The Good, the Dead & the Bloody: Today’s Walk

Today, Betsy and I decided to go to the pond (the happiest doggy place on earth). The plan was for me to walk Barnum, now that my powerchair was fixed, and Betsy would ride her bike.

Barnum performed excellently for most of the walk, remembering to keep the leash loose, even though we were going in a different direction than he’s used to. Lots of exciting smells and sights — a swamp, cars, etc. The only problem was if Betsy rode ahead, he got upset and whined. He does not like the pack to be separated!

However, often I could see him start to move ahead, and then he’d remember that he was about to tighten the leash, and he would stop or come back, so that it did not tighten, and he stayed in position. I could see him thinking, which was wonderful. Nothing thrills me more than seeing a dog think — especially this dog!

The mosquitoes were really getting vicious, so I decided to go faster to see if we could lose them. Usually, speeding up is too exciting for Barnum and causes him to lose focus, resulting in pulling. However, today, after a few reminders (going backward when the leash tightened), he actually did quite well going at high speed without pulling.

It really helped that we have discovered a new treat: mozzarella cheese. It is cheaper and less messy than the cheddar we’d used in the past, and Barnum is wild about it. This came in particularly handy when my chair completely died about a half-of-a-mile from my house. Yeah. Again. Dead chair. Pfft.

AUGH! That was “the dead.”

I unlocked the wheels. Betsy pushed me out of the street to the side of the road, then biked back home to get my van. Barnum and I practiced lots of basic behaviors, which he did with tremendous zeal (thanks to the mozzarella) and despite the swarms of mosquitoes, distracting new environment, and his desire to get going! We also had an opportunity to play Look at That! Whenever a car went by.

I was pleased, proud, and impressed with him. That was “the good.”

Betsy and I were both tired. She’d had to do lots of extra biking to deal with our slow, erratic pace, and then haul ass back to the van up a steep hill. She didn’t bring her bike back because it would have been difficult to fit in the chair and dog and bike. Her plan was to just take us all home.

I, however, felt bad that Barnum was not getting a chance to run around off-leash at the pond, so I asked if we could go to the pond, and I’d just stay in the car, and she could do just a short walk with him there. So, off we went. I asked, “Do you want to go to the POND?”

And he whipped around and stared at me with his ears all perked up, and his eyebrows raised, and his nose about half-an-inch from mine, and then he leaned toward the dashboard, as if that would get us there faster. He only whined very quietly, twice, on our way there. This is a huge improvement from when he used to jump and bounce and whine with excitement about going to the P-O-N-D.

When we arrived, he did a very nice sit-stay before unloading, and while he did not sit immediately when I asked him after he jumped out, he didn’t pull, and he did sit after three or four seconds, which is loads better than he ever did before. I c/t and he stood. I asked for a sit again, which he did, asked him to stay, took off his leash, asked for eye contact, and released him. He was perfect!

Betsy and Barnum went off down the trail and I settled in to listen to the pledge drive for our local NPR station. (I actually enjoy their pledge drives more than most of the programming; I know, I’m very strange.)

A car pulled in next to me which had a beautiful great Pyrenees in the back. The person seemed to be waiting, as did the dog.

Eventually she got out, and we recognized each other. She farms nearby. We chatted about our dogs. Hers is a stray she recently adopted, apparently a great Pyr/Maremma mix.

He was absolutely gorgeous, with such a friendly face and softly waving tail. He seemed the picture of mellow doggy pleasantness, which just shows you that 1. looks can be deceiving, and 2. that I need to relinquish my foolish habitual assumption that a dog that appears friendly in the moment is an entirely safe dog.

At any rate, she said she had a friend coming who had several dogs who do all sorts of dog sports and such, and they were helping her dog learn. That all sounded terrific, I thought, and was wondering how I could hook up with her friend for more doggy community.

Her friend drove up. Three mixed-breed dogs of various sizes came pelting out, and all the dogs romped happily together. I hoped that Barnum would behave well with all these dogs and not refuse to come back because he wanted to play.

My thoughts always go first to my dog’s behavior.

Next thing I knew, I heard a lot of serious barking. It sounded like one dog barking a lot, and I didn’t think it sounded like Barnum, but I wasn’t sure. He’s usually very good with other dogs, ranging from excellent to overexuberantly obnoxious, but never aggressive. However, he has barked at people a couple of times in the past (though not in several months), so I was concerned. I was also worried about the possibility that he was on the receiving end of the barking.

