There seem to be Murphy’s Laws that apply specifically to dogs. One is that if your dog is going to become ill or have some sort of accident, it’ll happen on a weekend or holiday when your vet is closed. Another is that bad things may happen to your dog when you’re away from home. For years, I dreaded going off to teach a seminar when Mojo was in his older years, because more often that not, it seemed some emergency would take place while I was gone. Fortunately, my husband had been home to care for him, but still—I developed an almost superstitious dread of leaving town.
Yesterday was the first time I’ve had to get on a plane since we adopted Sierra. The thought crossed my mind that I hoped she’d be okay, but she’s a young, healthy dog so I dismissed the worry….that is, until I spoke to my husband on the phone last night. Any conversation that starts with, “We had a little excitement around here today,” does not bode well. After my panicked questions about whether he and Sierra were okay, he told me what had happened.
First I should explain that in back of our house sit a few storage sheds, plus an area of wooden pallets with plywood tops that had been erected to cover an area prone to getting muddy during storms. The storage shed and the pallets seem to serve as vacation homes for a variety of creatures, from rodents to squirrels, and, most recently, a family of bunnies. Sierra, being the hunter that she is, races out the dog door and over to the wooden pallets on a regular basis, sticking her nose under the wood to sniff for bunnies. It’s a constant source of interest and entertainment for her.
Yesterday my husband had gone out back, and Sierra had raced out ahead of him. She ran over to the wooden pallets, stuck her nose down low—and jumped backward five feet! My husband went over to see what had scared her, and when he approached the pallets, he heard that distinctive rattle you never forget once you’ve seen what’s attached to it. He raced over to Sierra to see whether she’d been bitten. Her heart was pounding hard and fast. He put her back in the house and fetched the snake tongs we’d purchased a few years before. As it turned out, he had to unscrew the plywood from the tops of three of the four panels before he could locate the snake. It was a nerve-wracking process, as you might imagine. But he tonged the snake, and placed him in the recycling bin we use for these occasions. He then called Hugo, our local friendly snake lover who picks the rattlesnakes up and sets them free in non-populated areas.
Sitting in my St. Louis hotel room, just hearing about the incident got my heart racing. I’ve had to tong rattlesnakes before (the first had gotten in the pen with Phantom, my last remaining wolf, a few years ago), and it’s a frightening experience. But more so, I thought of how much worse it could have been for Sierra. Ironically, we’ve been spending our weekends putting up snake fencing; we’re about 2/3 of the way finished.
Because of the prevalence of rattlesnakes in our area, I’d been considering taking Sierra to a snake avoidance clinic. This is one of the only uses of an e-collar I’d ever consider. As much as I hate the idea, we’re talking life and death. But now I know she’s got a definite instinctual fear of rattlesnakes, just like Phantom did. And while that makes me feel a whole lot better, it’s going to be one long summer.