Dog Versus Rattlesnake

Hi there friends!

Before you begin reading, I would like to warn you that this is a very long post, but I had to write it.  I hope you understand.

I know I haven’t blogged in a little while.  I’m looking forward to catching up on all of everyone’s posts as soon as I can.

I’ve been absent because we had an emergency at the beginning of last week involving two of our furry family members.  Houston (our Jack Russell) and Babe (our Boxer) had an altercation with a rattlesnake.

It all started at about 8 in the morning while I was in the kitchen washing dishes and the dogs were hanging out in the backyard for a little while before it became too hot to be outside. As I was washing dishes, our third dog (Zoey) barked and then Houston chimed in with the “something’s wrong” bark.  I immediately went to our side window to look out and see if someone was at the fence.  Nope.  Nothing. Except the sound of wrestling against the inside of the fence.

With the feeling that something was wrong, I ran to the dining room window so I could see what was happening in the yard.  When I got there, they had gotten quiet.  There was good reason for the immediate silence.  Houston had, what looked like at the time a large stick in his mouth and Babe was trying to take it from him.  As soon as I could focus on the situation I realized right away that it was a snake they were fighting over and Houston wasn’t about to give it up.

While trying to remain calm (I hate snakes), I yelled to my oldest son in his room that they had a snake.  When I turned around, Houston had thrown the snake down…

And that’s when I saw…THE RATTLES…

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Oh my goodness.  My dogs were out there with a RATTLESNAKE!  I sprinted to the door and screamed (I usually top out at yelling) for the dogs to get inside.  Upon running inside, Babe and Zoey came to my son and I and Houston ran to my bedroom and underneath the bed.

After performing a quick inspection, we didn’t see any apparent injuries on Babe and Zoey.  Since Houston was the one with the snake in his mouth, we knew that we needed to get to him to check him out.  As my son was at the bottom of the bed trying to coax him out, I could see him from the backside of the bed and I saw blood on his side.  Panicked, I called his name in a way I’m sure he’s never heard before to get him out.

He ran out from under the bed and back out to the dining room where my youngest son caught him and immediately welled up with tears saying he had blood all over his face.  My oldest son and I got to them and both of us looked at each other knowing this was really bad.  We had no time to waste.

My youngest son held Houston while my oldest son took a damp washcloth to help stop the bleeding and clean his cute, furry face.  Meanwhile I called Hubby to tell him I was on the way to get him from work (thank God he only works 10 minutes away) so we could immediately take Houston to the vet.  I woke my daughter (who could sleep through a mass murderer being in the house) and quickly gave her the run-down so she could assist her brothers and re-check the other dogs for any injuries.

As Hubby and I were on our way back to get Houston, he called the veterinarian in town (we only have one in our area), so they would know that we were bringing him in within the next few minutes.  The receptionist explained that any type of treatment was going to be extremely expensive and that we would have to put down a minimum of  a $400 deposit to start.  We knew that we would be able to cover the deposit with the help of my wonderful, sympathetic mother-in-law, so we could at least get him seen and hopefully speak with the vet to see if we could make arrangements.

Even though Hubby was like a father expecting his first baby driving to the hospital, it seemed like one of the longest rides of my life.  It was actually only about 10 minutes.  Ten minutes too long when you’re terrified that this may be the last ride your baby-puppy dog ever takes.  Here was this 10 year old, brave, loyal, loving, ever wagging little guy wrapped in a bath towel laying in my lap, weak and in pain.  I refused to cry.  I had to keep my spirits up for him.  I needed to help him feel that it was going to be okay and that I wasn’t giving up on him so he wouldn’t give up on himself.  All while knowing that if he wasn’t going to be okay, that I would have to be the one to give permission for him to be put to sleep.

