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West Jordan Journal

Firefighters learn how to save, revive police dogs

May 17, 2017 04:18PM ● By Tori La Rue

Stephanie Johnson, a veterinary technician from BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Midvale, demonstrates how to check a dog’s pulse at a training for West Jordan firefighters. (Reed Scharman/West Jordan Fire Department)

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]

In late-March, a local veterinarian taught West Jordan Fire Department medics and emergency medical technicians during three training sessions how to save wounded police K-9s.

The training could have come in handy last year when Police Service Dog Odin tore off a rear toe. He caught his paw between a vehicle and a windshield wiper blade while jumping off a car’s hood, following a narcotics training exercise.

“He was bleeding profusely, and at the time it would have been nice to call up medical personnel, and they could come up and help patch up Odin,” Odin’s partner, K-9 Officer Gregory Gray of the West Jordan Police Department said. “He was losing a lot of blood, and we were kind of at a loss of what to do at that point.”

Odin healed, but his injury might have cleared up faster had the police and fire departments developed a protocol for these types of incidents.

One year later, with the help of veterinarian Jennifer Alterman and veterinary technician Stephanie Johnson, of BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Midvale, the fire department learned how to transfer their lifesaving knowledge from humans to animals, so they can save police K-9s, like Odin, in future emergencies.

A ripped toe may not sound pleasant, but it’s only a small dose of the potential injuries the service dogs may face. The four K-9s in West Jordan’s police unit are exposed to car crashes, harmful drugs, stabbings and shootings—all while performing vital police functions that their human companions are incapable of, such as sniffing out narcotics and intimidating criminals, Gray said.

Alterman’s training focused first on normal health of dogs. She intended this to shed light on abnormalities that she’d discuss later. Through PowerPoint presentations and demonstrations on her own dog, Buster, she taught the firefighters and K-9 officers basic lifesaving techniques for animals.

“Some of the biggest differences between dogs and people with emergency training is the anatomy of dogs,” Alterman said. “Doing things, like chest compressions is going to be a little bit different than in people. K-9 physiology is different than in people, as well, so some things that are poisonous to dogs may not be poisonous to people. Drug dosages are different as well.”

Gray said he was grateful to Alterman and the fire department for taking the time to learn these procedures.

“It is a lot of energy that goes into these dogs,” he said. “They are our primary partners. We spend more time with our dogs than we do with our own family, and so for us, it is very important that our dogs get the best care if they get injured in the line of duty.”

Because of the training, K-9 officers can now bring their furry friends to city firehouses if lifesaving attention is needed. If the situation is dire enough, firefighters can be called out to medicate and revive these dogs—if there aren’t other more pressing emergency situations where humans need attention.

While the training was geared toward service dogs, many of the skills the department learned can be applied to all animals. While residents should use vets as their contact for animal care and should not call the fire department for their animals’ injuries or health conditions, the fire department paramedics and EMTs can use their newfound skills to save animals after fires and other calamities. In fact, they did so on March 27, hours after one of Alterman’s trainings.

When a home at 8155 South Redwood Road went ablaze, the owner attempted to re-enter the building several times to save his cats and subsequently suffered some smoke inhalation injuries, which paramedics assessed on site. Several departments put out the fire, and West Jordan paramedics located the cats. Although one was already dead, they revived the other using techniques they had learned in class earlier that day.

While the animal training focused on service dogs, it proved to be helpful in other situations too.