Farley was always off leash in the backyard, day or night. There had never been a problem until the one night when his prey drive kicked in. As soon as he was let out for his last pee of the night, he quickly ran around the back of the house, out of sight and out of the light by the back door. He didn't bark or growl or make any sound. He just took off like a rocket. We couldn't see him in the dark, and he wasn't responding to a recall. When he finally came back around the corner, and into view, his face was full of porcupine quills.
Ahhhh, geez! It looked awful, and it must have been so painful. We brought him inside and tried to decide what to do with him. We'd never had a dog go after a porcupine before. Our two previous dogs, Blackie and Jake, were outside dogs, and just seemed to know not to bother wild animals.
Farley was whining and whimpering. He kept pawing at his face, trying to dislodge the quills. The veterinary hospital was closed. I don't know if there were twenty-four-hour emergency veterinary clinics back then. If so, we weren't aware of them. We would have to wait until the morning to take him to the veterinary hospital.
I wanted to help him and ease his pain in some way. I remembered hearing or reading that you should cut the tips of the quills to release the air and deflate them. Supposedly, this would lessen the pain for the animal. DO NOT DO THIS! Ignorance is not bliss. Not only does this make removing the quills more difficult, but it can also cause them to splinter. Cutting the quills can cause more harm than good.
Unfortunately, I didn't know any better at the time. Poor Farley. He reluctantly let me do it. For the second and last time in his life, he growled at me. At that point, I stopped. I decided to let him be. He'd just told me that he'd had enough.
It was a long night. He cried and whimpered throughout it. The next morning, we called the veterinary hospital and made an early appointment to have the quills removed.
My sister drove, and I sat in the front passenger seat. Farley was sitting in his regular car dog position, with his rear end on the back seat, front paws on the floor, and his upper body wedged between the two front bucket seats. Finally, we were on our way to end his pain and suffering.
I guess all pet owners have a phrase they say to comfort or allay the fears of their pet(s). My phrase has always been, "It's okay." I use it to help calm or reassure them. Most times, it's helpful. I should have thought about the context I was using it in. Farley had a high level of intelligence, and a distinctive personality that showed in his facial expressions.
In my attempt to comfort Farley during the car ride, I said, "It's okay, Far." As he quickly turned his head to look at me, his eyes flew wide open. If looks could kill, I would have been dead on the spot. The expression on his face was a mixture of shock, dismay, and disbelief. If he could have spoken words, I imagine he would have said something to the effect of, "Are you #@%#ing, kidding me? Do you see these THINGS sticking out of my face!!!" He was right, I shouldn't have said that.
I carefully watched my words after that. I comforted him as best as I could by putting my left arm around his shoulders and fought the urge to use my 'phrase'. The veterinarian sedated Far and removed the quills. Some had gone inside his mouth. Fortunately, none had gone into his eyes. All in all, he fared well after his misadventure.
After that incident, a new prevention policy was put into place. After dark, Farley was on a leash and kept in the light for his nightly excursions. Although his movements were more limited, he was safe. It was a necessary part of living in a rural area.
© Debra J. Bilton. All rights reserved.
It was a regular visit to the veterinarian hospital. I can't remember if it was for a checkup or a follow-up visit. When the veterinarian had finished with Toby, I mentioned that he had a lump behind his left ear. The veterinarian determined that the lump was inflamed. I told him that a few weeks before that, Toby had scratched behind his ear and the engorged body of a tick had dropped on the floor. Apparently the head of the tick was under his skin and was the cause of the inflammation.
The veterinarian told me I had two choices. One, I could make an appointment to bring Toby back to have it removed. In that case, Toby would be sedated for surgery. The second choice was that it could be removed right then if I went back and helped to hold Toby. I've learned from my research that sedation is a form of restraint (for people and animals). My holding Toby still during the surgery would take the place of him being sedated. The decision was easy. I said, "We're already here. We might as well do it now."
Everything was going well. Toby was lying on his right side on the table. I was holding his body still, and the veterinary technician was holding his head still. The veterinarian injected something to numb the area and then was using a scalpel to remove the inflamed tissue. Everything was going well, that is, until I started to feel overheated, nauseous and light-headed.
I always walked Toby before visits to the veterinary hospital to make sure he'd emptied his bladder and bowels, and to burn off any excess energy to calm him. It was an overcast day with drizzling rain. The raincoat I was wearing was water-proof. No matter how much it rained, water would not penetrate that coat. It was great for walking outdoors in inclement weather. It wasn't so great indoors, while holding a dog on a table during minor surgery.
In addition to keeping water out, it kept body heat in. It was well insulated. Unfortunately, I hadn't thought to take the raincoat off before the procedure. While the veterinarian was using the scalpel to remove the lump, my body became over-heated. I couldn't let go of Toby to unzip the coat to let the heat out. I felt like I was going to pass out, so I knelt down on one knee, all the while still holding onto Toby. The veterinarian sternly said several times, "Debbie. Don't let go of Toby." I replied that I was not letting go of him.
And I didn't let go of him, the two or three times I knelt down. At one point, the veterinary technician held Toby's head with her right hand, while trying to unzip and take off my raincoat with her left hand. She could only take is so far off my shoulders, since I couldn't move my arms while holding Toby's body on the table. So, partially uncoated, I held Toby in place for the duration of the procedure.
Toby was so good through all of it. He didn't move a muscle or flinch. For being a nervous wreck in some areas of his life, he was always well behaved at the veterinary hospital. It was one of the few places where he completely relaxed and trusted everyone. After that, Toby was on anti-tick medication for the parts of the year when ticks were active.
I researched ticks and their behavior. They are interesting little arachnids (eight legs and no antennae). They climb tall grass, or plant stems, and then wave their front legs like an orchestra conductor. This is called 'questing'. With their front legs, they can detect scents, movement, and even a change in temperature. As you or your dog walk close enough to them, they grab onto the clothing or fur. Then they move to an area of your body that has soft skin (groin, behind the knee) or where the skin is thinner (ear).
You don't feel when they bite into you because their saliva contains anesthetic properties. And you don't have the usual red, itchy swelling of a bug bite because their saliva also contains immunosuppressants that prevent this reaction. It's amazing how they have evolved or adapted to survive.
I have nothing against ticks. I abide by the Japanese Buddhist proverb that a one inch worm has a half inch soul. This means that all living things have a right to live. I would prefer they not live a part of their life on me, or the dog in my life.
© Debra J. Bilton. All rights reserved.
The writing of my first book was a whirlwind experience. Having a deadline of one month to submit a manuscript while dealing with cognitive deficits was a bad combination. I ended up writing the entire book during the last two weeks before the deadline. As a result, there was so much more that I wanted to include, stories about Farley and Toby, and so many things I learned about dogs from them.
When I read the galley (my free copy) of my book, I couldn't believe how much information I had put into a little book. And yet, there was so much more I wanted to write. I'll be using this blog to share more stories about Farley and Toby, other animals in my life, and grieving the loss of pets.
© Debra J. Bilton. All rights reserved.