The veterinarian’s office was prepared for us when we got there.  They led us into the room right away and the veterinarian followed right behind.  He listened to the details of the altercation while looking over Houston’s injuries, then looked at a picture of the snake.  He was pretty sure that it was a Diamond Back but there is another rattlesnake that is found in our area that is much more deadly, so he asked me to bring the snake back if possible.

Let me state once again…I HATE SNAKES.  I know there are beneficial snakes around, but these are not them.  BUT, it was for my Houston.  Of course I was going to bring this snake back, no matter how freaked out I was.  I am a momma.  It’s what mommas do.

The veterinarian then explained that we had three options.  #1- Administer the antivenin ($450 on top of the $400 deposit), antibiotics and fluids.  #2- Hope it was a “dry-bite” and forgo the antivenin and give antibiotics and fluids (which the $400 would cover).  And finally #3- Do nothing and take him home.

Unfortunately, due to our financial situation, we had to speak with him before treatment about cost, payment and possible arrangement.  We learned that it was going to be close to $1000 for everything and that the only arrangement that they had was for us to pay a portion that day and the rest the next day.  Both Hubby and I were heartbroken.  There was no way for us to come up with that much money, especially that soon.

So, we had to take our chances and select option #2 Forgo the antivenin and give antibiotics and fluids with a night’s stay at the veterinarian’s office.  At the time, we were somewhat optimistic that it was a dry bite because some time had passed and his breathing was normal and his body wasn’t showing signs of shutting down.  We had to have hope and believe our little warrior would pull through without the antivenin.

With heavy hearts, we left our little guy in the very capable hands of the veterinarian and his staff, knowing that they would do everything they could to see him through.  I dropped Hubby off back at work and headed home.  I arrived at home at about 9:30 am.  I sat in the car for a moment feeling like I had been through a week’s worth of war in just an hour and a half.  If I felt that bad, I couldn’t imagine how terrible Houston must have felt.

I then remembered that I had to return to the veterinarian’s office with the dead snake in tow.  And that meant I would actually have to get this thing in a box, carry said box, put it in the car and then carry that same box into the office.  Yes, I know, the snake was dead.  But, quite honestly, it was creeping me out a little bit.  Not only do I hate snakes (I think I mentioned earlier) but this one really hurt my baby puppy.  On top of that, I had to remain brave, calm and confident for my kids.

Armed with an empty box and my daughter and sons in tow, I headed out to the back porch to load a dead snake.  Of course my sons wanted to see the snake because they’re typical boys, but I was surprised that my daughter wanted to join in.  She stated that she was very proud of her “puppy brother” and was curious to see his kill…plus it was most definitely dead.  I honestly think she wanted to prove to herself that she could handle being that close to even a dead snake.  Believe me, I can understand that!  I am always supportive of anyone, especially my kids, in their attempt to overcome their fears.

After telling the kids to stand way back and attempting not to shake, I reached for our large snow shovel (for us, it’s a pooper scooper) and started to slowly sachet him onto the shovel.  Then it happened.  When I moved him, his mouth opened!  Yes, it was just because his muscles were relaxed from death, but for a moment, I felt panic set in.  Needless to say, his open mouth frightened the kids a bit.  So, to prove to them, and to make myself a little calmer, I got our pointed shovel.

Full of hesitation, I stood there with the shovel.  As much as I hate snakes, I don’t have an ounce of the killer instinct in my body.  I know, he was already dead, but to actually strike something that had once been a living creature, was definitely proving difficult to me.  Just then, another instinct took over.  I may have zero killer instinct, but just like any mom, I have immeasurable momma instinct.  This instinct kicks in for my furry kids, just as it does for all of my babies.  Simply put, this creature was the cause for the life threatening injuries to my little guy.  Just as Houston was intent on protecting his family from harm, I was intent on proving to my kids that this snake’s life was undeniably over. Then,  I did it.  I struck the snake in the neck area.  I took the pooper scooper shovel and placed it in the box.

