a policy that meets my pet's needs".

If the above is true, this raises other questions: Why aren't we starting independent Veterinary bank accounts to protect our pets? Why do we have pets that we can't afford to care for? If the law says we must provide Veterinary care, should people have pets that they can't afford? These are all such difficult moral questions and as we all know they have no easy answer!

So, for now, I will stick with what I DO know the answer to. Get yourself a good Veterinarian. Tell your friends to do it too. And DON'T rely on the internet to be your source of Veterinary care.

Do it today and tell me all about it!


Lisa Wagner is the Operations Director of Walks ‘N’ Wags Pet First Aid. Walks ‘N’ Wags offers Pet First Aid certification courses in-person and via Distance Learning.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

#HotDogsAreForBBQs: Resources for Preventing Heat Stroke in Dogs

This time of year there's a lot of discussion about the heat's effect on our pets, namely our dogs. One of the "hot" topics circulating is risk of Heat Stroke. So what is Heat Stroke anyway?

Heat Stroke occurs when a pet's body temperature is abnormally high for an extended period of time. When this happens, the pet is no longer able to naturally cool itself. It is a life-threatening situation if not treated immediately.

So, how does Heat Stroke happen? It can be a combination of several factors including but not always: confinement in an enclosed area, lack of ventilation, dehydration, excessive exercise or excitement, and high humidity.

Let's talk about some of the above factors contributing to Heat Stroke:

Confinement in an enclosed area

When we think of a dog in an enclosed area, we often think of a vehicle right? The images, including our own Hot Dogs Are For BBQs campaign, show dogs locked in hot cars...windows up, windows down, windows partway down...the list goes on.

It's true hot vehicles pose a huge risk to our pets! Rolling the windows down just isn't good enough. And don't count on the shade! When the sun moves (and it will), your vehicle will heat up in mere minutes. Regardless of whether your pet succumbs to Heat Stroke, we can all agree that it's just plain uncomfortable can't we? It would be interesting the watch the temperature rise on the thermometer in this photo (my friend Mandy sent me from Virginia a couple of years ago). PS. I love this police officer!

Lack of ventilation

It isn't just vehicles that require ventilation (air flow). It may surprise you to hear that an English Bulldog belonging to a previous dog walking client of ours died of Heat Stroke in their own condo! That's right, a high rise...without adequate ventilation. It was a true unexpected tragedy.

In order for heat to not accumulate within a space, there needs to be adequate ventilation. Again this is another reason that cracking the windows of your vehicle open doesn't work well. There's just not enough air actually circulating through your parked vehicle. Don't take a chance!


The hotter we become, the more that we need to replenish our bodies with water. The same goes for our pets. Ensuring your pet is well hydrated provides additional protection against Heat Stroke. The more dehydrated a pet becomes, the less able s/he is able to cool the body.

So, what can you do to help prevent Heat Stroke in Dogs?

1. Leave your pet at home! As our friend Preventive Vet says, friends don't make friends wait in hot cars. Leave your pet at home with adequate water and ventilation.

2. Take a pledge to keep your pets safe. One example is this great "No Hot Pets" campaign by Ontario SPCA. You can actually click their Pledge button and commit to keeping your pets safe!

3. Know the signs of Heat Stroke and the Pet First Aid to assist an animal in need. Here is some helpful information provided by Walks 'N' Wags Pet First Aid.

Possible signs may include and aren't limited to:
brick red gums
increased body temperature
increased heart rate
difficulty breathing
initial excitement which turns to lethargy

Pet First Aid for Heat Stroke:
Ensure your own safety.
Place animal in a cool, shaded area.
Submerge animal in cool water, keeping its head above water.
If you only have a hose, set it to spray the animal.
As the animal improves and is conscious, offer it small amounts of drinking water.
Monitor body temperature until it is back to normal (temperature for dogs and cats is roughly 38.5 degrees (+/- 1) Celsius, or 101 degrees Fahrenheit).
Stop the cooling process.
Dry the animal.
Seek Veterinary Care, and continue to monitor your animal's vital signs.

