All Right, Dogs. Lessons learned? Nope.

Shamus and Emmett are ExhaustedAfter posting about our frigid, 2-day dog search & rescue, which was frightfully taxing on both our dogs and on us, I received many comments assuming Shamus and Emmett must have learned a valuable lesson. For example, the well-meaning Karen Friesecke of DoggieStylish.com said:

After all that drama I’m sure that they will never stray from home again. Warm and safe at home with Mom and Dad is far more fun than alone and lost in the winter wilderness.

Karen’s sympathetic sentiment was echoed again and again by family and friends. I wish we could believe this were true, but it’s not.

Dogs, unlike humans, are so beautifully Zen-like that being “in the moment” is all they can do. With new proof-positive that my dogs have learned nothing, I share the following story because I do not recommend learning from experience.

AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION

Tim and ShamusTo curb future escapes for our dogs, who had leveraged record amounts of snow to jump  the fence, my husband and I chipped down through 2 1/2 feet of icy chunks, moving them 4 feet away from the inside, half-acre perimeter of the dog yard. It took two days. The work was so difficult and tedious, Tim’s shovel broke. But our dogs’ safety was most important, so he pressed on with a broken handle, uphill, in the snow. No. Really.

NO POUND OF CURE

No More Dog DoorWednesday, I walked our new moat with the dogs because we no longer let them in the fenced yard unsupervised, shoveled or not. (No more dog door.) Shamus, our Newfoundland, led the way, with our hound, Emmett, trailing just a little ways behind. Suddenly, Shamus jumped the fence from a near seated position on the ground without a thought or care in the world.

We are in big trouble.

Shamus now knows he can effortlessly jump from the baseline and he did so with no lingering memory of hunger, injury, exhaustion, or the sub-freezing temperatures sustained less than a week prior.

ACCIDENT PRONE HEROICS

Shamus, on his own, comes back. Emmett and Shamus together run to the ends of the earth. With the hardened snow pack, there would be no tracks for rescue this time. I had to catch Emmett before he went over too – and fast. He was doing his best to try. He hadn’t a care or memory in the world either.

I ran downhill to catch hold of Emmett’s collar. My body jerked backward, my arm suddenly behind me. I thought my sleeve had caught on the fence. When I looked back,  my right-hand ring finger was hooked on top of the chain link. When I pulled it off, an inch of skin was torn where my finger joins my hand up to the first knuckle. That flap was now folded open and up toward the tip.

To say I handle this kind of injury poorly is an understatement. I closed my eyes, folded the flap back into place and made the tightest fist of my life. I don’t imagine I was thinking or I would have lost consciousness. I dragged the hound uphill with my left hand. He dragged me back down. I gave another good, strong tug and we both trudged back up to the house, him whining all the way. It was no small miracle to be inside.

THE AFTERMATH

I opened my fist over the sink. Blood was everywhere. I rinsed, grabbed the kitchen towel and held on for pressure while dialing my husband. Through panicked breathing, I said:

I need you now.

As Tim rushed home from work, I poured hydrogen peroxide over the wound. SHIT. SHIT. SHIT that hurt. (I remember the swearing but, thankfully, not the pain.) My head started to swoon. I looked for something clean and white. Gauze adhesive with stiff, plastic backing. Good. I rolled it around my finger, gauze side to flesh, plastic backing working as a splint.

Tape? Where’s the tape? On the counter was Shamus’ vet wrap, prescribed as a self-adhesive Ace bandage for his swollen ankle. I wrapped it tight around the gauze, but not too tight. I feared the pain of having it pulled off. The vet said it shrinks over time.

I laid on the couch with the phone and raised my injured hand, fingers squeazing against one another with all the pressure I could exert. I dialed 911 before nearly throwing up and/or passing out, not from blood loss but – I’ll just say it – I am a complete wuss.

Catching my breath, I got up to crate Emmett before the paramedics came. That was smart. Then I ran in circles to the sun porch (calling  for Shamus), to the bathroom (for deodorant), to the office (for a waiting room book), to the living room (for my iPhone) and to the hall (collecting my coat, purse and scarf). I circled back for the house phone, now in the kitchen, and called my neighbor’s machine, asking her to look for Shamus.

These things were not so smart. If this happens to you, stay on the couch and breathe.

