Canine CPR: These Dogs Always Play Dead

Canine CPR: These Dogs Always Play Dead

Anyone who's ever been slobbered on by a dog can get a little payback. Canine CPR courses are cropping up around the country, offering training on life-sized canine manikins -- which means that humans can slobber all over Rover for a change.

The courses, popular with law enforcement, military and security professionals, teach handlers how to revive dogs; with a top security dog costing upwards of $35,000, canine CPR courses make for a good safeguard on a hefty investment.

Canine CPR is similar to normal CPR, but with a distinctive difference. You've heard of mouth-to-mouth? With canine CPR, it's called "mouth-to-snout."

Students learn to revive dogs, or other small animals, by practicing on any of several commercially available manikins, also called simulators, ranging in price from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars.

One such simulator, a vinyl puppy named Casper (the first, fourth and last letters of the name are capitalized -- get it?), lies on his side, mouth agape and eyes pinched shut. With tongue hanging slack and legs jutting outward, Casper looks for all the world to be dead.

And while Casper is supposed to look that way, his appearance can nonetheless be startling. Warren Johnson, a sales representative for Simulaids, the Saugerties, N.Y., company that manufactures Casper, has taken the manikin to trade shows around the world and seen a range of public reaction.

"I had Casper at a show in the Middle East," Johnson said in an interview with AOL News. "Other cultures of the world don't put as much value on their animals as we do. They would walk by and see the dog laying there and shake their head. [Dogs] are more used for food than pets."

While Casper's unique appearance -- Johnson describes the dog's expression as "peaceful" -- may get a wag of the head or two, the 7-pound unit does what puppies do best: attract onlookers.

"I tell you, never go anywhere without Casper," said Johnson, who could best be described as a manikin's best friend, "because I can't get people to stop and look at patient simulators, but they'll come back and look at the dog."

While Casper is just one of a handful of canine simulators on the market, he is perhaps the most fetching. (Rim shot!) With a realistic appearance and modicum of cuteness, he's something that an owner would at least want to revive. The same can't be said for the Life/Form Basic Sanitary Dog, a simulator offered by Nasco, a rival health product company out of Fort Atkinson, Wis.

With matted black fur, beady eyes and a sharp snout, the Basic Sanitary Dog looks like something you ran over on a back country road.

"We just affectionately refer to that one as 'road kill,'" Johnson said with a laugh, displaying the territoriality of a Doberman.

Despite their odd -- or, in the case of the Basic Sanitary Dog, feral -- appearance, canine manikins have found loyal support in the pet care industry.

"They're an odd tool, but they're a necessary tool," said Harrison Forbes, dog trainer and host of "Pet Talk," a nationally syndicated radio show. "You can't ask your dog to lay there so you can mimic practice."

Forbes, who practiced CPR on a canine manikin at a dinner party a few years ago, described those first few moments watching someone perform mouth-to-snout as awkward. After initial titters, however, the dinner guests realized that the simulator could one day be their dog.

For Forbes, the oddest moment came at the beginning of the demonstration, when the instructor arrived with her manikin.

"She had the dog in a duffel bag," he recalled, "and when she whipped him out of the bag and flopped him down on the table, heads turned."

Knowing humans, their jaws probably went slack, too.

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