Monday, July 13, 2009

Dog Days of Summer

It's been a rough weekend here. Time that should have been spent with the horses became time spent with the dog at the vet!
If you've visited here before, you may have gotten glimpses of Sandy, our part greyhound (we think, though as she has gained weight, she's lost that "racing silhouette") rescue from the Yakima Humane Society shelter. When we first got Sandy, she was pretty timid--who wouldn't be in a noisy, frightening setting like that? But she soon came out of her shell.She and Kate grew up together.
Hank's foreman's dog "Trackster" and Sandy are best buds. Anytime his family is gone from the house (including Sunday morning church) Trackster makes the 2-mile trek down the road to visit and play.
Hank's dogs, however, are a different story. I'm not sure when the animosity started, but the cattle pasture just west of our house is disputed territory: Sandy considers it her playground, but when Hank's boys do the irrigating, they bring along their two Aussie-Border Collie crosses, who want to defend the area against the interloper. Also, anytime Sandy accompanies me to the north end of our property, just across the street from Hank's, much barking ensues, and if the dog's can get to one another, there have been increasingly violent interactions. And, though she is equally at fault in being the aggressor, Sandy takes the brunt of it, as it's two against one. In the first such incident, a year and a half ago, they nearly ripped one of her pads off her front paw, as well as leaving significant puncture wounds on her hips and tail.
So we began taking her to town with us each day. The first few days, my principal allowed me to bring her to school, so I could do what doctoring was needed. Then she settled into a routine of going to the home of our now 93-year-old "dog-sitter," Lucille.
Lucille loves dogs. But she's a smart lady, and knows it would be difficult for her to take care of one full-time. And recognizes that it would be unfair to make a long-term commitment to a pet. So several years ago she started dog-sitting for our old Aussie, Chewy (Chewbaca), as Chewy's health declined, and it seemed unfair to leave her home for our long days in town. The task gave Lucille a reason to get up every morning--and gave us the opportunity to check on Lucille's well-being on a daily basis.After we lost Chewy, it was three months before we decided to get another dog--yet Sandy, being only about 5 months old, was a bit rambunctious for Lucille, so we would only take her for brief visits. When she was injured, however, she was older, and she needed to be kept quiet, so Lucille took on the task of dog-sitting again.
And won't give it up!
Unfortunately, this took away my motivation to get our yard fenced, so at home, Sandy generally was kept pretty close--if I had to work out towards the road, or if the kids were irrigating, Sandy stayed in the house. But occasionally, when Sandy is already outside and the boys have an unscheduled foray into the pasture, there are still scraps.

Saturday morning, we saw the boys go back to their house after setting their irrigation pipes, so we let Sandy out. But there must have been problems with the irrigation, because minutes later they were back, the dogs trailing along behind. Now, in the past, I have seen the two BC's hesitate at the cattle (but not dog) fence opposite our house, looking to see if Sandy were outside. On this day, they saw their target and ducked under and jumped Sandy.
All of the wounds were on the back of Sandy's body, attesting to the fact that she was retreating when they got her. Most were puncture wounds in her hips and tail. But one of the dogs did some major damage in her groin, right where her body joins her back leg. Some muscle damage, but, luckily, they did not manage to penetrate her abdominal cavity.

It was late enough in the morning that, by the time we stabilized Sandy and called the after-hours line, the trip to town would put us at their doorstep just as the clinic was opening for business.
There were five major wounds that required stitches. Sandy left the clinic about noon, with a bunch of purple stitches, antibiotics and an "e-collar" (named for the old Elizabethan lace collars).
The vet tech described the area of her groin as a "no man's land"--meaning there is a bit of an internal gap there where fluids could collect, so two "drains" (the little white squares in the photo) were left in that wound, to allow drainage.
Another trick I've used in the past is to put a shirt on a dog, to at least slow down any urge to lick or chew at the stitches--Obviously this T-shirt wouldn't stop her for long, but it does allow me to give her some freedom from the e-collar for short periods in the house when I can sit right with her and intervene if she starts fussing at things. She's actually pretty good about it, but the collar goes back on any time I can't give her my full attention.
Saturday after the surgery and most of the day Sunday, Sandy was pretty lethargic, not eating much until Sunday evening, and depressed about the collar and being limited to leash walks. She is feeling much better today, going outside with me for chores, and barking out the window at neighborhood goings-on. The girls were all quite fascinated by Sandy's new fashion accessories!
Tomorrow, she will visit Lucille for the morning (we have been concerned that the injuries might upset Lucille, but not having her visiting dog is upsetting to her as well) while I go to Yakima for fencing for the yard.


