May 22, 2007

A furry family member in need

My week started off with a bang. Around 4:00 a.m. Monday morning, one of my dogs awakened me with some ferocious barking. To be sure, Diego is very protective of his yard, house and family. He will bow-wow at people across the street in their backyards, just so they know that they aren't welcome. But to us, he's just a happy 90+ pound puppy.

Anyway. I stepped out back onto the deck and saw Diego barking his head off and dancing around part of the fence about 20 feet away, trying to get at something. All I could see in the dim light was something furry, but I could heard snarling, growling and spitting. I thought at first that it might be a bobcat, so I flipped on the backyard light. Instead, I saw the angriest raccoon that I've ever seen. A second later, it jumped off of the fence onto my dog's head.

I might have mentioned that Diego is a big lovable puppy, albeit a protective one. This tactic caught him off guard for a brief instant, during which the raccoon bit him on the muzzle and jumped back onto the fence. I started chucking heavy things at the raccoon; I've got a pretty good arm, but I didn't score a direct enough hit to knock the damned thing off. However, when it raced along the fence towards me, I smacked it pretty good with a deck chair, at which point it raced away.

I called my dog over to check him out. Except for the blood on his muzzle, he seemed fine. And I knew from his calm demeanor that Osama bin Raccoon had left the building. As I cleaned off his wound, though, it hit me: the raccoon that bit my dog must have had rabies. So I confined him in the garage and called animal control.

The AC guy who came out was quite sympathetic to our problem. He also informed me of my options in the matter. For those of you not living in Virginia, those options might be different, but my guess is that they're similar. And they are:

  • Euthanize the bitten or scratched animal
  • Isolate the possibly infected animal for
    • 90 days if vaccinations are up to date
    • 180 days if they've expired

Since nothing says "I love you" to someone quite like killing them because it's the easiest way out, I'm looking at option number 2, or more specifically 2a. As it turns out, Diego's vaccinations were a couple of months overdue. What's even worse is that we had an appointment at the vet's office for Tuesday morning.

I spoke to the health department and they sent me a copy of the requirements for the pen within a pen. I'll be headed to Home Depot with the plans to figure out what the cost of materials will be. Doesn't really matter, as I'll be building the effing thing regardless.

I asked the Animal Control guy if any places around here could house an isolated animal for 6 months. He mentioned that the pound could do it, but that his boss would be unlikely to approve such a request due to the large number of animals flowing through the pound. So it's on to construction of a big fucking cage that my dog will, best case, have to live in for 6 months without any of the family being able to touch him. Considering how gregarious he is, Diego could suffer some serious emotinal traumua because he'll think that he's being punished. Or he could be fine when he comes out and still want to give me some of his good loving kisses which, truthfully, I don't feel that I deserve right now.. Worst case, of course, is that he goes rabid anyway and I'll have to put him down.

So that's where I am. A crazy ass animal attacks a four-legged member of the family and gets away, and the victim gets rewarded with long term isolation and possible execution. And my family will get to watch him suffer in a cage during that time without being able to rub his tummy and make him feel better.

I just want him to be okay. He deserves better than this.

Update: Anyone else in the state of Virginia would be well advised to read this document and the associated attachments.

Update: I found this article from 13 years ago in which a family puppy was bitten before the mandatory vaccination had been given. The family member volunteered for 3 post-exposure rabies vaccines so that she could play with the dog and keep him people friendly. I've left a message for the public health supervisor about the article, inquiring in that would be a possibility for me. Yes, I know about the entire series of shots and where they're administered, but I'm perfectly willing to go through with it if it will keep my dog happy while he's incarcerated. To be fair, it would make me happy to be able to play with him, too. Hopefully that hasn't been outlawed yet in the interest of "protecting the people".

I'll provide updates as they occur.

Posted by Physics Geek at May 22, 2007 03:20 PM | TrackBack StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!
Comments

that is horrible. I hope it works out ok for all of you. That always scares me around here due to the number of wild animals. Good luck.

