happy Cara

I got home from work yesterday, pulled into the driveway, opened the garage door, and Diezel popped out from under the door as usual to greet me.  But as I pulled in and closed the garage door, Cara, who’s usually right behind her big brother, didn’t show up.  Occasionally, I can sneak in through the garage without Diezel hearing me if he’s hanging out in the back yard, but this had never happened with Cara before.

I went into the house and poked my head out the back door.  It was pitch black out already.  I whistled, but no Cara.

I thought maybe she had snuck out the garage door without me noticing and gotten stuck outside, so I stuck my head out the front door and whistled.  Nothing.  Diezel and I walked across the front of the house, checking the front yard gate, which was closed, and the neighbor’s yard, which Cara investigates whenever she has a chance.  No Cara.

I went back into the house, and she still wasn’t anywhere to be seen.  I started looking through the house, and headed upstairs.  Cara was standing at the top of the stairs, and she was completely covered in mud.  I thought she and Diezel had been wrestling in the back yard, since he often rolls her on her back when they are playing and gets her flithy.

I tried to get her to come downstairs with me, but she was hesitant to move.  It looked like she didn’t want to put any weight on her front left leg.  Now I figured Diezel had been playing too rough and she had pulled a muscle or something like that.  I flipped on the light in the stairwell to get a better look at her front leg.

That’s when I noticed the blood.

She had a huge gash in her left thigh.  I starting thinking about how she could have gotten hurt in our yard, and realized that the pit bull who lives in the house behind us must have gotten to her somehow.  He tends to bark and growl aggressively when we are in the back yard, and he throws his entire body against the panel fence when we are back there.  He’s always worried T and I.  To make things worse, he likes to dig holes from his side of the fence, and Cara likes to dig from our side.  There had been a hole he could get his whole head through when we moved in, so I had laid down a couple of long 2×6 planks to block him from our side.  But it’s been a few weeks since T and I have checked on the yard to see if there are any new holes.

At this point, I grabbed my phone and called T.  He knew where there was a vet clinic nearby, and since he was just getting off work, he said he would meet me there.

Now to get Cara down the stairs.  I tried to lift her with both arms under her, and she whined.  This is a dog who nearly ripped off her dew claw and simply walked up to me and offered me her back foot without a sound, so when she whines we take it very seriously.  I tried to get her to walk down the stairs, but that was obviously too painful.  When I took another look, I could see a bad cut on the inside of her leg, too.  I felt around on her belly, but it didn’t seem like she had any bites there.  So I hooked one arm under her and one arm around her chest.  This didn’t seem to hurt her, so I got her down the stairs.

She limped to the car, and then despite Diezel wanting to come with us and the awkwardness of trying to get a 70-lb god lifted into the back seat of a small car, I got her loaded up and Diezel back in the house.  I peeked into the back yard, but it looked like all of the fence panels were in place.  I left Diezel at home and headed for the vet.

As I walked into the vet’s office, I saw the tech behind the counter disappear into the back room.  The place was deserted.  I was shaking from adrenaline, and very worried about Cara.  The few minutes I had to wait for someone to come out felt like forever.  Eventually, a tiny blonde came out of the back office, and I told her I thought my dog had been bitten and I needed help getting her out of the car.  The blonde tech, who couldn’t have been more than 4’10”, started out to the car on her own, until I mentioned that Cara weighed about 70 lbs.  She went and got a rolling table and another female tech to help.

It was awkward, but they used the blanket she was laying on as a sling and got her out of the car and onto the table, with a muzzle on her for good measure.  They wheeled her in back, and showed me into an exam room to wait.

The vet came out fairly quickly, and reported that she had several bad puncture wounds on her back leg.  He talked a little about what they might need to do, and then headed back to clean her up a little more.  I remembered thinking that her front leg was hurt too, and mentioned it to him to he could check that out as well.  I waited on my own for a little while, texting T to update him on what was going on.  They walked Cara out to weigh her, to make sure they gave her the right dosage of meds, and that’s about when T got to the clinic.  They took her back to keep working on her, and he sat in the exam room with me while I gave him all the details I could.

After a few more minutes, the vet came back in with Cara and showed us what they had found.  She had a U-shaped bite mark on the outside of her left thigh, a gash on the inside, two slices on her belly, and a puncture on the inside of her front leg.  The gashes were actually deeply torn flaps of skin.  There was still a lot of hair and grit in the wounds.  If she were a few pounds thinner, he said he might be worried about an abdominal puncture, but she was just plump enough he didn’t think there was any way another dog could have gotten its teeth in that deep.  For once, being bad dog parents was a good thing. 

The vet said he could stitch her up at this point, but if the skin had been pulled away from the muscle during the fight, it would be damaged underneath, and might slough off in a few days, requiring more surgery and stitches.  He asked if we were comfortable taking her home, debrading the wounds ourself and keeping an eye on her overnight, and then bringing her back in the next day when we had a better idea of her injuries and how they were going to start to heal.  Since T was a firefighter and has EMT experience, he said he’d be comfortable doing that.

I knelt down to pet Cara, and saw just how dilated her pupils were — she was completely stoned from the pain meds they’d given her.  She was weaving a little bit while just standing there, and mostly staring off into space.  At one point, she peed and pooped a little, and we’re not even sure she knew what she was doing.

The doctor sent us home with both pain meds and antibiotics, some surgical brushes for scrubbing out the wound, a Lidocaine patch, a muzzle, and lots of instructions about what to do for her overnight.  Surprisingly, the bill was only a few hundred dollars, but we knew there’d be more the next day.  We got her into the car and got her home.  I grabbed a towel and got her to lay down on her dog bed in the corner.