  1. Oh, my goodness, I am so sorry for all you that this happened, but happy that Sandy survived. Did "the boys" try at all to intervene? Seems to me they could be exercising some caution as well. Lucille is a doll:)

  2. Oh dear! Hope she continues to feel better. How come the neighbor can't control his dogs when they jump her? Anyway, it is nice that you have such a good dog-sitter and nice that you can use this as a way to check up on her.

  3. I debated whether to talk about the issue of responsibility here....
    One must be aware that this is "ranchin' country" and there's a little different mind-set; and the dogs are ranch dogs, they pretty much have the run of the place, which includes the cattle pasture (Hank's) that is the main problem area. When they know of Sandy being out, they do try to keep their dog's on the 4-wheelers with them. But they're just kids.
    At one point Hank tried keeping one dog on a chain, and that kept the other dog closer to home. Though he's never offered to help pay the vet bill (and I've never asked), Hank's one suggestion as a solution was to simply shoot one or both of his dogs--something my conscience would have trouble with (though for a while last weekend I would have been willing to help).
    It comes done to the issue that, in every other way, Hank is "salt of the earth." I have been loathe to make too big an issue out of the whole thing, because I don't want it to interfere with our friendship. Again, it's partly the recognition that this isn't the "suburbs" and our approach to "pets" is quite a bit different.

  4. We used to tease my older dog (who wore an e-collar frequently to keep him from obsessive destructive licking) that he was picking up the Disney channel by wearing his satellite dish! So, maybe Sandy enjoys the collar and you just haven't noticed....>g<

    Lucille is gold. And you are gold to recognize that she has worthwhile contributions to make still!

  5. Poor Sandy and poor you and poor wallet. Gaving dogs that occasionally fight seriously amongst themselves I know all about those damnable little tubes.

    We are regularly in "agree to disagree" territory with our neighbors about dogs. They think it is cruel to keep titan contained on 1/3 acre whereas I think it would be cruel to let him get hit by a car. When our dogs are in the unfenced area of the yard they are tied so they cannot pester pedestrians or horses or anyone else who might come by on the road. Not so much for their dogs. It's culture and it's hard to break through. The best thing that you can do is take responsibility for the safety of your own animals, and it sounds like a fence will solve the problem. Want to borrow my post hole digger?

  6. Lucille IS a huge blessing. She just reported to me that Sandy seems to like the amplification of her barks in the cone-head--She has been more vocal today than usual!

    DP--your idea of agreeing to disagree is one I hadn't thought of, but apropos. And yes, I'd love to borrow the post-hole digger! Can you drop it off? (I'm still tied down with haying... All you're doing right now is writing your thesis--you need a little break!) (And you can take Maddie home with you, too. ;-D)

  7. Poor Sandy! Dog fights are scary, and so often the aggression escalates. I don't know how long that section of land would be, but I know when I feared one of my dogs might slip through the barbed wire fence to bother the neighbour's alpaca or to chase down a coyote or wolf, I fastened some 30" chicken wire along the bottom and that was sufficient to keep Sadie at home (of course, she's not a jumper, which makes a difference). Very affordable combination and almost invisible so you still get to enjoy the "wide open spaces".

    I hope Sandy heals quickly.

  8. Oh no! I'm so sorry about Sandy's injuries. So stressful for everyone, as well as the wallet. gah!
    We never let our German Shepherd roam and keep her tied up during the day (inside at night). Some people may think that's cruel, but she stays safe and enjoys being outside. We also sometimes let her have free rein up in the fenced paddocks which are about 3 acres. But only when our llamas, goats and sheep are penned up.
    I wish we could let her roam all the time, but she would roam far and wide and then we'd have trouble, from the neighbors or from her getting hurt from other dogs, cars, coyotes, etc.

    I hope Sandy heals up quickly. Bless you for giving Lucille the opportunity to help and make a difference.