4. Share resources.
Be sure to tell your friends and family about the dangers heat can pose to our pets. Share the above resources and lead by example by providing excellent care for your own pets. If you would like a digital copy of our #HotDogsAreForBBQs campaign, please don't hesitate to email me to request one.

One additional resource we have to provide is the HOT DOGS video we participated in last year. In it, I share a real-life experience of a terrible mistake that almost cost my own dog's life.

I hope you found this posting useful! Together, we can make a difference.

Lisa Wagner
Operations Director
Walks 'N' Wags Pet First Aid

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Expert Advice: Important Questions to Ask Your Potential Dog Walker

You may know that Walks 'N' Wags Pet First Aid was initially a mobile dog walking and pet sitting company. That's right, for 10+ years we zoomed around to our client's Vancouver homes collecting and walking our furry dog friends.

Securing new dog walking clients always went the same:
1. A phone call or email would come in requesting service for an animal.
2. We would determine whether the inquiry lived in our geographical service area and was agreeable to our fees
3. We'd arrange a complimentary meeting at their home to obtain care information and pickup house keys.

The troubling thing was, many of these clients didn't have a clue what they were looking for in a dog walker. We truly felt we were the "BEST" but they didn't really know what stood out between "us" and "them".

To delve into this deeper, I consulted colleague Vanessa Johne, owner of Vancouver's Best Friends Pet Care. Vanessa took over our pet care operations when we decided to focus solely on Pet First Aid. I figured that between the two of us we could help pet owners make an educated decision in who to trust with their furry family members.

Me: "What 3 pieces of information do clients usually NOT ask you that you wish they would?"
1. "New client enquiries rarely seem to ask prior to meeting if we are licensed/insured/bonded. And if they do ask, they never ask me if we will provide them with proof of that at our initial meeting.
2. NEVER do I get asked for references, I keep some on hand just in case someone asks for them, however in the past three years I've not handed them to anyone.
3. I'm never asked about the training process for my employees nor how their dog specifically will be handled and transported."

Hard to believe isn't it? You are giving the keys out to your home and you don't know the background of the people entering? You don't know how these people are trained nor how your pet will be cared for all day? Sounds scary! People need to be more educated about what's going on with their pets!

I asked Vanessa: If you were hiring a dog walker, please share a list of other questions that a client should ask and why?
Vanessa replied with a lengthy list, clarifying "here are the essentials, though people should also have more specific questions relating to their personal situation".

- how long have you been in operation?
- how many staff do you have?
- how are they trained?
- is every one certified in pet first aid? Is the certification maintained throughout employment?
- are you insured and what are the particulars of your insurance, including liability and negligence coverage?
- how do you transport my dog?
- where do you walk the dogs?
- do you comply with municipal commercial dog walking permitting laws & other regulations?
- how long and what time will you be out of the home with my dog?
- what is your procedure in case if animal (or other) emergency?
- will my pet ever be left unattended?
- how do you ensure proper handling of my dog from staff member to staff member?
- where and how will my house keys be labelled/stored?

Great questions! The above should be information readily provided by your potential dog walker. And knowing this information will indicate whether you are dealing with a true professional. Speaking of professionals, I asked Vanessa: "Why are some dog walkers so much lower cost than others?"

Her reply: "As with most things in life, you usually get what you pay for. Most companies who cost a little more offer better trained (longer term) staff, insurance coverage, and more experience working with dogs professionally. Typically the lower cost walkers are new or start up companies who do not have the years of experience to draw from while out and about in the world with your dog."

So the experience of dog walkers can vary significantly. This is a good thing to ask your dog walker! Imagine someone inexperienced with dogs being responsible for keeping 6-8 of them safe! So, I ask, "What kinds of qualifications are required to be a commercial dog walker?"

You might be surprised by Vanessa's reply: "None! Seriously. Anyone can start a commercial dog walking company without any prior certification or training. That's why it is so important to ask any and every question you can think if prior to handing over your house keys to a dog walker. If you are even somewhat dissatisfied with the answers you're receiving do not be afraid to move on to another company, there are so many great ones to choose from!"

Hmmmm...so if this is the case, "What are some requirements that you think should be expected of all professional dog walkers?"

