Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The one where Smooch gets bitten by a rattlesnake

Spoiler alert: This story has a happy ending.

It was a dark and steamy night and we were getting ready for bed. I turned on the porch light and opened the sunroom door to let Smooch and Alex outside for the last time. They exited together, Smooch on the right, Alex on the left. Less than a split second later, we all heard the rattling start. M-fin' snake was right there, coiled up on the cold concrete pavers next to my shoe. We had woken him up and he was pissed.

Smooch and Alex began barking frantically, and the snake's rattling was ceaseless and absurdly loud. My brain was yelling at me to stay calm, but that signal didn't reach my mouth. Total pandemonium ensued. I was screaming and trying to catch the dogs, the snake wouldn't shut up, Smooch was running around sniffing sniffing sniffing and not paying the least bit of attention to my pleas to come, nor was Alex. 

Smooch would run a lap, then run over to the snake, Alex would follow her, and I kept running out of my flipflops trying to catch them. After what seemed like 20 minutes but was probably two, I finally caught Alex, picked her up and held her in a death grip against my hip while I put Smooch in a head lock. We were all in a pile at the opposite corner of the yard from the snake and, I kid you not, I screamed out loud "we need a plan!" a half dozen times. 

Then Smooch got loose, I threw Alex into the sunroom steering clear of the snake, then re-caught Smooch and carried her into the house via the pitch-dark driveway and backyard, where I was certain the snake's friends were waiting to bite off my toes.

Whew. The dogs were now safe and I just had to catch the snake, which turned out to be easy because he was still in the same place. This all happened last Wednesday night, by the way, starting around 9:15.

With the snake trapped in a tightly lidded trash can in the garage, I was back in the house by 9:30. I found Smooch sitting on the bed in the guest room and noticed a small drop of blood on the right side of her face. Crap crap crap crap crap. She had been bitten. Strangely, I wasn't freaking out. I was thinking, "It's okay, she's current on her snakebite vaccine, everything will be fine." 

I called the local emergency vet clinic, rather calmly explained that my dog had been bitten by a rattlesnake but she had been vaccinated, and asked what I should do. The person said they were out of anti-venin so I would have to go to the emergency clinic in Albuquerque. 

As I was dialing that number, I'm thinking, "Anti-venin? Why? She's been vaccinated." So I explain my story again and the person immediately gives me directions to the clinic and I'm like, "but it will be the middle of the night by the time I get there and she's been vaccinated, can't we just wait until morning and go to our regular vet?" The answer was an emphatic NO, so off we all went to Albuquerque. 

I had plenty of time on the way there to try to figure out what had just happened. For all 13.5 years of her life, Smooch has been very snake-smart, keeping a respectful distance as she would bark at them to alert me. I concluded she must have been bitten the moment the snake saw her. She didn't react to the bite in any noticeable way, but all the running back to the snake over and over again was either because: a) she was pissed off and wanted to bite him back or b) she was trying to protect me and Alex.

It was a quiet night in the ER and Smooch was taken to the treatment area within minutes of our arrival.

Alex and I waited patiently, passing the time by texting Danni, who was researching the snakebite vaccine and helping me figure out what to expect. All these years I had been living under the very false sense of security that, when vaccinated, a dog would survive a snakebite, the symptoms would be less severe, and it would be no big deal. I was right on the first two counts, but it was indeed a very big deal. I was about to learn that Smooch would be receiving a vial of anti-venin, she would need to be hospitalized, and there was mention of cardiac arrhythmias, ghastly infection, necrosis of the skin...I stopped listening after that.

Alex and I said goodnight to Smooch, as she drooled in her temporary accommodations. The vets would give her a vial of anti-venin as soon as it defrosted and call me in the morning...or sooner as need be.

When the call came Thursday morning, it was good news mostly. The swelling on her face had gone down, but they had found puncture wounds from another bite on her lower left leg. There was no swelling and it wasn't painful, so that one was likely a dry bite. She wasn't eating, but her mouth was bruised on the inside, so it made sense. 

This is getting boring so I'll fast forward to Friday morning after Smooch came home.

A cone was necessary so that she couldn't scratch her face with her paw.

 Smooch was sent home with plenty of drugs.

She rested semi-comfortably for the first 12 hours, then finally found her appetite and began eating with gusto, which is when I started breathing again.

We visited our regular vet first thing Monday morning for a recheck. She gave Smooch an excellent prognosis and gave me permission to remove the cone of shame. 

 Smooch: Can't believe that s-o-b bit my leg, too.

Meanwhile, there was still the matter of a rattlesnake in a garbage can in the garage. I was tempted to move the can into the sun and let him roast in his own juices for awhile, but I still believe in snake karma and thought better of it.

Monday night, Alex and I drove down to snake-release road.

 Five days trapped in a can didn't do much for this guy's mood.

Alex: Please be careful. I don't know how to drive this thing.

Having participated in every step of this adventure, I can only hope that Alex has learned some very valuable lessons.

Smooch assures me that she has.