Duncan's trick or treat came a day early. It was a pleasant afternoon, warm and sunny, without a breeze, only golden light, caught between a low bank of clouds and the mountains, reflected off the leaves both below and from those still hanging on above. We walked without jackets, Ken and I, enjoying the warmth of the sun on our bare arms as we talked about our dinner plans, while Duncan ambled not too far ahead, sniffing for sticks to chew and spit out as he passed by.
And then it happened. We'd stopped to chat with a woman and her new chocolate lab puppy when Duncan, indifferent as always to other dogs, bit into a stick that decided to bite back. Somehow or another, as we talked and played and fed the puppy pumpkin treats, Duncan's stick got caught. He coughed and hacked and when that didn't dislodge it he began to paw at his face, twisting his head this way and that as he rubbed it against the grass where we all stood. We grabbed him and while Ken held his mouth open I reached in and felt around at the back of his throat but wasn't able to find anything. I scraped a few remnants of bark from his tongue but he continued to sputter and wheeze.
At that point I began to panic, suddenly very aware that I didn't know how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on my dog. Ken gave me one of his calm and reassuring looks and asked me to hold Duncan still while propping his mouth open. I did as he asked while he peered inside and noticed a small twig had lodged, not in his throat but against the roof of his mouth, caught between his teeth. He reached in gently and pulled it out as Duncan sputtered one last time, coughed and then buried his head between the two of us as though thankful we'd been there to help.
As we walked home I couldn't stop shaking. My knees were weak and all I wanted to do was get home and hug my boy to me. When I asked Ken, who's schooling as a vet tech originally led us to Denver, about the Heimlich Maneuver for dogs he said he couldn't remember. So I came home, looked it up online and thought it would be a good idea to share it here. Make sure you learn it and are ready should the situation arise. Thankfully it didn't in our case, but it's better to be safe than sorry.