Monday, June 21, 2010

When A Dog Gets Bitten....

I now have first-hand experience with dog bites. Tonya was bitten on the ear on Friday by a terrier-type dog in our neighborhood. The experience has left me with a myriad of feelings and thoughts.
How did it happen? Well...there's this house at the very end of a dead-end street where two small dogs live. They guard their property fiercely, often throwing themselves against the window and door barking madly as we leash-walk our two Labs past their house. They also bark incessantly at any and all other dogs they encounter when their owner is leash-walking them around the neighborhood. So, it's clear that they practice leash aggression every single chance they get. We like to take our dogs to the large, grassy field just beyond the end of the street where these psycho dogs live. Our dogs have taken to lunging and barking back at these dogs if they are in their yard (on their tethers) as we pass by. Shame on us for not choosing an alternate route and avoiding this obvious hazard. On Friday evening, my husband was passing by the house when the door opened and the terrier was let out on his/her tether. The terrier flew to the end of the tether, all barky and snarly and crazy. Tonya lunged forward...onto the terrier's property and within his/her reach and the terrier nabbed her, leaving a two-inch gash in her ear.
I treated Tonya's injury with a steroid spray from the vet that we use for her other skin ailments such as allergic rashes and hot spots. On Sunday afternoon, I noticed that the entire ear was hot, swollen and seemed to be filled with fluid. Off to the Animal Medical Center (i.e. the emergency vet) on Warren Avenue we went on Sunday afternoon. $180.00 later, we learned that Tonya has a very badly infected ear along with cellulitis (that's the term for all that fluid inside her ear flap just above the wound). She's on antibiotics and we are applying hot compresses to the ear along with gentle massage to see if we can move that fluid out.
This morning, after a sleepless night watching over my sick baby, I was newly aware of the sounds of barking dogs in the neighborhood around me. My dogs aren't very friendly to other dogs when we leash walk. They get overly excited and sometimes can look scary to other dogs. Sometimes, they can be very challenging for me and Mike to control. Dogs in yards often defend their property lines if they are left outside on a tether, have an electronic fence system, etc. Walking your dog can be like running the gauntlet, it seems. So....what to do? In our situation with the terrier, we KNEW of his/her behavior pattern. We resented the owner for not DOING anything about the crazy dog....yet we still walked our dogs by their house. In hindsight (and with now-empty pockets), this was a stupid thing for us to do. Lesson learned.
We will now be sticking to the route that is "safest" for us and our dogs. We will be more diligent to choose walking routes that don't lead our dogs by places and things that freak them out or trigger them. We will avoid houses where we KNOW there are uncontrolled, freaky dogs who will be triggered by the sounds of our dogs walking by. We will be more careful to use the restraints on our dogs that allow us the best control of them. Flat collars sometimes just aren't enough when you're walking two powerful Labs.
It's an imperfect world and you can only control yourself and your own animals. You cannot expect other dog owners to do the right thing and you must be prepared and realistic when you walk your dogs. THAT's the lesson I've learned. Hopefully Tonya will begin responding to the antibiotics in the next 24 hours or we'll be back at the vets for an IV. Poor baby. And this much I know is true: she did NOT learn her lesson. If I were to walk her by that house again today, she would repeat the SAME behavior in reaction to the psycho terrier. She needs me to be in control. In that, we failed her. Sigh.

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