Let’s discuss the importance of self-reliance. And I want to do so by telling you a quick story. I promise this applies to dog first aid… in fact the correlation between self-reliance and canine first aid can be closely paralleled.
Last September I went on my very first solo camping trip. And not just like... you know, 45 minutes away from home at my favorite local campground. (I've done plenty of those solo!) I'm talking about driving 12 hours to camp out in Pisgah national forest in North Carolina for 5 days by myself. I learned lessons I would have never learned had I not gone solo. The timing of the trip just so happened to be directly after all the hurricanes swept the coast. Luckily, the campgrounds were mostly empty from the weather. Despite being inland they had gotten a lot of rain and I was feeling very fortunate to have a near empty campground to myself and dry weather during my stay.
But I was in for a couple lessons.
First off, let me tell you about starting a fire in the damp Pisgah national forest right after they had had hurricane rains for days straight. Now, before we get started… I will just say that I was taught to build a fire without “cheating.” Like making and using your own feather sticks vs using any pre made fire starters. And I am stubborn by nature. So, if I was having a fire I was having one without using a fire starter.
This was my first real lesson in self-reliance on this trip. It was only me in those damp, dark woods. And it took me several failed attempts to get and maintain a fire. But damn it I did it. And my skills improved 10-fold after that trip. First lesson in self-reliance… practice practice practice your skills. Get comfortable with things that don’t go to plan. Improvise. Try different a different approach. Brainstorm. And then try again. Your success in any skill is directly related to your perseverance.
Second lesson. Self-reliance when it comes to cell phones. Now, I understand that I should have had this one down before I went on my trip, and this is an area I still need improvement. But I really needed to plan my navigation and communication modalities better. I was mountain biking in BFE with zero cell reception for HOURS. It wasn’t until I got up in it when I started thinking… crap. If something happened, I would be screwed. I mean, I climbed a remote gravel road for two plus hours until I reached my downhill trail (which was also remote) and did not see one single soul. Those crazy Pisgah people love to earn their downhill.
So, I will fully admit that I am too reliant on my cell phone as my communication device, and my map. And at the time this was an important lesson that I needed to think more about plan B and plan C should plan A fall through. Having a backup plan to our back up plan is paramount. That is why you have two pilots when you fly commercial airlines. ;)
And finally, when I returned from my ride where I had climbed two plus hours to have a 45-minute downhill, mind you, I returned to my campsite to find a few of my belongings missing. Yeah. Solo girl camper comes back to a near empty campsite. That was a big eye opener for me. And on top of that… Pisgah national forest is DARK at night. Anyone else afraid of the dark? I learned I am as a solo girl camper on that trip. You better believe that aside from sleeping with one eye open I slept in my locked truck that night. And that was the self-reliance, sealed deal for me. I was reminded that awareness is paramount, sometimes people just suck, and you cannot trust everyone.
Here I was, 100 percent dependent on myself in this situation to keep myself safe, not get lost, and to build my own fire. All things I kinda already knew but really didn’t fully understand until I threw myself out there, did something out of my comfort zone, and experienced these things first-hand. It made me realize how dependent we have become on technology, wifi, first world luxuries... you name it.
Now full disclosure: if you have an emergency in town with your dog go to the vet!
BUT! The undeniable truth is you do not always have access to a vet. And basic first aid skills, techniques, and a sound knowledge base can literally save your dog, a friend’s dog, or a stranger’s dogs life. It is no joke! And it is vitally important to know and understand the fundamentals.
Do not become complacent in this increasingly complacent society. You never know when you are going to find yourself in a situation where YOU are the first responder. Right now, you have cell reception. You have a google search bar where you can learn anything you want in a matter of seconds. What happens when that is taken away from you and all you have is your brain??
Therefore, you must learn to master canine first aid. Plus, (full disclosure- this is a bit of a generalization, but for conversation sake I am going “there”) have you noticed that our self-reliance is decreasing and anxiety and worry and fear is INCREASING?? Anxiety in both people and pets is on the rise. Mastering a skill such as first aid is one small step you can take to combat that increasing anxiety. Because mastering a skill builds confidence! Confidence can be your antidote to anxiety… and ultimately fear.
You can bet that I am way more confident building a fire now than I was when I went on my trip to Pisgah. And during that trip, I learned tools and techniques around building a fire in wet and damp conditions that I still use today. And ultimately… I still need practice, but my skill set in this department is much stronger. I am no bush crafting expert, but who knows… maybe one day I will be! And that comes with time, learning, implementing, and practicing said skill sets.
So, take action now to start your journey towards becoming confident in canine first aid. And don’t just “know” it. Master it. You read this blog post, so you are already ahead of the game. Just don’t stop here. Make it a commitment to keep learning and keep adding tools to your mental tool box.
Continual learning is key to mastering any subject. And again, don’t stop learning- because Einstein said, “Once you stop learning, you start dying.” We are all looking for the fountain of youth, so here it is. You’re welcome : )
Libbie Fort, DVM