Holidays are always hard on pets. At this house, it was more the after-holiday that did Otis in.
Our house was full for the holidays with grown children, my parents, and our favorite cousins. The extra people available for petting, walking, and giving treats was welcomed by Otis and Graice, but Fanny Wiggles is an overly anxious, shy dog. A house full of people means she’s off her food, on edge, and reacting at every tiny thing.
Fanny spent a good portion of last week sequestered in our room. She wasn’t happy about it, but when she was allowed out she tended to erupt at any youngish male person or anyone who made a sudden entrance into a room. (It’s not fun to be greeted by a shrieking pit bull whenever you get up to use the restroom.)
She survived, though, and surprised me quite a few times with her willingness to put herself right in the middle of the action. Almost like she was consciously trying to battle through by submersing herself in her worst fears. It’s clear she’s glad everyone is gone, though, as she zooms around the house and wags her tail so hard she bangs a rhythm on the walls and stair railings as she moves around the house.
Gracie always enjoys company (once they’re in the door) so she reveled in the attention and has been sleeping off the physical exertion from it for the past three days.
And Otis. My poor boy.
The holiday started out well enough. He claimed laps, leaned on legs, sat for treats, and lugged any willing participant for a walk around the block.
On Friday we took him for a walk in Shenandoah National Park.
(I’m going to interrupt this post for a public service announcement)
When hiking in a national park, whose rules clearly state (on a sign upon entry) that all dogs must be leashed, assume that this rule also applies to YOU.
What? Your dog is great off-leash?
Bully for you. But what about MY dog who is reactive to other dogs? My dog, who we are trying to convince that other dogs are not cause for alarm?
What happens when your great-off-leash dog comes flying up the trail and launches himself onto my terrified, leashed dog? Your loose dog who you finally managed to grab (after my husband repeatedly shooed him away from our terrified dog with his hiking pole) probably didn’t enjoy the encounter either.
Your apology and assurance that your dog loves other dogs didn’t help one bit. I’m sure your dog probably got over his encounter with my husband’s waving trekking pole the moment you set him loose again when we were out of sight.
My dog, though? Kind of you to ask. My dog was anxious and jumpy for the rest of the hike, certain that another dog might pop out and ambush him unawares. My dog just has his worst fears reinforced. Your dog just set us back in our training efforts. Thanks.
Okay, that wasn’t meant for all of you, just the idiot who was walking two loose dogs in the National Park last Friday.
Sorry for the unexpected public service announcement. I just wish people would consider more than their own selves, or in this case, their own dog.
Okay, I’m finished frothing. Now I’ll get back to the post….
On Saturday, the last of the guests drove off and the remaining ‘child’ (relative term) was dropped at the airport. We put the house back in order, returned the extra chairs to the attic and the turkey cooker to storage, as the washing machine spun all day long. We walked down to the tavern for dinner, as neither of us could imagine cooking or cleaning another dish.
Sunday dawned peaceful and perfect. Nick and I worked on our backyard dog oasis project (something I’ll share in another post!). It was a sunny day and we made great progress. The firehouse had just set off their noon whistle and we’d come into the house to grab some lunch, when we heard barking and then the sound of glass breaking.
Otis had spotted the enormous Great Pyrenees who lumbers up our street most days with his person (who is often on his phone or looking at it). Otis yelled out his alarm and jumped at the front door (which has a long French-door-like window in its center). Our house is one hundred years old, and that door and possibly the glass in it are also one hundred years old.
This is not the first time Otis, or any of the dogs has jumped at the glass. But for whatever reason – he’d gained another few ounces, the glass has aged another few minutes, or the angle and force was just right (or maybe he was reacting harder because of his big scare at the park two days prior)—Otis’ front legs broke through the panes of the door window.
By the time I reached him the blood was already beginning to gush. I grabbed a clean towel and wrapped it around the right leg which was much worse than the left (which was also bleeding but slower). Nick held pressure on the towel, and I ran for gauze and wrap and tape. (Note to self: replenish the first aid kit. Note to the rest of you: put together a solid pet first aid kit that includes those items.)
We bandaged Otis’ legs tightly and took off for the nearest Vet ER, which was thirty minutes away any other day than the Sunday after Thanksgiving. On Sunday it was more like 50 minutes. When we arrived at the hospital, I filled out a form and the receptionist told us the vet would triage Otis, but if he was stable it could be 6-8 hours before they treated him.