LESS THAN RED CARPET TREATMENT

The paramedics arrived first. The guys covered the couch to protect it from blood and asked to see the wound. When I handed the man my arm, the paw prints on the vet wrap were a total hit. I got high marks for my circulation-stopping dressing too. They decided not to unwrap it for fear it would do more damage. This was a total win for me. I was already deeply haunted by my earlier view.

The rest of the details are a bit unclear. Tim found Shamus in the driveway as he arrived and corralled him into the car. They beat the ambulance home. It arrived just after they pulled in. Good thing I called anyway. Tim could contain the animals and follow me to the hospital. I was escorted out the door by somebody, can’t remember who, while the ambulance driver tossed scoops of sand on the icy drive before my every step. The driver was a funny guy:

Sorry this isn’t a red carpet.

I get dirt. That I remember.

PEOPLE LESSONS LEARNED

One tetanus shot, nine stitches, and several strained tendons later, I can fully attest to the fact that our dogs have learned nothing from their adventure last week. Nor do they realize that hurting me limits my ability to walk them. They’re ramming me with their bodies and whining as I type.

We humans, on the other hand, have learned a couple of lessons:

  • Never make assumptions when it comes to your animal’s behavior. After 20 years at this house, we’ve never had a dog jump the fence and neither of us ever imagined this would happen twice within a week. Still, being there prevented another big search. And now, we’ll be researching the cost of a 6 or 8 foot fence to be installed once the ground thaws. Until then, Tim is leash walking the dogs, one at a time, while I recuperate.
  • This is a terrific reason to ensure your pet is spayed or neutered. Even responsible pet owners get outsmarted by escape artists. Be prepared. Thankfully, when our guys have sprung free, they haven’t spawned more shelter animals to be killed for lack of space. It’s just one more blessing to count beyond their recovery, good health and blissful forgetfulness.
  • Check your first aid kits. Vet wrap worked fine for me but other supplies were lacking. Our pet kit is better stocked than our own. We just remedied that.
  • Oh, and one last thing. I’ve learned that, Loritab, your are no longer my friend. You leave me sick and hung over without the party… except for those seals I dreamt were dancing in our driveway. That was fun. Maybe we can stay friends after all. For now, I prefer localized pain to a nauseous, full-body hangover.

Good night, all, and good luck. I’m ready to move far, far beyond this business and start sharing our awesome vacation – you know, the one I still wish I was on.

Comments

  1. Wow – what a week! It's funny because I had a weird sense of deja vu as I read your post.

    Unfortunately it doesn't surprise me that the dogs went over the fence again. They just didn't realize they could do it before. Now the whole big, wide world is out there for them to explore!

    Years ago, our neighbors had a large, male German Shepard who like to jump the fence too – right into our yard with two female dogs (Husky mix & Brittany Spaniel mix). They also had to put in a six foot fence to keep that from happening.

    It's amazing how your body kicks into overdrive when an emergency happens. The adrenaline starts flowing, and you do things without even thinking about them. Later you look back and think "Maybe that wasn't such a good idea."

    Anyway – rest up and get better. And no more adventures please!!!

    • You are absolutely right, Vicki.

      The fence was just a mental barrier that they’ve had the physical ability to jump for years. Not that we – or they – knew it. Now that their mental barrier has been broken, there is nothing keeping the dogs away from the big, bad and tantalizing world of turkeys, deer and rabbits – except the leash.

      And yes, adrenaline is a powerful chemical. Thankfully, it was already flowing before I got injured. I’m sure that’s why I didn’t feel it in the moment. Now it’s just numb due to nerve damage. It’s the area around it that’s tender to touch.

      I promise to keep the adventures at bay. I sure hope they cooperate. We just can’t take

  2. Oh Kim, not another bloody adventure (haha!) so soon after the last one. It looks like the 8 foot fence is inevitable. Glad to hear your finger is well enough to type with though. Or maybe you're doing the 9-finger technique? At least all bodies are home and accounted for.

    Take care xox

  3. We are so sorry for you!

    That doesn't sound like a very pleasant day at all, not a normal "dog walk" I'd want!

