Critters

Weathering winter’s surprises with your beloved pet

Posted Feb. 03, 2014, at 2:36 p.m.

When you’re a dog owner, there are some things you accept:

• You will deal with poop;

• You will have a creature that loves you unconditionally and provides you with joy;

• There will be accidents.

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And our greyhound, Laura, is accident-prone.

In the six years she has lived with us, she has stealthily swallowed brownies, chowed down on birdseed (after chewing a hole in the container to get to it), hoovered three loaves of rising bread dough, participated in a scuffle with my brother-in-law’s dog, overexerted and experienced heat stroke, and rescued discarded pizza and biscuits (as well as a partial porcupine carcass).

It’s like having a really disgusting kid at home. And while we love her and do our best to keep her from getting into trouble, trouble seems to find her.

On Jan. 10, while we were out on our morning walk, braving the icy tundra of snow-covered in ice, I let Laura sniff around some tall grass in the back yard. As I plotted the safest way to get to the tree line and a well-groomed trail, I heard my dog scream; she jerked backwards and sent something black flying across the ice and snow.

I looked at her to assess her situation and then at the black thing that wasn’t moving. Camera phone in hand, we ventured closer – but not too close – and it looked like a beaver with a long ropy tail. I took a photo of it with my phone just in case we needed to identify it at the vet’s office.

Turns out it was a muskrat.

Then I looked back at Laura, who was dripping blood on the snow. I whisked her inside to assess the situation and stem the bleeding while we left Mr. Muskrat to scuttle away, unhurt.

After checking her to ensure there were no other injuries I determined that he had grabbed ahold of her lip. Her head jerk reaction would be typical (you’d jerk, too, if you were bit on your face); it also caused the deep punctures near her nose.

While Laura was up-to-date on her rabies boosters, I wanted to make sure that she was checked out by the good doctors at Veazie Veterinary Clinic, just in case.

We left the clinic without Laura needing stitches. She got some treats and spent the next two days recovering.

We haven’t seen the muskrat since.

In situations like this, keep a close eye on your pups when you’re walking, especially close to water. If you see wildlife, keep your distance. And if your pup gets into some critter’s business, make sure you check the pet thoroughly. If in doubt, call your vet. And if you get a snapshot of the wild critter in question, take it with you so that your vet can know what bit your pet.

Another great thing to do to enhance your 9-1-1 pet first-aid skills is to take a pet first-aid course. Many local pet facilities periodically offer such courses.

Not only could it help in an emergency, but it’s a great way to understand the unique needs of your pet. I took my training through a PetTech first aid class offered at Green Acres Kennel Shop at 1653 Union St., Bangor. Their trainer, Tracy Haskell, is a certified pet first-aid trainer. Without that training, I wouldn’t have been as calm while Laura recovered from all of her adventures.

Be safe and enjoy the remainder of winter. Spring is coming.

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