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THINGS CAN CHANGE IN AN INSTANT

4 January 2006

We hear the tragic stories all the time.  A beloved family pet suddenly turns on a stranger or another dog or a family member.  The dog becomes a snarling attack machine and the end result--a tragedy.  Serious injury or death. 

I had an unfortunate example of how things can change in an instant.  I'm still shaken by it and I still don't know what to do about it.

Last night Kimba was driving me nuts because every time she walked across the area rugs in the kitchen, her long toenails caught in the loops of the fabric and she'd bring part of the rug with her. I spent a long time straightening and re-straightening the rugs.

I finally decided I'd been postponing cutting her nails long enough, so I put her in the sink, where she is at workable height and I started working on her nails (which she hates).  Each time I got one foot finished, I'd cuddle her until her heart rate calmed down a bit, and then I'd move on to the next foot.

By the time I was getting to her back feet, Walt had come to help me and it became nail-cutting by committee.   Walt was holding and comforting her, I was cutting her nails, and the other two dogs were at our feet, Latte standing on her hind legs to get a better view.

Walt noticed that one of the toes on one of her front feet was bleeding (this may have been the reason for what happened later).

I finished her nails, washed her bleeding foot, held it in a towel until it was no longer bleeding, then I put her back down on the floor again.  Her nails no longer pulled the rugs and I assumed that everything was fine.  The other two dogs were very interested in sniffing her.

I went and sat in my chair to watch the end of "Cold Case Files" and suddenly all hell broke loose.

Sheila was attacking Kimba.  They have always "play-attacked," but there was nothing "play" about this.  Kimba was on her back sharling and growling, Sheila was on top--the two of them were one big ball of connected black bodies.  Sheila was snarling and foaming at the mouth and it looked very bad, though I didn't actually see her attempt to bite Kimba.  It was mostly bared teeth and a lot of very scary noise.

Walt dragged her off of Kimba, but Sheila continued snarling and growling and twisting her body to get free so she could continue the attack.

Kimba retreated to her bed and as soon as Walt thought he had Sheila calmed down and let her go, she went after Kimba again.  I put Sheila on a leash (which usually calms her down).  Latte went to sniff Kimba, who snarled and growled and wasn't letting ANYBODY on four feet near her.

With Sheila on leash and the leash in my hand, peace finally ensued.  I fell asleep watching TV and when I woke up at 2 a.m., Kimba was sleeping peacefully in her bed, Latte was in her cage, and Sheila was sleeping on the big pillow, leash still attached. 

I got up to go to the bathroom and get a drink of water.  Sheila followed me and, since all was calm, I took her leash off.  I staggered back to my chair and Sheila immediately headed over to Kimba's bed.  I told her to leave Kimba alone and, miraculously, she did.  We all went back to sleep again.

truce.jpg (34439 bytes)At 6:30, I woke up and let Latte out of her cage.  Sheila got up and very first thing she did was to begin to attack Kimba again, and I pulled her off again, holding her collar tightly while she twisted and turned   and tried to get free.  Kimba ran into my office and hid under my desk, trembling.  Sheila came in here, stood behind her, and began licking her furiously.

I sent a panicky e-mail to Ashley.  Did she have any idea what had caused Sheila to snap?  Could it have been the smell of blood that made her attack?

I was supposed to go for coffee and Joan and Nancy in the late morning, but Joan was not feeling well, so I stayed home.  Much as I missed the opportunity to sit and laugh, I was relieved not to have to worry about Kimba.  But while I was talking to Nancy on the phone, Sheila was trying to bat at Kimba again.  I swear, it was like little kids who always chose the times I was on the phone to fight with each other.

When Latte got into the act, I finally decided that the dogs needed separating and I put KIMBA into the cage, with her pillow (hopefully so she would calm down, and not feel she was being punished).  This is the first time in her life Kimba has ever been in a cage, so I know she's very confused in addition to whatever else she was feeling about the other two dogs.

Also, since the dogs kept sniffing at where Kimba had been lying under my desk, I deodorized that, hoping to remove whatever smell of blood there might be there.