Then back to the veterinarian’s office my oldest son and I went.  I’m sure he wanted to be supportive of Houston and myself along with keeping busy so he could deal with the reality of the possible outcome.  No matter how positive I was trying to be, my kids are not typically oblivious to reality, but they understood that staying positive might be the only thing that could help Houston pull through.  My kids, like myself, believe that we have a better chance of a positive outcome through maintaining a positive attitude.

Fast forward to about six hours after the initial incident.  Babe, our other dog that was involved in the altercation, walked into the kitchen looking depressed with a swollen right lip.  But, wait, all four of us had checked and rechecked her and Zoey for bites earlier.  What could we have missed?  We looked again and the only thing that we could see was what appeared to be a small scab from something else, not a snake bite, so we determined that maybe she had been bitten in the mouth.  But there was no blood or any other symptoms other than the swollen lip.  On top of only having a swollen lip, we couldn’t put together why it would have taken that long to show up if she had been bitten by the snake.

With already having Houston at the veterinarian’s office and all of our financial sources completely depleted, we had no option, but to keep Babe at home and under our care.  Hubby and I were both in shock and at a loss of what to do other than give her large doses of love and continuous attention.  Basically, stay right there with her, talk to her and not leave her side. We had gone from bad to worse and then to even worse.  Not only was Houston fighting for his life at the veterinarian’s office, Babe might have to do the same, only at home with no antibiotics or IV fluids.

Then the swelling spread to her lower neck.

This was terrible.  It was not in any way a case of choosing one dog over the other, it was a case of taking the dog that showed injuries for emergency care and then having no further financial resources to take the other dog when she started to show symptoms of an injury. The only thing I could do was to start researching all kinds of home care and treatment for possible rattlesnake bites.  With Babe by my side, I spent a couple hours reading all kinds of things on the internet.  I learned what symptoms and signs to watch for and decided that the “love and attention plan” was most likely the best choice that we had at the time.

It had to work.  We couldn’t lose either one of them.  They are our furry family members.  Babe is our comic relief that keeps us in stitches with her goofy quirks and habits.  Houston is our sweet, loving protector that has been through some difficult times with the kids and I.  We weren’t ready to say goodbye.  I know that we never are, but don’t we all want them to just go to sleep and pass from old age?  We definitely didn’t want to lose them through their protection of us.

While Houston rested at the veterinarian’s office with antibiotics and IV fluids, Babe spent the night sleeping on Hubby’s lap on the sofa.  And Momma tossed and turned all night.  How they react the first 24 hours is vital.  We were hoping with everything we had that Babe wouldn’t develop diarrhea.  It’s a very bad sign.

By the next morning, Babe had made it through without any diarrhea and she was eating, drinking and using the restroom just fine.  The swelling had gone down just a bit and she was still pretty weak, but eating and drinking on her own were very good signs.  It meant she wasn’t giving up on herself and she knew we weren’t giving up on her.

When I called the veterinarian’s office to hear how Houston was doing, they told me that he was still very sick and that they wanted to keep him another day.  I’m sure that the receptionist could hear the desperation in my voice and she told me that I could come visit him if I wanted to.

Later that afternoon, Hubby and I went to visit him while the kids watched over Babe.  We went to the back and walked up to the cage where he was trying to recover.  He was resting on a cute little fleece blanket with his food and water right within reach.  I quietly said his name.  No reaction.  I said it again, a little louder this time.  Still no reaction.  No reaction from the little guy that always wags at me with just a moment of eye contact?  Quite scared, I reached out and stroked his back, kissed his head and said “momma’s here”.  He then opened his left eye (his right was swollen shut) and looked at me.  He had a quick look of relief in his eye, but his face was so swollen and he didn’t even attempt to move.

