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.


53 comments:

  1. Wow that is scary. I'm glad Smooch is okay now. Looks like the swelling had gone done a lot by Mon. Fortunately, the rattler was small. Also glad that Smooch had received the vaccine.

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  2. Can you describe your snake karma? Does it focus on something like "a good deed is its own reward" or something like that? For me, I'd have less compassion for the snake who shouldn't have been trespassing in the first place. Hmpf. Glad Smooch will be ok.

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    1. I used to believe if I caught/released the snakes on the ranch, all their relatives would be nice and leave us alone. Now I'm questioning my theology.

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  3. So glad to hear smooch is okay.Had a friends who's old dog did not fair as well.I tell everyone here that lives in the hills to get the vaccine.

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  4. Glad Smooch is ok! We may have long cold winters and mosquitoes, but we don't have snakes. It could have been worse. It could have been you getting the anti venom!

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  5. So happy everyone is OK! So...can you buy antivenom to have at home?
    Every birds nest, mouse house, etc would all be getting cleared out! We are on a hill and our front deck is 12 feet off the ground, but a birds nest in the porch eave attracted 2 snakes up all the way to our deck furniture!!They actually climbed a gutter downspout!! Now...no more birds nests..ever. Sadly I also no longer sleep on the deck porch. Lisa G in TN

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  6. ''Smooch assures me that she has.'' Do you mean Smooch has learned her lesson? or Smooch assures you that Alex has learned it?
    Poor Smooch has no lesson to learn, she probably got bit at the very moment she ran out the door. And I still believe that cooked snake karma :)

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  7. So glad that everything worked out for Smooch. I could feel myself getting stressed out as a scrolled through your story. I don't know how you stayed calm!

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  8. After all these years of following you and all the adventures, trials and triumphs, this one got me. Smooch has had quite the year. I feel that all will be okay but what an ordeal!! Good job on YOUR part!!

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  9. Very glad Smooch is okay.

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  10. Smooch takes that Ranch Security gig very seriously. One tough cookie. Too much excitement for all of you. And yes,you are too good to those snakes. Especially the rattlers. Natural enemies you know.

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  11. So glad dear Smooch is OK and really hope that Alex learned the lesson. /Gretchen

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  12. I would have sh*t my pants. The end. Now the snakes are knocking on your door step! Is it possible for you to get the anti venom and store it yourself...just in case?
    So glad you ALL are okay.

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    1. The anti-venom/anti-venin is available for purchase but has to be given intravenously, and the dosage varies depending on size of dog, location of bite and a pile of other stuff – there's no way I would administer it myself. Our regular vet tells me she keeps a very large supply of it because she sees so many bites. Now if only the silly snakes could time their bites during normal business hours...

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  13. Smooch is so brave and I am glad she is well again. I am glad you released the snake in a wild area, I would have too. That was a lot of terrifying moments and hours for you and Smooch.

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  14. Wow I bet your heart rate was sky high. So glad you got her to the vet and everything is ok!

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  15. Oh, my, what an ordeal to go through. So glad it all turned out okay for Smooch. Our Chucky just finished four rounds of chemo, after surgery for a tumor and I am watching him all the time - a snake bite would probably take him out right now. Neighbors found a 33" rattler on their porch... Looking forward to winter here!

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  16. Jeez Louise. I lived through part of this with you and I was getting stressed all over again reading your story. That Smooch, what a gal - I have always been impressed with her Ranch Security abilities, but even when struck down, she didn’t complain a bit. I love her so much and am so impressed with how quickly she recovered from this.
    -danni

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  17. Well, that's terrifying. I'm so glad she's okay.

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  18. Thank you for the early disclaimer--I didn't want to read the blog after seeing the title. Glad that Smooch is getting back to normal and that the clan is okay now. Whew.

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  19. Poor Smooch baby. You are a good person saving that snake. I'm all in love with nature/animals, etc., until they interfere with my house. Once they cross the boundary line, if they're 'violent', they lose. If they're non-violent, they get gently and lovingly relocated. Very thankful Smooch is better and recovering. Hopefully, Alex learned a big lesson. Glad you are ALL ok.

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  20. I think Smooch saved you from a bite. Plain and simple. And thinking about all the kindly releases you’ve done through the years, it’s possible you might not be taking them far enough away. Maybe a drive to California would do the trick.

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  21. Thank you for the spoiler alert! It was hard enough to read, even knowing that it came out ok. I've been missing Smooch, and wondering how she was doing. Thank goodness her adventure is over now.

    I didn't know that there was such a thing as snake bite vaccine. Thank goodness you did! Is there such a thing as snake repellant to keep them away from your house?

    Julia

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  22. thanks for the lead in spoiler alert, my heart was in my throat reading the whole post even knowing you said it ended happily... so glad you are all ok now

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  23. Wow, just wow. Very scary and thank you for the spoiler alert that it ended well.

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  24. I have this vision of you panicking, gripping the dogs, shouting over and over ''we need a plan!'', like other panicked people might scream ''everybody stay calm, don't panic!!'' and it makes me smile fondly. The things you go through! You are the bravest, most resourceful and resilient elf I have ever known.

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  25. You have become an experienced snake handler! So glad Smooch is in recovery mode. Have you ever thought of trying a snake repellant around the fence line or house? Its supposed to be safe for people and pets.....just a thought!

    https://www.amazon.com/Havahart-6400-Shield-Repellent-Pounds/dp/B00PK3CYKQ/ref=as_li_ss_tl?SubscriptionId=AKIAJO7E5OLQ67NVPFZA&ascsubtag=271496150-2-1042810692.1563971592&tag=shopperz_origin1-20

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    1. Our regular vet, who lives on a ranch in the vicinity, tells me she's tried all the repellants and hasn't found any that work. One of her own dogs has been bit 16 times! Good thing she's a vet.