Vanessa's reply: "At absolute minimum: Insurance, Pet First Aid, and making safety of our furry charges our top priority. After all, people are entrusting us with a member of their family."

To learn more about Best Friends Pet Care please visit their WEBSITE
Learn more about Walks 'N' Wags Pet First Aid and safety program HERE

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Instructor Profile: Ellis van Schuur of "Pet First Aid with Ellis" in Calgary, Alberta

We first met Ellis several years ago when traveling to Hinton, AB offer a custom Pet First Aid course to the Alberta Enforcement Officers Association. Here's her story:

"My name is Ellis van Schuur. I currently live just outside Calgary with 4 large dogs and 3 horses. I grew up in the Netherlands and moved to Canada 12 years ago. After moving here, I became addicted to watching "Pound Patrol" and "Animal Cops" on Animal Planet and decided I was going to become and Animal Cruelty Investigator.

After my 2 years in College and with experience in the Animal Control field, I was hired as a seasonal Animal Control Officer and later as a Bylaw Enforcement Officer in Grande Prairie. Although it wasn't exactly the field I had planned on getting into, I dealt with several animals whom I may have been able to provide with pet first aid, if I had had the knowledge.

Throughout our years in Canada my family also owned and lost several dogs, all due to unnatural causes such as: Distemper, Parvo virus, a serious motor vehicle collision, choking to death and high fever combined with old age. One of my own dogs also nearly lost his life thanks to a foreign blockage in his stomach. With each of these experiences I wished so hard for a program that would allow me to save the next one, should there ever be another one, and to have the knowledge and skills to be able to do something that may actually make a difference. However, I had never heard of such a program and was never able to find one.

My employer sent me off for some courses and one of them was the Walks 'N' Wags Pet First Aid course. I was psyched to finally have a good program to give me what I wanted and what felt I needed. When a year later I had the opportunity to become a Walks 'N' Wags Pet First Aid instructor I grabbed my chance. I wanted to teach others these amazing skills and knowledge and share my experiences so that people taking the course would never have to feel as helpless as I did watching out beloved pets die in front of our eyes knowing there was nothing we could do because we didn't have that knowledge nor those skills.

I love teaching the program because I know that every student of mine CHOOSES to be there and wants to learn everything I can teach them. It's the most wonderful experience knowing people care so much about their own animals, and those in their care that they seek out courses such as ours. Plus, having dogs to help me teach, learn and play with make the days lots of fun!

However, the utmost gratifying for me is to hear students' experiences after having taken the course where they had to utilize their new knowledge and skills. And to hear that thanks to that new knowledge and those skills they were able to help or treat the animal who got another chance at life, because without those students having taken the course, they wouldn't have known what to do."

Ellis has been teaching our program since 2011. There are so many amazing adjectives to describe her! To name a few: motivated, kind, dedicated, funny, loyal and enthusiastic. A class with Ellis will leave the participant passionate about pet first aid and pet safety.

Ellis currently teaches regularly in the Calgary, Alberta area and is open to accepting private courses in surrounding communities. You can reach her via her web site or her Facebook page.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Career Unchosen: How I came to work in Pet First Aid

I'm often asked how I ended up owning a Pet First Aid training company. I'm also asked what kind of training I had to complete to do so. Am I a Veterinarian or Veterinary Technician? Did I write the curriculum? People have many questions, and understandably so.

Here's my story, from beginning until today:

After almost flunking out of Biology 11 & 12 in High School, it was evident that although I had a passion for animals, I didn't have a passion for science. My Veterinary dreams evaporated and no one suggested alternative careers to me (Veterinary Technician? SPCA? Guide Dogs? Groomer? Other careers with animals?). Unfortunately, at the young age of 18 I was not aware of the endless possibilities that were out there.

I signed up for college and took a smattering of courses: French, English, Psychology, Sociology... After several years of course work I decided to apply for the School of Social Work at UBC. It's a highly competitive program and I was waitlisted my first application and did not ultimately earn a space. I continued taking varied course work, now having transferred to University. After 4 years of courses, I decided to pursue a career as a Psychologist. I spent the next 2 years at UBC completing my BA with the intent of completing a Masters degree.