Posted by: vw bug at May 22, 2007 04:28 PM

I'd do it too.

Good luck to you and Diego. That was always my nightmare the whole time we were in NC. Even though the Princess' shots were always up to date....

Posted by: caltechgirl at May 22, 2007 04:43 PM

You must be a better human being than me... We would have probably just put a little salve on the bite, gone in for the vaccines on Tuesday and got on with our lives - though in Missouri I don't know if we have the same rabies threat that you do. The situation you are facing seems absurdly extreme, especially if the vaccines you had scheduled were 'boosters'. Best regards and God Bless you and your dog.

Posted by: Brandy at May 24, 2007 09:01 AM

The shots were in fact boosters. And 6 months is a long time. I'm just not ready to give up yet.

Posted by: physics geek at May 24, 2007 11:15 AM

Hopefully they'll let you get the people-shots and keep Diego at home since he had already had the regular shots. That's what seems so absurd to me though - because you did the "right" thing and called animal control, your family and your dog will have to suffer disproportionately. That, to me, is where 'the system' is messed up. Logic would say that there's a 99.9% chance that Diego will not have rabies - he's been vaccinated in the past, and there is no certainty that the raccoon even had rabies. A good friend of mine hunts raccoon in Kansas and confirms that they will attack if they're cornered. The attack doesn't necessarily precipiate rabies. Again, God Bless you & yours. Let's hope for a happy ending!

Posted by: brandy at May 25, 2007 09:19 AM

Sorry - only semi-literate evidently...the attack doesn't necessarily precipitate rabies.

Posted by: brandy at May 25, 2007 09:22 AM

Brandy, I understood you just fine. :-)

Here's the thing: even when bitten by actually rabid animals, I believe that dogs contract the disease only about 13%-20% of the time. So now it's a waiting game. We're still looking into the housing thing. I called the rescue shelter where we adopted him 5 years ago and she's checking around with some people she knows to see what might be done. She also knows the AC people very well and might be able to help us out through them.

Yeah, Diego does nothing wrong and will now be punished for it. I understand why: it's to protect the public. If a human starts to exhibit symptons before getting the first booster, rabies is 99.999% fatal. So infecting people unknowingly isn't a good idea. Anyway, we'll see what happens. Once we get past 60 days, Diego is about 95% likely to be rabies free. Then we just have to wait it out.

Posted by: physics geek at May 25, 2007 09:26 PM

Anything I can do to ease Diego's misery? Buy him a subscription to PlayDog or something?

Posted by: Harvey at May 26, 2007 10:52 AM

I was thinking of an inflatable Lassie. That should help relieve the stress a bit.

Posted by: physics geek at May 27, 2007 01:14 PM

I have been reading your blog for well over 2 years now - and have never commented - but I feel that I must on this post.
I feel for you man! - having a loved member of the family in that position is not easy - I really hope you are able to be with him during this difficult time for the family.
I lost my cat to a coyote a few years ago and know what it is like to lose someone who looks upon you for everything and loves unconditionally.

Good luck man - and best wishes.
From all your Canadian Readers.

Matt

Posted by: Matt Koivisto at May 29, 2007 11:27 PM

Matt,

Thanks for the well wishes. I'd admit to being surprised that any Canadians read this blog, but I'm actually more surprised anyone reads this blog.

I'll post an update shortly on the situation. Since the pen in question is along the lines of Fort Knox, I've spoke with the Health Department about some other quarantine options, which I think we're going to explore. Big thing is that it will bring my boy back home where he belongs.

Posted by: physics geek at May 30, 2007 08:32 AM

We have coyotes coming into Atlanta neighborhoods and making snacks of pets outside. I'm glad that your dog will be okay. Next time, don't call the State or wait until after the shots.

Posted by: Woody at June 1, 2007 06:55 PM