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    2. Well I knew it sounded too good to be true. We see a few snakes here in TN but so far have not had a dog or horse bitten!

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  26. Poor, brave, beautiful Smooch! We all hope she recovers well and that the snake spreads the word to not mess with the denizens of the ranch.

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  27. Wow! After I read the whole thing with my heart in my throat (yes, in spite of your disclaimer at the top!), I had to re-read it to get the facts without my head splitting. I am so glad you, Smooch, and Alex are OK. I thank you a million times for getting the rattlesnake vaccine for your babies (I know of situations where the vaccine wasn't given that ended tragically).

    With love,

    Marty in North Carolina

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  28. ohmygosh!!!! IMO Smooch earned a steak dinner......or 2 :)

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  29. Oh, so relieved that all ended well. Big hugs to Smooch and to you and Alex as well!!

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  30. That's too scary for me! So glad Smooch is recovering.

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  31. Oh, boy, well, kudos to you Carson for keeping it together during what must have been a terrifying moment. Now that the worst of it is over, hopefully, I hope you give Smooch a week or two or three of intensive spoiling. And the same for yourself, you certainly earned it.

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  32. How terrifying. Thank you for the spoiler at the start. I absolutely adore Smooch. I did not know snakebite vaccine was a thing (venomous snakes are not very common out here, though I've seen a couple rattlers in the last year). Our friend's dog was bitten by one on a walk in an apartment complex two years ago. Like Smooch, he didn't react to the bite. Thank goodness our friend spotted the snake and put two and two together when the swelling started. The dog made a full recovery, though there was a lot of scary swelling and dead tissue in the process. I hope Alex learned lessons watching all this unfold. The whole tale left my skin crawling. Smoochies for Smooch please!

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  33. So glad Smooch will recover, how scary. I have heard that giving Benadryl will help with the reaction. Still need the anti-venom though.
    Sue

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  34. Scary times and so thankful Smooch is ok.
    I’ve had two dogs bitten by copperheads at different times when we lived on our farm, so I can relate . Both of mine recovered, but it’s quite an experience to go through for all involved.
    Pat in east TN

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  35. Glad the Smooch is ok! So thankful we don't have rattlesnakes here, just garter snakes and I rarely see them.

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  36. Oh, poor darling Smooch. I'm happy she's home and doing well. What a horrible horrible night that must have been. I know you will be much more aware whenever you open your door now. I don't think I could be as kind as you when it comes to karma.

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  37. So happy to hear that Smooch is ok. You know I hate those snakes right?

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  38. I am so happy that everyone is well, and I am so happy that you provided the spoiler alert at the top of the tale. I still read with bated breath. I am glad to know that you are all well and that Smooch is on the mend. What a harrowing experience.

    Laurie in NB, Canada

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  39. Oh my. I’m so glad all turned out well. I’m also very happy to have had a post from you!

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  40. Yikeserooni!! So glad I read your Instagram post first! And of course you also took care of the snake!

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  41. In response to trying to catch/coral the dogs: This is a lesson learned which might help you in the future.
    I keep a couple dog leashes at my back door after an "incident" a few years ago.
    I have 2 horses. One time a gate was left open, and down the drive they went. I went after them, with nothing to lead them back with. Didn’t even think about running down to the barn first for lead ropes. All I could think about was that I had to get hold of them before they ran through a fence, got hit by a car, etc.
    Luckily they had halters on, but by the time I got hold of them, they were VERY wound up, prancing, throwing their heads around, etc. Bout ripped my arm out of the socket trying to hold onto them.
    After that, I decided to keep the leashes by the back door, so I won’t have to waste time running down to the barn to get lead ropes.
    I chose leashes because I can tuck them in a back pocket and the horse can’t see the leash. (If they see you coming at them with a lead rope in that situation, they will turn and run, not wanting to lose their freedom).
    Just a thought….
    So glad both dogs are OK!!!!

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  42. So glad Smooch is okay!

    This seems to be a bigger year for snakes than I've experienced yet in NM- but it's only my third summer here!I haven't seen any on our property yet (I think because we have so much shade) but the doggos have scared up three (1 coachwhip/red racer thingy, 1 rat snake, and 1 bull snake- so nothing venemous) hiking so far this summer.

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  43. So thankful you acted quickly and had vaccinated Smooch in advance of the snake bite. I think that this is my biggest fear of living so close to wilderness in New Mexico. Those rattler's like to curl up on a warm patio for the night and when I go out in the dark, well, you never know. After 13 1/2 years, you have been fortunate in your snake encounters.

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  44. Oh my goodness. My heart was racing reading this post even though I knew it had a happy ending. My summer has been chaotic and I have been out of the routine of checking for new blog posts. Please give that sweet girl of yours a scratch behind the ears for me.

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  45. I'm so glad that there was a happy ending! Scary all the same.

    I am also glad to read that you did release the culprit as it has a right to live in its environment too and was only trying to protect itself. That said, let's hope you don't have any other scary encounters like that. Living in Australia, with some of the deadliest snakes in the world, I have learned to have a cautious and healthy respect for them.

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  46. How are you and Smooch doing? Lynda in Michigan.

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    1. Smooch and I and all the animals here are doing great. Thanks for checking. Not sure why I've crawled back into my hermit hole. I'll climb back out eventually.

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    2. Glad to hear everyone is doing great. come back when you're ready.

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