    I really hope you are feeling better, and don't decide to do this again…

    Rudy's Raiser

  4. You are so NOT a wuss for having that finger injury! Our hands have so many nerve endings that when a finger is damaged by a deep cut, your brain tells you to stop and slow dow AKA fainting. This happend to me a few times, once while getting my hand caught in the door of my truck and once while cutting wire with an exacto knife. It was very wise of you to lay down since bad cuts to fingers often lead to head injuries from fainting. So to all of you that are reading this comment. If you get a bad cut on your finger SIT DOWN ASAP!! More often than not, you will faint or come very close to fainting and nobody wants a concussion on top of stitches to an injured fingie :O

    Sorry about your crummy week 🙁 I guess that the Spring will bring a brand new fence so that the dogs can't get out. *sigh*

    • Just wrote this on Facebook before reading what you wrote:

      "Nearly threw up a thousand times trying to untangle individual strands from a big lump of gauze wrapped in figure-eights around nine nylon sutures. Cutting and tweezing left handed through tears – not recommended."

      Nice to get some validation after 20 minutes of what felt like self-torture. Thank you, Karen.

      For what it's worth, I've passed out when somebody else sprained an ankle. I truly am wuss. LOL.

  5. I agree with Karen. You are not a wuss! You and Tim have had a very rough week and in need of another vacation – I suggest waiting until after the 6-8 foot fence is installed.

    BTW – loved your description of what you did while waiting for the paramedics to arrive. I would have been doing the same thing. I hope you heal quickly. So sorry it's been a rough week Kim.

    • Maybe we all need a vacation from each other. Lots of doubt and guilt and blame going around. Right now, I blame Shamus for not understanding the consequences of his actions and then hogging the bed besides. I blame myself for allowing a student to do my sutures only to have him tangle me up in thread. I feel the sting of being useless these days, leaving everything to my husband. I feel I need to lay low and recuperate so as not to be a burden on him, although I suck at not helping. My husband, I know, is going through a ton of doubt about having to leave again, about my capabilities – or lack there-of. The tension is palpable. And tonight, I'm just plain pissed because this happened and I can't sleep and I'm in pain, the pain meds make me sick, Ibuprofen isn't enough, and it takes me forever to type so I'm way behind in work yet I'm plugging away at the keys here, one at a time, because I need to just get this out, and, and, and…

      I really just want to go to bed.

  6. Hi! I found you on the Saturday Pet Blogger Hop. That injury sounds pretty terrible! I'll take your advice and stock up on first aid supplies. I hope you feel better soon!

    • Excellent news, Oscar. If you restock your first aid kit, I swear I'll feel like maybe this was all worth writing about. Thank you so much for dropping (hopping) by, and for your comment as well. Let's meet again next week – under better circumstances!

  7. Jeez – sounds like one hellish nightmare your family has been through. I could feel my arm wrench when you described the beginning of what happened. Hope the pain is not so acute now. Dogs do not know what is good for them, only what's fun or what might taste good in that moment. It is surprising when you see their "otherness" take over, and our comfortable sense of knowing them, having a relationship with them, is clearly not what we thought it was – does not cover all parts of them, and that we have assumed too much. As you can tell, I've had my own experience that made me conscious of a dimension of my dog's being that I had put in the wrong context. I had not acknowledged that "otherness". 8 ft fence sounds good – a friend's 60# pitbull could climb up a flat board 6 foot fence to race down the alley…she was a runner, that dog. Feel better – fast:)

    • Thanks, Mary. I'm feeling worse before it gets better, it seems.

      As for otherness, I find your comments very interesting. As a child, until I was about 12, I lived in a place where many pets ran free (and most were spayed and neutered – believe it or not). All the neighbors knew everybody's animals and we all offered treats and pats when each one made the rounds.

      Our dogs were no different. Everybody knew them, loved them, and they didn't ever feel like they "belonged to us" as much as they had their own lives to live. We were their friends, their providers, their shelter and safety, but they had social lives that grew beyond knowing us.

      My husband never had that. I see otherness in our animals that I don't think he does. I understand their drives when they go. He is more often dejected at the fact that they left. For him it's personal. For me, it's that they are inherently dogs. This is what they do.

      And then, there are times – like now – when my own irrational "Why me?" comes into play. Why can't the dogs understand, curb behavior, respect what they have – or me? Why must they escape on my watch more-so than on Tim's, making me appear to be the one out of control? It's ridiculous, I know. And I'll get over it soon. I just have to remember – "otherness."

  8. WOW…what a story. What we do for our dogs, pain or not, is not unlike our instincts to save our kids. Isn't that a wonderful feeling? Pat yourself on the back. Glad to see you have implemented proactive measures. You dogs are quite the Houdinis, just like my Tanner. He would have unlatched the gate and let himself out!

