An absolute animal lover, Maureen Fredrickson has created a kind of healing homestead in which all manner of emotionally damaged people achieve recovery by developing gentle touch and trusting body language while interacting with her menagerie of horses, donkeys, chickens and turkeys. Dairy sheep are expected any day now in her huge arena-like barn. The dogs and birds stay up in the house.
Maureen was witness to an amazing event in which a life was saved in a moment of crisis by applying a human rescue technique to a dog.
Maureen had just arrived home with a prized addition to her line-up of therapists - a young and very sociable cockatiel. The small crested parrot from Australia with its yellow head and grey body was everything Maureen looked for in a teaching assistant - gentleness and predictability. Moreover, the bird liked people more than other birds. Watching it flop around on the kitchen counter that first day, taking the measure of its new home, Maureen was trying to come up with a name.
Just then, her roommate Greg came into the kitchen with the dogs, having just finished their daily walk. New bird, old dogs - there was an awful lot of staring going on.
Under the best conditions, tall, long-snouted Irish Wolfhounds can look intimidating. To a small bird in an unfamiliar environment, big gangly Gaibhne (pronounced Gobbny) must have looked like the Loch Ness Monster. Which could be the reason the young cockatiel lost his balance and fell awkwardly to the floor.
There aren’t a lot of dog rules in the house, except one - anything that hits the floor belongs to the dogs.
Before the bird could pick itself up from its unceremonious landing, Gaibhne was on it like a table scrap from heaven. In a flash, two people frozen in fright watched what the chain of 7-11 stores refers to as “The Big Gulp.”
Before either Maureen or Greg could move, the Irish Wolfhound had swallowed the cockatiel whole.
Maureen lunged for the dog and pried open its jaws only to see the trembling tendrils of the bird’s tail feathers sticking out of the dog’s throat. Her only option was to grab the tail and yank hard, but she was almost certain she’d only end up with a handful of feathers.
Before she’d decided, Greg was straddling the dog from behind. Greg had been in the restaurant business and the chart on the wall came back to him. He did the hug and jerk on Gaibhne and, in so doing, performed the first successful Heimlich manoeuvre on a dog. That bird shot out of the dog’s mouth and across the room like a cruise missile - only damp and backwards. The dog saw stars; the bird got a glimpse of the inner working of the canine digestive system.
The look of surprise on the faces of both the dog and the bird was something Marlin Perkins never managed to capture in 25 years of filming Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.
Both dog and bird lived, wearily ever after.
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the first ever successful Heimliching of a dog, but it had to be the only time in history an Irish Wolf Hound has ever up-chucked a parrot.
And, it was certainly the first time anybody ever Heimliched a dog and saved the life of a bird. H. J. Heimlich would be proud - but confused.
Maureen appropriately named the bird Jonah.
DECEMBER 2009 SENIOR LIVING VANCOUVER AND LOWER MAINLAND
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