I told her that he had already bled through his bandage on his right leg.
Her eyes widened and she said, “They’ll probably take him then.” Never have I ever been so happy that my dog was bleeding profusely.
Ten minutes later Otis had pain meds on board and was being sedated. The vet explained that on her initial triage, she could see that Otis had severed a tendon, but she thought it was the one to the outside toe, which apparently doesn’t bear weight so even if she could successfully reattach it, he’d still be able to walk. The lacerations were deep and would require stitches, there was lots of glass to clean out, plus she wanted to take an Xray to be sure he hadn’t broken any bones.
She warned that recovery would be tough and it would be critical that we kept him still. She was concerned about that. I told her Otis was crate-trained and she said, “Thank God. It’s very hard for people whose dogs aren’t crate-trained post-op. That’ll really help.”
Note to everyone: Crate-train your dog. It’s important for a million reasons. Unexpected surgery recovery would be one of them.
After she finished, the vet called again to say it went really well. She said she was able to reattach the tendon and seal off the bleeding vessels (I know that’s the wrong word but I was running on such glorious relief when she called with her news that I don’t remember the term she used.). On his left leg, she’d had to cut away part of his upper pointy pad (I’m sure there is a word for that extraneous pad that is partway up the leg, but that’s what I’m going to call it for now) to get to the lacerations below it, but she expected it would eventually scar up and look normalish.
Again, she reiterated it was critical we kept him quiet in the next two weeks so the tendon could heal up and so no internal bleeding started. She said again how great it was that he was crate-trained. “That will make all the difference,” she assured us.
The first night was hard. Otis whined and cried from where he lay on his dog bed as Nick watched football and I watched Otis.
The next day he was disoriented and miserable but probably more from the cone than from his injuries. I decided to take off his cone and sit with him for the day. I also got on Amazon and ordered him a more manageable cone.
Fanny also offered comfort.
That cone arrived two days later and was much more comfortable. He wore it during the day and wore the big cone at night when I couldn’t keep an eye on him.
But then he figured out he could reach his left leg sutures if he dangled his leg off the couch. He’s back to wearing the big cone, though.
My poor boy. As hard as this is, I’m grateful. So grateful that we were inside when this happened. Had it been 30 minutes earlier, we’d have been outside and likely not heard a thing over the tile saw. We’d gotten lazy of late and stopped crating him when we went out. He’d been so good. (YES, we will go back to crating our active, young dog when we aren’t here to supervise his behavior.) But if we hadn’t walked in when we did, Otis could have easily bled out before we knew anything had happened.
Nick has already covered the inside of the window with plexiglass, but that doesn’t mean Otis won’t be crated when unsupervised going forward. You can bet your cone-of-shame he will. Managing our dogs is a full-time responsibility. And that’s something that I’ve had to learn the hard way much too often.
If we love these animals, we need to help them live safely in our world.
Otis will survive this (and so will we). A friend reminded me in the midst of this how lucky Otis is to have us—a family who can afford to get him the medical attention he needed despite the cost. I’ve thought a lot about that comment ever since she made it. Otis is alive today only because of fate or luck or whatever you want to call it. He was born in western Tennessee and rescued from a dog pound only to nearly succumb to parvo in our foster home.
He is part of the story portrayed in the film, Amber’s Halfway Home. If you’d like to see our Emmy-nominated, award-winning short documentary about rescue in the south, join me on Tuesday night for our Watch Party (or see it later on our YouTube channel).
Until Each One Has a Home,
For information on me, my writing, and books, visit CaraWrites.com.
If you’d like regular updates of all our foster dogs past and present, plus occasional dog care/training tips, and now foster cat updates (!) be sure to join the Facebook group, Another Good Dog.
And if you’d like to know where all these dogs come from and how you can help solve the crisis of too many unwanted dogs in our shelters, visit WhoWillLetTheDogsOut.org and subscribe to our blog where we share stories of our travels to shelters, rescues, and dog pounds.
If you can’t get enough foster dog stories, check out my book: Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs. Or its follow up that takes you to the shelters in the south One Hundred Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues.
I love to hear from readers and dog-hearted people! Email me at email@example.com