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OC resident sharing animal-rescue karma

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Jo Becker, who rescued the llama from under her neighbors fence this summer, feeds Miss Posey.Good thing Oregon City resident Jo Becker had just attended Washington State Animal Response Team’s Technical Large Animal Rescue class just one week before her midnight run-in with a large bull in her driveway.

In early July, what turned out to be a docile 1,000-pound bull wandered the streets and yards of the Park Place neighborhood. In the ensuing media coverage, he was dubbed Ferdinand after the genteel character illustrated by Robert Lawson in the Munro Leaf children’s book.

By the next afternoon, Becker and her neighbors corralled Ferdinand onto another property with a pivotal assist from their garbage truck driver who turned out to be at the right place at just the right time. By late that evening, the bull’s owners had been identified.

Now Becker has decided to organize a series of free animals-in-disasters workshops for the community this fall. She’ll teach the first class on Nov. 10 as an overview on animals “great and small” and hopes not only cat and dog people, but also horse and pig people attend. Her expertise goes beyond the small-animal focus of the classes she took with the Oregon Humane Society, which also trained her to rappel over cliffs to reach stranded dogs and to climb trees to assist injured cats.

September is Emergency Preparedness Month, so it’s a good time to add a class to your schedule. Disclaimer: After taking one of these classes, Becker warns that you won’t necessarily be able to wrangle a bull, or even deal with an aggressive dog.

“But it will give attendees a higher level of awareness when it comes to approaching unfamiliar or stressed and injured animals,” she said.

Passion pays off

For nearly a decade, Becker, who is in her late 30s, has made it her hobby to study preparedness, disaster response and emergency management, all with a specific passion for helping animals in such situations. She has spent countless hours attending online and classroom courses and participating in regional disaster drills with WASART and other first-responder agencies, often driving six-hour round trips to train.

“That training was extremely useful in terms of large-animal behavior and what to expect, as well as what not to do,” Becker said. “I took several calculated risks that week and was incredibly lucky that everything worked out.”

Earlier that week, Becker was tending to another neighbor’s livestock when she found one of their llamas, Miss Posey, had gotten pinned below a fence, and no one was available to help with extrication. The flexible fencing material was too strong for her to budge alone, and she didn’t have a wire cutter. Even if she did, she would then have to contend with an animal on the loose.

“I finally decided if I couldn’t lift the fencing up the two-to-three inches I needed to clear her, then perhaps I could lower her body that distance to free her,” Becker said.

With that, Becker began digging — primarily by hand — at the dry dirt beneath the animal for more than two hours.

“By that time, another neighbor was home and helped pull up on the fencing while I worked at pulling, pushing and wiggling Posey free,” she said.

Because of her technical animal-rescue training, Becker had some idea how to handle these situations, but she laments that many people don’t have that knowledge or experience. An American Pet Products Association survey this year found 68 percent of U.S. households have at least one pet, and that’s without counting personal or commercial livestock.

“The fact of the matter is people love their animals, and the sneaky little truth is, if you can pull on their heartstrings and spur them to action in preparing their animals, they’ll prepare themselves as well,” Becker said. “Doing so can realign their expectations of first responders, raise their level of resourcefulness, encourage working with neighbors and the community, increase their chances of surviving a disaster, and empower them by improving personal resilience.”

In 2005 before moving to Oregon City, this type of “preparedness bug” bit Becker when she first participated in Beaverton’s city-run Community Emergency Response Team, officially a FEMA program. Clackamas Fire District No. 1 supports CERT groups in local cities such as Oregon City and Milwaukie.

Get pet smart

Clackamas Fire has donated the use of Milwaukie Fire Station No. 4, 6606 S.E. Lake Road, for the classroom-style sessions, and two of Jo Becker’s teammates have offered to help put on the series scheduled from 1 to 4:30 p.m. on three consecutive Sundays in November.

Becker will present “Preparing for Disasters Great & Small: Why & How to Prepare for Your Animals” on Nov. 10. The introductory session will consist of an overview and lots of practical tips for animal owners.

On Nov. 17, Milwaukie Police Officer Ulli Neitch, who’s also a member of the Oregon Humane Society’s Technical Animal Rescue Team, will present “Canine Communication & Pussycat Posture: Animal Handling & Body Language.”

Hollie Smith will offer “Pet First Aid: Knowing What to Do When Minutes Count” on Nov. 24. This is not a first-aid-certification course, but is focused on increasing animal owners’ awareness and general knowledge. Smith is a board member of the Washington State Animal Response Team as well as a certified vet tech and emergency management professional.

The classes are free for anyone in the metro area who would like to attend. If you’re interested, you can learn more and register at jobecker.weebly.com/aidpresentations.html.




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