I got out of the van and called, and Barnum came running. He accepted some treats and then ran partway back, where Betsy appeared, to play with a smallish dog (about 30 pounds)  that looked a bit like a fox. Betsy walked toward me, Barnum and his friend bowed and bounced and chased — in Betsy’s direction.

The small dog slammed its  entire body sideways into Betsy’s knee, hyperextending it. This is the same knee that was injured (by hyperextension) last winter, preventing her from being able to do most of her preferred outdoor activities last summer. Quite reasonably, Betsy landed on the ground and cried.

I was sitting on the ground with her, asking her about her knee and about what the barking had been about. She said the white dog had been barking at Barnum and gone after him, and that Barnum had cowered and run away. I was concerned about Betsy’s misery over her knee, but glad that Barnum had not acted inappropriately. It didn’t seem like him to run and cower, but he is a lover, not a fighter.

The little red dog’s person showed up and called her. The person didn’t seem at all concerned that Betsy and I were sitting on the ground, and that Betsy was distressed.

We got into the van and went home. Betsy hobbled inside to get my other powerchair, since we’d decided to leave the dead one in the van. Once inside, I took off Barnum’s hunter orange vest (we heard a gunshot just before we left home, even though it isn’t hunting season) and leash, my shoes and socks. Barnum went to his favorite dog bed, by the window, and collapsed. That’s when I saw the droplets of blood on the floor.

Betsy hobbled by to avail herself of a package of frozen peas and said, “He’s injured. There’s blood on the floor.”

I told her that I knew and as soon as I’d put on my slippers, I’d assess the situation. There was a huge smear of blood on the window now. This explained the hiding and cowering!

I didn’t think it was his paws because of the location and shape of the blood drops and smears. I put my hands on either side of his mouth, and one came away clean (okay, it was slimy but not bloody) and the other came away bloody. I was about to open his mouth to check his lips, gums, and teeth, when Betsy said, “I think it’s his ear.”

She was right. Apparently, the great Pyr had bitten Barnum’s ear, though it took me a long time to figure out what the damage was, because of all the fur and blood. I know from a previous incident (when I nicked Gadget’s ear with the clippers, and it bled for almost a day!) that ears are very vascular and bleed profusely, which makes injuries there difficult to assess. I called the ER and they told me what would necessitate a visit. I went back to investigate more. (Thick, black fur and dark red blood on Barnum’s body part that he least likes having handled made for a difficult cleanup and assessment.)

At first I thought it was bitten through, and that I’d have to take  him to the ER — Betsy and I really did not want to have to do that — but when my PCA came tonight, she got me stuff to clean the blood off more thoroughly and then fed Barnum hot dog pieces while I trimmed the fur and cleaned the area. It seems to be a simple laceration on the outer flap of the ear. I think I cleaned it reasonably well. Once it forms a scab, I’ll try to clean more hair out of it. I don’t anticipate needing to go to the vet unless it gets infected.

Unfortunately, I don’t know the last name of the friend whose dog bit Barnum, and we know nothing about her friend, whose dog knocked Betsy over. (If I had a dollar for every story I’ve heard about dogs playing who knocked someone over! It’s a well-known dog park hazard! Makes me glad I’m seated!)

While we were attending to Barnum’s ear, my PCA said, “Wow, what a difference!” I didn’t know what she was referring to.

She said, “He’s licking my hands! Before, if you offered him a treat, he was like, “Oh, okay, if you want. . .’.”

I’m very tired, and I feel bad for Barnum’s ear and worse for Betsy’s knee, but very pleased with my little dude who is growing into such a nice, well-behaved dog. Now I want to find a friendly dog — preferably a few — whom he doesn’t know so this doesn’t become a reactive issue due to a single-event trauma. I don’t think it will, because he just loves other dogs so much (he was playing with another dog right after it happened), but you never know when a phobia will blossom. Better to take preventative action.

-Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, very likely SDiT material

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6 Responses to “The Good, the Dead & the Bloody: Today’s Walk”


  1. 1 Courtenay June 13, 2011 at 12:52 am

    Ear lacerations do bleed. a ton. 😦
    I’m so sorry to hear of all the bad stuff, but SO thrilled with Barnum’s reactions!
    Hydrogen peroxide, while not ideal for tissue-healing, is great for cleaning blood off dark fur to discover where the bleeding is coming from. Sounds like he’s cleaned up though.
    Some kind of fabric wrap or tensor-type bandage around the head to hold his ear to his head can help it clot and heal, if he’s shaking and re-opening it. Ear injuries are never fun, I hope his is uneventful and you don’t end up at the clinic!
    I also hope Betsy and your chair can recover as well! You have the worst powerchair luck I’ve ever heard of!
    Do you have an animal control or bylaw office that you can report the event to?

  2. 2 Sharon Wachsler June 13, 2011 at 1:48 am

    This is not nearly as bad as when I nicked Gadget’s ear. I had to make an elaborate bandage of a sock tied around his head to keep the ear up and clean and from dripping everywhere. He looked so silly — a big sock-bow on top of his head!

    Barnum’s has clotted just fine, and he’s not shaking his head and spraying blood everywhere, like Gadget did. I thought about HP, because I use it for everything, especially wound-cleaning, but I thought it would probably sting and he’d shake it everywhere, so I went with alcohol wipes. I might still use the HP, since you suggested it, because there is still lots of clotted blood crusting up the fur.

    I put out the word on our town list to try to find this person’s phone number. I just want her to know it happened, because none of us knew at the time, and it’s good information for her to have in terms of training. A scrap without an injury is different than one with an injury (though a very minor injury.) In the unlikely event we have to go to the vet for this, I’ll ask her to pay for it.

    However, this is a young dog, was a stray that she recently adopted, and she is trying to train him, so I don’t want to make trouble for her. She knows I trained Gadget and am training Barnum, so hopefully if her friend can’t help her rehab this guy, she’ll ask me for resources or take him to a local R+ trainer. I’ve also learned that intact males sometimes are aggressive to neutered males, and this is the 2nd incident in the past week of that, so I’m going to suggest to her that she get him neutered sooner than later.

    Yeah, poor Betsy. She has had so many injuries — to the same knee and ankle, again and again. It’s very discouraging.

    And my chair. Lord. I don’t even know what to say about that. I’ve developed this kind of resigned numbness, although I really do want to get OUT. I want to be able to WALK MY DOG. That’s why I got this chair. Argh!

  3. 3 Karyn June 13, 2011 at 10:41 am

    I am so sorry abt Barnum. I am however so proud of him! What a trooper to get bit and walk away to play again.
    What can I say abt your power chair accept that this guy needs to get it already- one of these days one of the chairs he has rebuilt or built is going to cause an injury accident (hopefully not fatal) and he will be responsible! I am so so glad I did not try and get anything through him- that I stuck it out and found a reliable backup. About right now I’d be demanding at least a partial refund. You’ve only had that thing about a year and its been down more than up. There are wheelchair lemon laws- not sure how they apply with this type of chair but they DO EXIST and for this reason.
    That chair is worse than my P300 was when I first got it and lets just say it was pretty bad! I threatened to have it declared a lemon and get their ability to sell it shut down. At that point they rebuilt it- It still had probs for a couple more years but not as bad as initial.
    Betsy’s knee sounds very painful. Before Taurine I could see Thane as a dog that would knock into people in play- I mean he knocked himself into the walls HARD! Its amazing what Taurine has done for us. Thane is a very different dog off work versus on. I certainly would not cut him loose like that around standing people in a hyper mode though either.
    Barnum is just making me P-R-O-U-D!

  4. 4 brilliantmindbrokenbody June 13, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    Goodness, that sounds like a rough day for your pack!

    As far as ear-cleaning, if it doesn’t chemically bother you, you might want to think about some Bactine. It’s got a touch of lidocaine in it, so it doesn’t sting when used. Our service dog school recommends it. Hudson has calmed down about injuries significantly after we applied it (the worst one being the time I nicked his bum with my clippers. There isn’t much that makes you feel worse than nicking a dog who is already upset by the clippers!)

    I hope Betsy recovers quickly and that Barnum’s ear heals (almost typed heels, hehe) soon.

    ~Kali

  5. 5 brilliantmindbrokenbody June 13, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    er, that should have read, “as far as wound cleaning” not ear cleaning! Shouldn’t be cleaning the ears out with Bactine. Man, I am more tired than I thought.

  6. 6 Sharon Wachsler June 13, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    LOL. Me, too. I just posted a very sarcastic blog — the kind of thing I write when I’m tired and losing it. . . .


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