It was already 8 pm by this time, well past Diezel’s dinner time.  I gave him some food and his nightly bone.  I knew Cara was out of it when he ate his bone inches from her bed and she didn’t budge.  I thought I would try getting the prescription meds into her, as instructed, and got her favorite food in the whole world: string cheese.  A few months back, I picked up some string cheese, and the second I opened the wrapper she was all over me.  I then remembered that four years earlier, this had been the training treat during the obediance class she took at the shelter I adopted her from.  She hadn’t seen or heard string cheese since, but she knew exactly what it was.  It’s been our go-to pill delivery system ever since.

I put the string right cheese next to her nose.  She didn’t even move.  Now I was kinda worried, but I set the pills aside for the moment.

T investigated the back yard, and found that the fence was all intact, but there was blood all over our side of the yard, our gate wasn’t latched quite properly, and there was new wood blocking the hole I had laid the boards in front of, with the oatch work done on the far side of the fence.  He went to talk to the neighbord, but they spoke mostly Spanish.  He was able to understand it was a cousin’s dog, but the cousin wasn’t home.  He let them know he would be back until he could speak to the dog’s owner.  And the dog was nowhere to be seen.

T came back in, and then while I changed into bath-friendly clothes he got the pills into her, using a little butter to slick them up and get them down her throat, which is our other pill delivery technique.  She was so doped up, I had to help hold her head up while we gave her the pills.  We decided to wait an hour for the second pain pill to kick in before we cleaned her up.

snuggling with Dad on a good day

Since she was already laying on a towel, T and I used it as a sling to get Cara up the stairs.  He had already started running the bath, and we laid her in a few inches of warm water, towel and all.  We washed all the sand and dirt off her, and he literally scrubbed her wounds clean with a plastic-bristled brush that surgeons use to scrub in for surgery.  We had the muzzle on her, just in case, but all she did was whine a little bit, and even that she only did when he was really getting into the wound flaps.  He had to trim the hair away from the edges, using a combination of a clipper and his moustache scissors.  I mostly just held her head, so that she could essentially lay on her side without having her face underwater.  He kept telling her over and over what a good girl she was, how tough she was, and how impressed he was with her.  He’s had road rash wounds debraded, and knows exactly how much the process hurts.  Then we drained the brown water and ran clean water over her wounds to flush them out.  She probably whined more at this point than she did during the scrubbing.

We got her out of the tub on her now-soaked towel sling, and swabbed her dry as best we could.  Then we put on the Lidocaine patch.  She immediately started whining and shaking.  T let me know that unbuffered Lidocaine burns like hell for the first several minutes, so we covered her in a dry towel to keep her warm and waited for the Lidocaine to stop burning and kick in.  Once she seemed a little better, we used the towel sling to get her back downstairs and onto her bed.  She was still whining just under her breath, so we checked with the vet (he had given us his personal cell to call him at home, which was awesome of him) and added some Neosporin with a topical painkiller to her cuts.  It actually seemed to help, since she stopped whining almost right away.  After that she dozed off.

Then the doorbell rang.  It was the owner of the pitbull.  His English wasn’t great, but it was a lot better than our Spanish.  He explained that his wife had called him at work and said his dog was in their yard and hurt.  His boss gave him a few hours off, and he came home to find his dog with cuts on his head and neck and ear.  He immediately came over to talk to us, around 4 pm, but neither of us was home yet.  He also patched the hole under the fence at that point.  He knew that his dog sometimes fights with other dogs, even though the dog is good with people and is trusted around the owner’s small children.  He offered us antibiotics and pain medication that he had left over from when his dog got in a previous fight.  We let him know we had already been to the vet.  Since we couldn’t prove which dog started it, both dogs had injuries, and we both knew about the possible hole but hadn’t fixed it, T and I decided it wasn’t worth it to try and file a report or to go after him for the cost of the vet bills.  Even our neighbor’s homeowner’s insurance probably wouldn’t cover the cousin, and we didn’t think they were well enough off to be able to cover the vet bill out of pocket any better than us.  T thanked him for coming over, and we agreed to both keep a closer eye on the fence from now on.

T slept on the couch to keep an eye on Cara during the night, especially in case she needed to go potty.  We also didn’t have a cone on her, so he was making sure she didn’t lick her wounds.  He woke me up when he needed to get in the shower and go to work.  I had already called into work the night before, because I needed to get her back to the vet midday so he could assess her condition and actually stitch her up.  T managed to get her to take some water and dog jerky, and also got her to pee, before I got up.  She was walking around okay, and was much more alert than the night before.   She was extremely lovey and just wanted to be snuggled and pet constantly.  Once T left for work, I gave her her pills.  I also got her into a cone, which she isn’t crazy about, but she’s gotten used to it.  I got her to drink some water, and then she tipped over the whole bowl with the edge of the cone.  *headshake*  I should have seen that coming.  She also investigated the yard for about 20 minutes, walking around just fine once she got the stiffness out.

And that’s been my day, babysitting my injured dog.  It could have been much worse, and I am greatful that it was “only a flesh wound,” for real.  I know that we joke about the dogs being our substitute children, but they really are important members of the family.  They are actually the reason that T and I met.  So we would have been devastated if something had happened to her.

Now back to the vet this afternoon, for sutures or staples.  Keep your fingers crossed!