    Get well soon. Hopefully you get out of doing dishes for while, huh?!

    • Haha! Well, there are no kids here. The animals are our preference at this stage in life, so yes, we treat them like our kin. 🙂

      Houdini, indeed. Your dogs do sound like ours! Last summer, ours learned how to unwind the chain link and unraveled it just enough to get under. When our neighbor, a builder, wired it up, Emmett rammed against it three or four times, loosened our neighbor's handy work, and got under again. No patchwork allowed. We had to buy a whole new section of fence.

      As for those dishes, I can do just about anything one handed, but the glasses. Sick, right?

  9. You are allowed to be upset and irrational. You're in pain and had a horrible week. But as a wise woman told me when I was having one of my frequent guilt attacks "Start from where you are." Or, as Bob Dylan put it, "Don't look back."

    Now take care of yourself, y'hear. And stop beating yourself up!

    • Great reminder. Might be time to bring the book Start Where You Are – A Guide to Compassionate Living, by Pema Chödrön, back to the nightstand. It's a favorite book of mine. Have you read it?

      • I have not read Start Where You Are — didn't even know that it existed! Clearly a book for me to get hold of. Maybe there's a books on tape/CD version that I can play while I'm sleeping and try to let seep into my unconscious!

  10. First-time blog hopper and first time visitor to ThisOneWildLife. Great post (so great that I think I might puke). 🙂 Looking forward to getting to know your crew better.

  11. When we lived near Denver several years back, I remember watching Toby walk over the fence after a 4-foot snowfall. Fortunately, he's not a jumper. If Sage had been around, she'd have done the same as your two. So I know your concerns. What you went through was awful, painful and downright scary. Glad you are getting better–I hope your finger/hand heal well. We'll be thinking about you!

    Sage's Mom

    • I'm hearing more and more about escapes this year. Crazy snowfall amounts, to be sure. As if removal wasn't enough to think about, right? Thanks for your kind words. They truly help.

  12. Wow! You've had a week and then some! I hope you are feeling better soon, and please don't beat yourself up! I think you handled the situation admirably! Not only did you take care of your dogs, but you took care of yourself and did all the right things. I'm no good at the sight of blood either, especially my own! Let's hope spring comes early for you so you can get the fence up and stop having to worry about your escape artists!

    • Aw. Thanks. As much as spring brings a new fence, that doesn't make me dread mud season any less. Now that Tim bought a snowblower yesterday, I'm almost prepared for winter to remain just to avoid that dread alone. 🙂

  13. I guess their experience with the whole ordeal the first time around was quite different from yours. Wow, I can see how worried you'd be.

    Ever considered the GPS tracker thingy?

    Also it seems that using a dog to look for a dog works well (read a great story on that)

    We live in the city so we are more careful than we would be if we lived in a rural area. Also never had that much snow and our guys go into the yard only to potty, supervised.

    One great thing about our guys, I doubt they'd take off. They seem to have an 'invisible leash'. They don't like to get past certain distance away from us. Not even when they have an open land and all the opportunity. They're both fixed though. (still don't understand why it's called that)

    • We looked into GPS about six months ago, finding only collars that had antennas and 8 hour batteries with the need for collar removal to recharge. That didn't work for us. Looking this week, we see many companies have removed the antenna and now batteries last 24 hours with no need for collar removal to recharge. Sadly, these companies only run on T-mobile, which isn't available in our area.

      As for the way dogs run, a former breeder was at the house yesterday. She said lab type dogs do something called quartering. They circle back while learning an area and then expand that area in the next loop until they are fully familiar with their territory. Hounds are the opposite. They simply run after tracks and, in the south, where Beagles are often used to hunt, the culture has developed around the breed's behavior. Folks use something called beagle boxes at the side of the road. When a beagle is found, they get put in the box and the owner is called with the box location and ID number to pick up the dog.

      • Glad you found some better GPS products! Wow, I'm very glad that our guys don't have these urges. They are not happy if they don't know where we are and what we're doing. So they make sure they stay close enough to keep an eye on everybody.

  14. Your accident had me gaping the whole time as I read on.. Quick thinking on your part, hope you're better! Sharing some loving your way at http://www.naturalk9supplies.com/

  15. Oh, Kim! You have just had far too much excitement lately. I'm sorry to hear about your hand – I hope that you are on the mend and feeling better soon… and that things calm down some!

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