That was the first moment that I actually felt in my heart that we might lose him.  The day and hours before, I was so full of adrenaline that my positive attitude had not wavered.  He looked so much worse than the day before.  But then I remembered that everything I read said that he would get worse before he got better.  My positive attitude renewed within seconds.  I could not give him the feeling that I was questioning if he was going to be okay.  I reassured him that even though he felt so bad that he was a brave little warrior that was going to get better.  And that I would be back.  This separation, although very necessary was only temporary.  I kissed his head, told him I loved him, thanked the staff for letting us visit and told them that I would call the next morning.

The next morning, Babe woke up and looked like nothing had happened!   We attribute this to possibly just being nicked by the snake since Houston was the one in possession of the snake during the incident.  We never found a puncture wound, only a scratch, which would explain the lack of blood.  So her infection was probably minor compared to Houston’s serious puncture wounds that continued to bleed.

After nine, I called to check on Houston.  I  was anxious because I knew that we would have to bring him home no matter his condition because our total had reached the amount of what had already been paid.  After the receptionist spoke with the doctor, she told me that although his condition had worsened, the doctor was still optimistic that Houston would pull through, but he wanted to keep him another night.  In tears, I explained to the receptionist that we couldn’t leave him for another night because we had topped out on our bill.  She reassured me that it was covered and that he could spend another night.

I hung up the phone and started to cry.  I was so thankful that the office was working with our budget, but I was deflated from learning that his condition had gotten worse.  All I could do was remain positive when I explained to the kids that Houston would be gone for another day and work on preparing everything that I could for when he did come home.  He was going to come home.  I couldn’t think any differently.

On Friday morning (the third day), I called the veterinarian’s office once more.  Thankfully, there was better news!  He was off the fluids and had eaten some food.  We could bring him home.  Finally!

A minute or two after my oldest son and I were led into a room, the veterinarian carried Houston in and carefully sat him down on the cold metal table.  Houston saw us and slightly perked up while the doctor explained his present condition, what we should look for and what we could do.  He emphasized that Houston was nowhere near being out of the woods, but that there wasn’t anything more that could be done for him and that going home would be best for him.  We would just have to watch over him, give him his antibiotics and wait it out.

That was Friday morning.  It is now two and a half days later, Sunday afternoon, and our little warrior continues to improve every day!  It will be awhile (it can take 10 -14 days for full recovery) until he’s back to normal, but he immediately got perkier on Friday after he came home.  Don’t we all feel better when we’re at home recovering?  On Saturday, he began wagging again, and today, his kisses returned!  He’s getting stronger bit by bit and is eager to guard his yard again.

His resilience is so much better than mine right now.  I’m so hesitant to have the dogs in the backyard by themselves.

We live on an acre of property and this snake was the whole way up on the back porch within 15 feet of the backdoor.  We’ve been here a little over three years and have seen only one other snake, a gopher snake (what they say is a good snake) and it was a lot further away from the house.  I would feel so much better if I knew why he was so close to the house.  Was it because our neighbor had dragged his yard a couple days before and disturbed his home or maybe it was because we had a massive downpour earlier that morning and he was trying to find somewhere dry to go?  I don’t know.

It’s alarming to me, because even though I hate snakes, I understand some of their nature.  Rattlesnakes don’t like to be around people or other things that frighten them, such as dogs, so why did he choose to come in the fence of my backyard?  I’ll never know.

So, I will keep a vigilant eye out for signs of any slithery intruders and make sure that I keep our furry family members’ playground as safe as possible…all why trying to remain calm.

I know that I will begin to relax and calm down.  It will just take time.  Time that we, as a family, will get to spend with our treasured furry family members.  I cannot begin to express how blessed I feel.  It humbles me to think that we had two of our three dogs hurt by a rattlesnake and they both are going to be okay.  I firmly believe that a positive attitude helps even in difficult times and it’s wonderful when that belief is proven.

For those of you that were patient with me and actually read this in it’s entirety, I would love to say a very heartfelt THANK YOU!  It has been a hard 5 days and this outlet has truly helped.

Love,

Karen ❤

 

 

 

 

 

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