Monday, July 6, 2009

Dog troubles

Thank you for the comments on my last post. I do intend to investigate the possibility of finding a counselor accustomed to helping people struggling with infertility. I had intended to do it this past week, but life got hectic.

Although it's totally off the topic of TTC, I'd like to post today about one of the things that has been making life hectic. . . . some problems that we've been having with our dogs. Just to update on the TTC front: AF arrived on 7/3, about when I thought she would and during the time I'd marked as a no-go for this next cycle. So our efforts this cycle will be nothing but having sex, and I will move on to an IUI + injectibles cycle in late July/early August.

We have been dealing with some awful things with our dogs, two wonderful Golden Retrievers. The older one, Sebastian, has been my dog since August 2002. He will be 8 years old in October. Sebastian is a typical Golden in that he loves everyone and is extremely intelligent and eager to please. He was diagnosed with mild mitral valve insufficiency at his annual check-up in March; so far, it has only caused him to have a little activity intolerance.

At the beginning of May, we adopted Hunter from the same rescue group from which I got Sebastian. We are told that Hunter is 4 years old. Prior to coming into rescue, Hunter's previous owner kept him in the backyard and used him as the stud for his backyard breeding operation. He had never lived in a house until a few weeks prior to coming to live in ours. Based on his behavior and reactions to various things, we are 99.9% sure that his prior owner was abusive. He certainly yelled at the dog and, we believe, likely hit him also.

For nearly two months, Sebastian and Hunter got along great. They play-wrestled together, slept together, shared toys & chew-bones, went on walks and to the park.

Hunter has had a lot of problems since we adopted him. He came to us having been exposed to kennel cough--which he developed within the first few days of coming to our house--and with a small earflap which grew large enough to require surgery to remove it. Post-operatively, he developed right-sided facial paralysis which lasted about a week and then gradually resolved on its own.

The last weekend in June, MM and I were talking about how great it was that Hunter was finally healthy and well and feeling very good about having adopted him. We were discussing how much more confident and calm he was becoming as he settled in and felt better.

I guess we spoke too soon.

On Sunday 6/28, another dog ran into Hunter's rear end at the park when both were running to catch a ball. We knew that Hunter was hurt because he yelped several times and refused to get up from where he'd been knocked to the grass for a few minutes. Eventually he stood and walked home, and his gait seemed fine.

Over the next few days, we noticed that Hunter was slow to get up and down from sitting and lying down. We still thought that he was bruised or had strained a muscle in one of his legs. We continued with his daily walks, though we stopped taking him to the park for fetch after one session two days after the collision obviously caused him pain.

Thursday night I fell asleep on the couch during the news, and MM let me stay there and went into our bedroom on his own. He left the dogs in the living room with me. A little after two in the morning, I was awakened out of a deep sleep by growling, snarling, and snapping. My first thought was to break up the fight, and I stumbled over in the dark and grabbed the waist of the first dog I touched (who happened to be Hunter). In the process, I was bitten on the left hand and right forearm. (Yes, I know: my own fault for jumping in the middle of a dog fight.) My right forearm in particular is still, three days later, deeply bruised and swollen and quite painful.

This event was so uncharacteristic of both dogs that I knew right away that something must be wrong. I took Hunter to the vet the following day and learned (after $600 of diagnostics) that he has a hairline fracture in one of the bones at the base of his tail. He is on two strong painkillers, prophylactic antibiotics, and rest for two weeks. He must return for a repeat x-ray in two weeks, and if the fracture does not heal on its own, they will have to amputate his tail. Poor lamb.

Since Thursday night's fight, the dogs have gotten in one other fight (over food, initiated by Sebastian!) and have been split up once for growling at one another, though no fight resulted. This type of behavior is so unlike both these dogs, and MM and I have been totally stressed out about it. MM is afraid that Hunter (being younger & stronger) will seriously injure or kill Sebastian, and I can't say his fear is unfounded.