Towards the end of my degree I completed some additional training and started volunteering with our local 24/7 Crisis Line. I enjoyed being an ear to those in need and found it very rewarding. Soon I advanced to being a "Buddy", who was a mentor for new volunteers. Having said that, as time passed I discovered that I am too "soft". I would replay conversations in my head and worry about those I had spoken to. I was not able to separate my emotions from the task at hand. This left me at a stalemate regarding furthering my education.

Throughout those 6 years of schooling I had held various management positions: first at a bulk food store, then at an amusement park, and finally at a Lencrafters location. At Lenscrafters, I also trained as an "Associate Orientation Trainer" and provided all new recruits with their initial training. These positions gave me on the job training and experience outside of my formal schooling.

I knew I didn't want to stay at Lenscrafters but wasn't sure how to move ahead. The one thing I did know was that I'd promised myself that when I'd finished my BA I would seek out my first dog as a "grown up". I set out to several animal shelters and came home empty handed. On day 2, I found Buddy. See our story HERE if interested.

So, I had Buddy, I had a job, and I had a degree. But I wasn't fulfilled. My work experience led me to apply for an HR-related job as a Recruiter for a private Temp Agency. I was hired and spent my days interviewing, recruiting and placing temps into their positions. I hired a dog walker to take Buddy out midday while I was at work. I stared at the pictures of him on the wall, wishing I could be with him. One day I had a huge "AH HA!" moment. I could be a dog walker! I had customer service and business experience and I loved dogs. The perfect combination!

I gave 3 months notice and started a couple of business courses at BCIT. For the next 3 months I slaved away at my business plan, pulled together my web site, brochures, client forms, and all other items needed to get started. I took a Pet First Aid course with Oakland Educational Services Ltd. (OESL) to ensure my furry clients would be safe. On March 20, 2000 "Walks 'N' Wags Pet Care" was born. I provided dog walking and in-home cat sitting in the Vancouver area.

My business grew and I soon hired staff. We had a few animals become sick while in our care, a stick impalement, a self-inflicted wound from a dog smashing glass at home, and a dog bitten by another dog while walking in the forest. In my 10+ upcoming years in pet care the animal health and injury-related experiences and training I had were immeasurable. Everyday we cared for many cats and even more dogs - the risks were there and I wanted to keep the animals safe.

I decided to fly to Calgary, AB to become an OESL Pet First Aid Instructor and started teaching in 2003. I quickly discovered that a combination of a love of pets and pet health were my life's passion! Meeting pet owners and pet professionals in class - all of whom shared similar interests in keeping pets safe was incredibly rewarding. I eagerly looked forward to each Pet First Aid course that I taught.

In 2006 Ethne Dickinson, the owner of OESL contacted me. Ethne asked me to take over the administration of the Pet First Aid program as she was retiring. OESL soon became Walks 'N' Wags Pet First Aid.

Upon a short transition, I moved the dog walking and pet sitting business over to our long-time manager Vanessa and it is now Best Friends Pet Care.

Since taking over the Pet First Aid training company, I have completed Animal Disaster Response training with Rescue 3 International, joined my local Animal Disaster Response Committee, and completed 5 international volunteer spay and neuter programs with World Vets International. This Fall I will join another organization, Amazon CARES on a spay and neuter campaign in Peru's Amazon. I also donate my time with Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association and Best Friends For Life. I am also an avid supporter of BC SPCA and SAINTS Rescue. In fact, our staff dog Tuxie came to us from SAINTS back in 2012.

Today I am hugely fulfilled in my role as Operations Director of Walks 'N' Wags Pet First Aid. Our Instructor family, our clients, and our colleagues are all wonderful people who I am honoured to work with. I also collaborate with fantastic manufacturers, Veterinary advisors (for our curriculum), and other professionals and organizations whom I never would have encountered otherwise.

It was a long, windy path to get here...but the skills, education, and people I met along the way all led me to my passion: pet first aid and animal safety. Walks 'N' Wags Pet First Aid is my home, my heart, and my love. Thank you for being a part of it.


Lisa Wagner
Operations Director
Walks 'N' Wags Pet First Aid