There may come a day when Fido needs more than a belly rub.
And because emergencies happen, the Douglas County Chapter of the American Red Cross offers a little-known course on Pet First Aid and CPR.
"A lot of people don't realize you can give CPR to an animal," said Wendy Leedy, the course's instructor.
Though some might not think of it, being a pet owner can require bandaging a wound, addressing a snake bite or even performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
"If you treat your animals like they're a part of the family, then it's important to know what to do to save their life," said Midge Grinstead, executive director of the Lawrence Humane Society.
A small but dedicated group of dog owners and pet professionals is taking part in Red Cross classes, Leedy said.
Fewer than 10 participated in the April session. The course runs about four hours and costs $25. The next class is set for 5:30 p.m. June 26.
The chapter is one of the few in the region to offer the courses, Leedy said.
"We saw it as a unique opportunity to provide a service that is not currently being provided," she said.
Leedy said she knows some might chuckle at the course that has students practicing CPR on a stuffed dog and cat - specialized with a tube connected to their snout or nose for practice rescue breathing.
Those who take the course, Leedy said, are "die-hard" pet lovers. The classes are popular with private pet owners as well as people who work with animals.
It offers basic pet First Aid, plus training in how to deal with poisoning, insect and animal bites, bone and joint injury, burns, shock, heat stroke and frost bite. Students also learn rescue breathing and dealing with a pet that's choking.
More about the first aid course
"The biggest thing people walk away with is a sense of being prepared to respond to an emergency," Leedy said.
More than a dozen Humane Society employees recently took the course.
"We all know what we're doing with animals," said Grinstead. "I just wanted to make sure they knew where to do the compressions and how to breathe in the snout."
The chances of reviving a dog using CPR alone aren't great, said Norma Gottstein, a veterinarian at Gentle Care Animal Hospital. But the sooner you start helping an animal, she said, the better its chances.
Cedric Devin, owner of Christal K-9 Inc., a pet grooming business, said he's taken the training and used it to help a dog who had a door shut on its tail.
"I've had real-world experience where that class paid off for me," he said.
But he wonders whether all pet owners should attempt major maneuvers on their own.
"If you don't know what you're doing, you could end up doing more damage," he said. "The tough question to answer is: where's that fine line between what a vet should do and what a pet owner should do? Where do we look for someonemore knowledgeable?"
Leedy said she tells her pet CPR students the same she tells those students learning CPR for humans: you shouldn't exceed the scope of your training.
Grinstead said she's performed CPR on pets six times over the last decade and saved four of the animals.
Though similar in some ways, CPR on pets is different from CPR on humans.
"With people, I think it's easier," Grinstead said. "You can pinch their nose. You know how the body works better than you do with a dog."
And with pets, there can be fears about germs or getting bitten.
"For a lot of people, it's a hard decision right away to know what to do," she said.
Denise Van Sickel of Lawrence Pet Friends, a pet-sitting service, has had to rescue a dog.
"My own dog choked on a piece of rawhide," she said.
Van Sickel used the Heimlich maneuver on her dog. The emergency was akin to an incident involving a person, she said.
"It's just as scary," she said. "Your adrenaline gets going. You go into panic mode."
Van Sickel said she's not sure whether her dog could have coughed up the rawhide on her own.
"I like to think I made a difference," she said.