I have a call out to a dog behavior specialist recommended by our vet. I am hoping to set up a home visit where someone can come out and work with us and help us fix this situation that has developed.

In additional to the tail fracture and the fighting, we learned the hard way Saturday night that Hunter is afraid of fireworks. I felt like such a dumbass because, what with all his other anxieties, I really should have guessed. Though to be fair, it is illegal to set off your own fireworks in our city, and we don't live anywhere near any of the approved shows. Regardless, apparently some neighbors a few doors down were setting off small fireworks. . . . the type that make a lot of popping sounds.

We arrived home to find the bottom half of the molding around our front door ripped off and parts of it chewed into small pieces on the floor. Hunter tried to claw his way out through the wall next to that door; he dug through the drywall all the way to the studs in places, leaving a huge pile of plaster dust on the floor and plaster stuck on his fur and claws. There were little smudges of blood on the floor and on the wall and molding, too, as he had cut his pads trying to claw out of the house. All told, he did an estimated $500-600 worth of damage.

I felt so horrible for Hunter when we arrived home and saw what he had done. How terrified he must have been to cause such damage! He was still panting heavily and drooling everywhere when we got home. . . . two things he does when scared, as we learned the first day we brought him home. It took 15-20 minutes to soothe him and calm him down, and he still jumped with every little pop he heard outside. As we cleaned up the mess he'd made, he was cowering and obviously afraid of being punished. We never even raised our voices to him, though, and made an attempt to project a calm air, once we overcame the initial shock of walking in and seeing the destruction.

So my two Goldens, who usually bring me much joy and entertainment, have been causing us some serious stress and drama the past few days. There have been no fights now for a little over 36 hours, but we still aren't sure how exactly things will be resolved. MM and I are both at a loss and totally broken up about the whole situation. It's been just awful!


  1. I've just discovered your blog and I'm so glad you've shared your struggles! So sorry about the dog troubles. :( Lost a kitty of 18 years last fall. It just breaks my heart to see any animal in physical or emotional distress! Your boys are lucky to have someone who does such a great job taking care of them!

  2. That sucks that the dogs are having problems on top of everything else. The timing is very bad for you right now. Hope your work problems resolve for next month. This job is a really tough one to rearrange for personal issues. I had to delay trips to the OB when I needed them because I was traveling for work. I hated that. Hope things improve.

  3. We have a golden and a German shorthaired pointer. The only time they have ever fought has been when one is in pain or startled. Could Hunter's injury have started this? I really hope the dog behavior specialist can give you some pointers. Do you have a "pack order" in that one of the dogs is dominant - gets fed first, pet first, etc.? If both are trying to be the alpha dog, that could cause some issues too.

    Our golden once chewed a hole through our drywall too. He was a pup then and we aren't sure if he was pissed at us for being gone more than usual (it was finals week in college) or if something scared him, but he never did it again. He is terrified of our air compressor and the nail gun, etc. He will try to dig wherever he is at - wood, tile, dirt, carpet, couch. I learned from the Dog Whisperer to be firm instead of coddling and that seems to help. Normally though we try to just keep him as far away as possible with background noise and that seems to help...

    Hugs, hun. I hope you are able to get them back to being buds soon. Goldens really are the best.

  4. I have 2 rescue dogs as well. My first dog, B, came to us in a similar situation as your Hunter. She was used for breeding only and was kept exclusively outside. She had terrible anxiety and eventually needed to be on anti anxiety meds for a while.

    When we first got M, he and B would fight. It got better after a while, but it still happened (happens) occasionally, usually over food or toys. We've adopted the Dog Whisperer method- as soon as we are able to separate them we force them to lay down on their sides, noses near each other, until they are both calm and submissive for a several minutes. It's worked pretty well for us.

    Scary to get a dog bite, even (especially?) from your own dog! I'm glad you've now seen a dr for it and hope that you and Hunter both heal quickly!


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