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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.
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.
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."
"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.