When Lucas was a puppy I would tell people if I could just get him past that gangly puppy stage and put some mass on him I thought he would survive getting snake bit. Like Bert, Lucas is a brawler. He doesn’t much care for tactics or strategy he just wants to go head first into a conflict and punch as hard as he can for as long as he can, and that ought to be enough. Bert got away with this because he had a thick mane of fur protecting his neck. Sam is a surgeon who goes in at speed and grabs snakes by their necks and shakes them to death before they can strike. Brawling with snakes has predictable results, and oh hai.
When I pulled up last night about seven Sam was there to greet me at the gate but Lucas was not. I went into the house, out the back door onto the deck and there was Lucas, cornering a Cottonmouth, trying to kill it, and even though it wasn’t very large my worst fears was I had gotten there too late. I got both dogs on the deck, planted Lucas with the sit and stay command, and looked to the snake.
The Cottonmouth bore a nasty bite in the middle of its body. There is no way for a snake to survive that damage but I don’t kill snakes. When I moved out here I knew this day might come, and I knew what it would mean when it got here. But I did not move out into the woods to declare war on nature. I knew that if I allowed Cottonmouths to operate freely within my territory they would do so. I knew the dogs would come into conflict with the snakes, and I also knew that the odds favor snakes dying and dogs living, but I also knew someone might not be fast enough one day and this day, this day I saw coming, would arrive with a dog I loved being bit by a venomous snake.
I knew when I saw Lucas and the snake so close together it was likely Lucas had been bit. I called the vet and she told me the swelling would begin in ten minutes and I watched the clock tick by. Ten minutes and nothing. Twenty minutes and nothing. Thirty minutes and nothing. And finally an hour later and there wasn’t a mark on Lucas’ legs so I thought he was safe. But then his neck began to swell and I knew my dog had been bitten by a Cottonmouth. I called the vet and she told me to get him to the clinic as fast as I could.
Lucas’ collar had to come off in case the swelling got that bad and that made getting him into the cab of the truck a problem. He weighs over one hundred pounds and when he does not want to go somewhere, and I can’t pull him by the collar, there is a problem. It took five minutes, five precious minutes, to load Lucas. The time ticked away as I drove, trying not to speed, trying to reassure Lucas it was going to be okay, and wondering if the way I had chosen to live my life would cost me Lucas.
The vet met me at the office and she took one look at his neck and oh yeah that’s a snake bite, but it isn’t that bad. It could have been much worse. There are drugs to be injected and pills to take, but she and I sit down and talk about keeping Lucas there over the weekend. Would the stress of being away from me be worth the vet looking after him just in case? She decides to send Lucas home with me. He isn’t the stay over type of dog. There are owners who wouldn’t get up at three and risk another emergency call at the office but she suspects I am not one of these owners. She suspects I will take better care of Lucas than anyone else.
Lucas isn’t getting into the truck again and this time it is even worse. We’re in a strange environment and Lucas doesn’t like it at all. He wants to go home but doesn’t realize the truck is how we do that. I can’t manhandle him because of the bite and he isn’t helping at all. It takes a while to get him into the truck again yet we do finally get into the truck and get home again.
The upside to all of this is when I told Lucas to get away from the snake he disengaged instantly. When I told him to get on the deck and stay there while I removed the snake he sat where I put him and did not move. Sam got away from both Lucas and the snake and he didn’t wade into either conflict. Both dogs responded well to voice commands in a time of crisis. My theory in this is this one; Lucas didn’t have Bert, The Eldest, here when the snake showed up. Having no guidance as to what to do, when I pulled up, Lucas attacked the snake. Having no experience in the matter, he got into a fistfight type fight with someone carrying a set of knives and Lucas paid for the error.
This morning the swelling is still there and Lucas is subdued. His breathing is steady and strong. His airways are open and his eyes are bright and clear. He ate a little this morning and he is drinking water. He doesn’t seem interested in going out very much and he isn’t as bouncy as he usually is. Overall, he doesn’t seem to be very happy right now but he does seem comfortable.
I did not move out into the woods to declare war on nature. I will not now. This is the price I pay, and pay dearly, for the philosophy of living in peace with nature, even if nature isn’t living in peace with me.
I knew this day would come. It is here. I did not move out into the woods to declare war on nature and I will not. I do not kill snakes and even if I lose Lucas, I will not. The price to pay for living this way may be high, very high, but it will always be worth it.