The Best Dog Ever Saved Me From A Snakebite

My six and a half year old shepherd/collie puppy-love is an accidental superhero. She didn't valiantly and knowingly put herself between me and the danger. It was just a matter of poor manners on her part, pushing past me on the porch to be the first one out. But if it hadn't been her, it would have been me. So, accidental or not, she is my superhero.

Hubsy and I had been sitting on the back porch, enjoying the cool and lovely evening, when he brought to my attention the fact that Puppy-Girl hadn't been taken out that afternoon, since Punkin hadn't been home to do it. Recognizing the word "out" she jumped up and coaxed me toward the front door. Hubsy followed a step or two behind. Knowing where we live, and accepting the dangers, I had gotten into the habit of looking down onto and all around the welcome mat. Like a good little girl, I look left and then right before crossing the porch. But not this time. I don't know what it was that had me so distracted, but instead of my usual precautions, I opened the door and stepped blindly down.  I didn't even think to look around, I just kept stepping to the edge of the three step porch.

That's when my dog, excited and quite pushy, slid right past my leg and headed down the single step onto the sidewalk, where just two feet in front of me sat a monstrous demon serpent, coiled and lying in wait.  Okay so it was a twelve inch baby copperhead, but don't let it's age deceive you.  The babies can be far more dangerous than their elders.  A bite from a youngster is a crap shoot.  They have little control over their venom at that age and he could either give you just a taste, or dump the whole load, if he envenomates you at all.

Even when I saw Brandi leaning over to investigate it, I couldn't tell it was a snake at all.  It was eight thirty, and the daylight was fading.  The earthy beige and brownish grey patterns on it's back blended into the pebbly concrete of the sidewalk.  He was coiled, and small, so out of the corner of my eye, I thought it was a leaf.  You must imagine the next part in slow motion in order to appreciate how it happened in my brain.

He cocked his head back in the typical S formation.  Seeing this minuscule movement, my primal mind knew that it was a serpent, a full ten seconds before my conscious mind could comprehend it.  His head then bolted forward toward Brandi's curious snout, and latched on.  Again, in slow motion, Brandi shook her head and flipped the snake briefly into the air.  Now it is ten seconds later, and my mind has caught up to itself.  "It's a snake!" I screamed, and tried to jump back into the doorway, only to crash into Hubsy, as he was stepping out.  He grabbed a shovel and hunted it down a few feet away.  While he chopped and sliced and poked it with the shovel, Brandi did that cute little thing when she uses her paws to rub her nose.  It wasn't so cute this time.  It was a sign that had indeed been bitten.  But after the initial rub, she bounced right back, and ran around in the driveway.  She continued on, into the grass to do her ... thing.  While she sniffed around the yard, Hubs and I examined the bloody corpse, and confirmed the species.  Then we all went back inside.

I immediately began researching the effects of a copperhead snake bite on dogs.  Good news... only 3% of dogs bitten by copperheads are fatally poisoned.  That's a pretty low number.  But I took note of the symptoms, from mild to severe, and read several personal stories of pets that have recovered from their wounds.  I learned that most vets don't carry antivenin in stock, because it's so rarely needed, and so very expensive.  So, we made the decision to wait it out at home, but would consult our neighbor, who is a vet, if needed.  But thus far, nothing was needed.  Brandi seemed fine, and we thought perhaps it was a dry bite after all.  Yup, that's what we thought because we didn't realize that the symptoms take about a half hour to show.  I went back and read that later.   

It started with the squinting.  Princess pointed it out.  Brandi often squints when you turn on the light first thing in the morning, and when she's really tired, but now I know that she also squints when she's in a lot of pain.  Placing my hand firmly on her back, I could feel her trembling.  Then came the seeping and bleeding from the bite wound at the bottom edge of her nose.  And her snout began to swell.  A few hours later, her snout has swollen to nearly three times it's original size.  She looked like a different dog, and even though it wasn't funny... it was kinda funny.  The girls and I laid down by her side, and whispered softly, as we caressed her back and head.  I waited a while and watched for the onset of further symptoms: excessive panting, vomiting, incontinence, and temporary paralysis.  As of midnight, only a couple of "panting spells" occurred, and only when she got up to follow me somewhere.  What a sweetie... still trying to follow me around even when suffering.

Hubs and I eventually went to bed, but the girls slept in the living room to keep watch over Puppy-Girl.  It was a tough sleep that night, my mind fearing the worst, yet hoping and trusting that everything was going to be okay.  Needless to say, we took turns sneaking downstairs in the weee hours, to check on our babies... mostly the furry one.  By the break of day, she was showing signs of recovery.  Up and moving about with far less squinting, and occasionally chasing after a beloved toy.  Although the wound continued to seep and bleed throughout the night, it was now scabbing over.  The second day, after the bite, saw reduced swelling and further physical activity.  Unlike myself, she showed no fear of returning to the great outdoors.  I, on the other hand, required two containers of "Snake-Away" scattered in the garden, behind the bushes, along the driveway and the edge of the porch, and down the path on the side of the house.  It smells like moth balls.  Yes, my whole neighborhood now smells like Great Grandma's house, but I'm sure that everyone will thank me for it... maybe... someday.     

Interesting Facts About Copperheads

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad the dog is okay! I can't imagine how scared your children were that night!


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