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BRAD DOKKEN: Treating hunting dog mishaps

As an avid upland game hunter and hunting dog owner, Kevin Fire has encountered his share of canine mishaps in the field.

The worst, perhaps, occurred in the fall of 2000 when Fire, a Grand Forks audiologist, nearly lost a golden retriever when the dog was bitten by a rattlesnake while pheasant hunting near Glen Ullin, N.D.

 “He had basically died in the field,” said Fire, who hunts with Labs and golden retrievers. “I gave him mouth-to-snout resuscitation three different times, which got him breathing.”

In a scramble to get the dog to a veterinarian, Fire said he ended up going the wrong direction, driving eight miles east only to discover the nearest vet was 15 miles to the west.

“We finally got him to a vet in Hebron,” N.D., Fire said. “And ultimately a few thousand dollars and a few days later, she saved his life.

“I made a pact with myself, I’ll never hunt an area if I don’t know the number of every vet within 30 or 40 miles.”

With encounters such as that as a backdrop, Fire is opening the office of his practice, Fire Audiology and Hearing Center, to hunting dog owners by hosting a presentation by Evan cross, a medic for military working dogs who is stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base.

The class, which will be catered exclusively to hunting dog owners, is scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon May 10 at Fire Audiology and Hearing Center, 121 N. Washington St.

According to Fire, the idea for the class resulted from a conversation he had with cross, who recently returned from a deployment in Afghanistan and who has treated numerous working dogs during his career.

“As we were visiting, I said, ‘I wish I knew some of the things you knew,’ ” Fire said. “I asked if he’d be up for doing an emergency-in-the-field class, and he said he’d do it for free.”

Despite cross’ credentials as a working dog medic, Fire said the May 10 event isn’t an official military class.

“He’ll have a presentation, bring his emergency medical kit, and specifically talk about what a person reasonably could be expected to carry with them in the field and be able to do,” Fire said. “How they could triage a dog — everything from a dog that gets a burr in the eye to a dog that gets a gunshot wound in the field. I think he’ll talk about everything from lacerations and breaks to heat exhaustion, which is a big killer of dogs.”

Fire said the class most likely will be structured along the lines of a power point presentation and a rundown of emergency supplies hunters can carry in the field rather than a session working with actual dogs.

 “Just going through my own hunting career, it seems like almost every trip something would happen to my dogs that would require some kind of treatment,” Fire said.

“I’ve certainly had dogs with what I would call heat exhaustion. I’ve had dogs that have had issues with lacerations running through stubble and getting their belly torn up by wheat straw and stubble. One dog got a small stick embedded in his nose. And again it was almost like a piece of straw had broken off. And all of those times, I just kind of took my best guess at what to do, but unlike a person, dogs can’t tell you what’s wrong.”

Porcupine quills and barbed wire fence wounds are other problems hunting dog owners often encounter, Fire said.

“Four times, my dogs were quilled by porcupines,” Fire said. “One time, I was pheasant hunting with my yellow Lab, and he was chasing a rooster and jumped through a barbed wire fence. You could see his pectorals, the skin got sheared off his chest. I took off my shirt and pulled it over his four legs and torso to tie it on and we made it to a vet to put him under and stitch him up.”

Knowing what to do, Fire said, can mean the difference between saving a dog and losing the canine companion.

To sign up for the dog first aid workshop, contact Fire Audiology and Hearing Center at (701) 787-5862. The class will be limited to about 15 participants.

If you go

What: First aid workshop for hunting dog owners.

When: 10 a.m. to noon May 10.

Where: Fire Audiology and Hearing Center, 121 N. Washington St., Grand Forks.

To register: (701) 787-5862; course is free.

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is editor of the Herald's Northland Outdoors section and also works as a copy editor and page designer. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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