Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dog Days of August

(Courtesy of Tom Warner)

It was the kind of 100% humidity August afternoon in Michigan  that made you wish it would rain just so you'd have an excuse for being drenched.  A sweltering, heavy, breeze less day that made even the thought of being outdoors, much less any exertion, exhausting. I was thankful to be returning from lunch to the relative comfort of an air conditioned office when I heard the ear-splitting cry of an animal in distress.

The clinic is rural, with a big circular driveway in front and about a 30-50 foot swath of mowed lawn on the sides and back. Immediately beyond this bit of tended green is taller grass and brush and the occasional tree which abuts, on one side, a large vegetable garden in the summer. On this late summer day the garden was well on its way to harvest, and I suspect it was an attempt to protect the produce which led to one of the most horrific scenes I've ever happened upon.

Dropping my keys and purse on the porch I followed the screaming around the corner of the clinic and into the brush to find a beagle with her head down a groundhog hole. I thought perhaps she'd tangled with the occupant but found it odd that she was crying so but not trying to back pedal. It's for good reason beagles are known for their keenness of nose rather than mind, but even a beagle should have elected retreat at that point. Except she couldn't retreat, because rather than a groundhog on her snout, the steel jaws of an illegally placed Conibear trap had closed on her head.

By that time my receptionist was also back from lunch. Neither of us was familiar with the release mechanism, (see above link), but we had a plan to save the little tri-colored stray. I grabbed emergency supplies and anesthetic while she started phoning for help. She knew the neighbor with the garden and didn't spare his feelings telling him what had happened and that if he or his son had anything to do with it to get over immediately. (I should note here that she doesn't share my aversion to profanity-laced tirades.) Within minutes we had pain medications and a light sedative on board and her head free. Amazingly, the jaws had closed at such an angle on her skull that her airway and other vital structures were spared. The other big concerns were dehydration and hyperthermia. With her head down a hole in a sunny field on such a hot day she was unable to cool herself by panting and her panicked struggling had only added to her distress.

(Courtesy of VanEton Galleries)
Hoping for the best, I carried her into the clinic and began supportive treatment. I placed an intravenous catheter, started fluids and steroids and watched her...getting better by the minute.

Not only had she survived wandering off from wherever she came from, which very likely included a jaunt across a busy Michigan Highway, and a steel trap closing on her head, but an hour after finding her, she was lapping a small drink of water and wagging her tail. We suspected she was a refugee from a kennel with too many dogs and not enough food. With little discussion, we implemented the veterinary version of don't ask, don't tell and, with a healthy dollop of serendipity, had her placed in a foster home by 4:30.

Except she didn't stay there either...

(To be continued.)

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