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In our own backyard... The dog days of winter are upon me

My career is going to the dogs. There was a time when I covered critical school board, city council and county board meetings. I profiled locally born celebrities and movie stars. I dashed off to drug busts, fatal accidents and house fires in the...

My career is going to the dogs. There was a time when I covered critical school board, city council and county board meetings. I profiled locally born celebrities and movie stars. I dashed off to drug busts, fatal accidents and house fires in the dead of winter. I met with mayors, state legislators and congressmen. I documented the John Kerry rally in Cloquet during the Presidential campaign, and once, I even had a one-on-one interview with Jesse Ventura ("Too much testosterone!" he kept muttering as he rapidly ranged from subject to subject).

But now, it seems my career has boiled down to this. On Monday, I spent my evening reporting on Esko firefighter Jeff Juntunen as he blew into the nose of a dog!

I snapped photos as Sue Karlen of North Shore Veterinary Clinic immobilized a giant cat named Abbie by the scruff of her neck and plunged the reluctant animal head first into a mesh bag.

And I had a hard time looking away as Duluth veterinary technician Jody Carlson described how to plunge a rectal thermometer into the business end of a dog.

"What's my world come to?" I thought. But in fact, I was mighty glad it had. The occasion was a Basic Animal Rescue Training (BART) session with members of the Scanlon and Esko fire departments to show emergency responders how to deal with domestic animals in the midst of an emergency situation.

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The primary objective was not solely to save the animals from a burning building or other catastrophic situation, but to ensure the animals are dealt with in such a manner as to protect public safety.

I couldn't help but think what a great idea this was. After all, statistics show that some 60 percent of households have some type of family pet. Being the owner of many of them myself over the years, I know that I would probably be one of those folks who refuses to leave the burning building without them.

It was, therefore, an idea whose time had come, and it was inspiring to watch as veterinary professionals donated their evening hours, along with those of a handful of family pets, to show a roomful of rapt emergency responders just how to deal with such situations.

Those gathered for the workshop learned how to halter horses to lead them out of a burning barn or round up a herd of cattle to get them off the freeway after the stock trailer in which they were traveling tipped over.

They learned how to muzzle terrified dogs who hide under the bed of a burning room or stand guard over their master when an emergency responder tries to rescue him or her from a burning house. They learned how to perform cardio pulmonary resuscitation on dogs, cats and even gerbils who had become overcome by smoke. They learned how to snare and disable a desperate cat in order to rescue it from the flames and return it to the tiny girl who loves it with all her heart.

The scenarios went on and on, but the reality of the situation struck home with nearly everyone there, most of whom had personally encountered such situations while responding to a house fire, accident scene or other emergency without the knowledge of how to confront and administer to the animals present at the scene.

Hopefully, following Monday night's session, all that will be different.

In the meantime, thoughts of all I'd seen and recorded that night kept running through my mind. As I arrived home, our own dear Princess, a 19-year-old cat once belonging to my late mother-in-law, met me welcomingly at the door.

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"I want to practice lifting Princess by the scruff of the neck to get her to safety in case the Christmas tree lights short out or the dryer lint catches on fire!" I declared to my husband.

I walked up to Princess, lavishly stroked her glossy coat and lovingly scratched her behind the ears. And then, I gathered up the loose skin on the back of her neck as the BART trainer had demonstrated how to do, and I gingerly picked her up off the ground.

"RrrrrrrrAAAAAAAArrrrrrrrrrr!" she yowled in indignation.

I dropped her like a hot potato, afraid I may have hurt her in some way. But instead, she industriously preened her rumpled fur, gave me a long, disdainful look and stalked away.

I seem to recall the same treatment from certain politicians.

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