By Alyx Flatley, Red Cross volunteer
It was more than 104 degrees in Watsonville. A woman sat in a tent with her dog, Little Man, in direct sunlight outside the shelter where I was volunteering. She said she preferred to stay outside, which is common for many residents who are facing a traumatic event.
I don’t know what provoked him, but when I checked on the two, I saw that Little Man was having spasms. Out of nowhere, he would start to tremble and shake. I’m not a vet, nor do I have dog training. I do have one thing – the Red Cross Pet First Aid App.
I sought the least invasive treatment that might do some good without doing any harm. Not sure if the cause for his spasms was from heat exhaustion or sun stroke, I knew the heat could very well exacerbate other conditions.
As recommended by the app, I moved the dog into the shade (reducing heat index effects by 13 degrees). I used an ice-chilled bottle of water to dampen a towel and lay it over the dog. I dribbled cold water over his head and body, massaging it into his fur around his head and chest.
Fortunately, after a few minutes, Little Man recovered enough to drink cold water out of the bowl I had placed beside him.
A Red Cross disaster health services nurses arrived soon arrived and confirmed the treatment I had provided was the correct course of action. While the dog rested in the shade, I convinced the previously reluctant woman to move her tent into the building. With the help of two other Red Cross volunteers and a person staying in the shelter, we moved the woman and her belongings into the much cooler building.
Later, a veterinarian arrived. She had been supervising the county-managed animal shelter nearby and was checking in on any animals that might have arrived in the shelter. She surmised that while the spasm could have had any number of causes, treating the dog for heat exhaustion was the right response in that situation.
The vet instructed the client to monitor Little Man and keep him out of extended sun exposure. She also instructed the Red Cross to contact her if anything else occurred.
I’d like to think that the dog would have recovered without my intervention, but on that day, to Little Man’s owner, I was a hero.