Sheila is terrified of the vacuum cleaner, so when I finished cleaning up "Kimba's place" under my desk, I stored the vacuum cleaner in front of the cage, hoping that it would keep Sheila from trying to get into the cage, as both dogs have been trying to do. 

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With the attack on Kimba and Sheila's escape on New Year's Eve, Walt wondered if she isn't going just a little bit stir crazy being cooped up with all the rain and the ground around here being a swamp.  She hasn't had a run either in the back yard or in the dog park in about a week now.

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(Sheila was like this for about half an hour, poking her head out the dog door and then pulling back, then walking away, then coming back in and looking out again, then coming to poke me in the arm as if to ask me to make it stop, then stick her head out again and growl at the rain.  She reminds me of my friend Mary, in Seattle!)

I decided that as soon as it stopped raining, I would take Sheila out and let her blow off some steam, but before  that happened, Kimba had to get out of the cage.  She'd been in there all day and I knew that her bladder must be bursting.

She hadn't stepped 3 steps before Sheila had attacked her again. This time she tore a bit of her ear.  I dragged Sheila off, yelled at her, dragged her to the bathroom and locked her inside. I put in an emergency call to Ashley asking her to please find somewhere for Sheila to go for a day or two until Kimba came back to some sort of equilibrium and we tried Sheila here again.   Kimba ran into my office and peed everywhere (poor dog was not only scared, she had been locked up all day).  I held her in my lap for half an hour and she trembled the whole time.

I left Sheila in "lock up" for 20 minutes, then let her out, but put her on a leash, as that seemed to calm her down yesterday.

Walt finally took Sheila out for a walk (it never really stopped raining) and Ashley called to offer suggestions.  By nighttime, we had reached an uneasy peace, which continues.  I don't dare leave them alone together and I don't dare take the leash off Sheila.  Ashley seems to think that whatever this is will pass, given time and with Sheila being let know in no uncertain terms that this is unacceptable behavior.  

So for the moment, all is back to normal, except that Sheila now wears leash at all times and, for the moment, Kimba appears to be having her meals in her bed because she's too afraid to get up. 

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I'm hoping this whole thing is just a fluke.  Ashley seems to agree that Sheila isn't the kind of aggressive dog who would snap so suddenly after all this time.  She also doesn't feel that the smell of blood had anything to do with it.  The theory of Ashley and one of the other SPCA dog people is that perhaps Kimba had been traumatized by having her toenails clipped, as most dogs are, so when Sheila was near her she may have growled in a different way, perhaps the equivalent of "leave me alone, you bitch," in canine, that set Sheila off.  And once the initial fight happened, they were both so on edge that everything set Sheila off.  Ashley seems to feel that with time everything will calm down and things will pick up where they left off.

Last night it's too bad Walt had gone to bed.   I would have made a great photo.   My recliner is right next to Kimba's bed.  Sheila was asleep next to my chair, with the loop of her leash around my wrist, and Latte was sleeping in my lap.

All I know is that it's going to take quite a bit of time before I'm willing to let my guard down where the two of them are concerned.


A "just before posting" P.S.  I locked Sheila and Latte in the house so Kimba could go out and pee.  Kimba was terrified, but when she realized that she was outside by herself, she did her business, walked around a little and came back to the door.  Walt was holding Sheila.  The minute Kimba walked in the house, my path was blocked by Latte, Sheila was on her again, leaving Kimba on her back yelping.  Sheila was once again locked in the bathroom and I called Sharon, from the SPCA to come and take Latte, hoping that maybe without Latte to get Sheila worked up (something I've hitherto liked), things will calm down. I locked Kimba in the cage to protect her, and now she's whining.  Her breathing is labored and she is trembling.  Poor thing.  This is a horrible way to spend your twilight days/months/years.

I just don't know what to do.  Things had gone well all day, though I did have to call Sheila off from Kimba's bed several times, but she always seemed to be going back to that "play mode" instead of "attack mode."

I am heartbroken at the thought of having to give up either the dog that we've had for 14 years, or the dog that I have come to love so much.   I am also heartbroken at the thought of having Kimba literally "frightened to death."  Or worse.

 

PHOTO OF THE DAY

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1/01/06