Monday, August 10, 2009

More fun with copperheads -- jcarole

She was hot on my heels as I headed down the path to the pond. It had been a few days since we'd made our way through the woods to do a little fishing and she was not about to miss the opportunity for a freshly caught treat. About half way down the path we came upon a fallen tree. Well, I thought about taking the time to go back to the house, get the chain saw, and clear the path....but I wanted to go fishing. So, I took a photo of the tree and then took a detour around, through the woods and back to the trail on the other side.

At the pier, I got comfortable and set about baiting my hook and making my first cast of the day, as Killian entertained herself visiting her regular haunts, seeing what was what and who was who. I was just thinking to myself that sitting on the dock with the line in the water and enjoying the cool-down, as evening approached, was truly a gift to be savored, when Killian began her "alarm" bark.

I usually let her bark at the discovered interloper for a few minutes before I go to investigate, and this day was no different. However, her bark was becoming increasingly sharp and I figured she must have found a snake. So, I left my pole on the dock and went to investigate. Initially I saw nothing, but Killian was so insistent that I persevered and eventually I caught a glimpse of the offender. Sure enough, it was a copperhead. I took a couple of photos of the snake and reached to hold Killian back. But I was a little late.

Killian, bolstered by my presence, I think, grabbed the snake in her mouth and began shaking it relentlessly, finally releasing the mortally wounded asp and prancing back up the trail on her "victory lap." I looked at the snake as it slithered into the cave in the earth under the old rotten tree stumps, and wondered if it would survive. I suspected not, but I've seen too many "dead" possums come miraculously back to life to rely on my judgment of "dead" when it comes to creatures in the wild.

Just as I was getting ready to head back to the dock and my fishing pole, Killian returned and jumped down the embankment to take a peek inside the snake's refuge. I saw her paw go in and I saw her jump back and run away from the cave. She did not yelp. I figured she'd tired of her game and I headed back to resume fishing. She followed me, still intent on a small fish treat, but, I observed, now limping. "Great," I thought. "The snake bit her."

I suppose fishing was just not in the cards for me that day. Within minutes Killian was literally unable to make the journey back to the house on her own steam. I had to carry her..all 29 pounds of her stinking self, the 750 feet from the pier to my back deck. Now, this dog HATES to be bathed... HATES the garden hose.... HATES water....unless SHE decides to wade in chasing something. But I had to try to find the actual site of the bite, so I washed her down. She never budged. I never found the actual bite but the swelling in the right front leg indicated the general location.

Naturally, this happened AFTER the vet's office was closed and the emergency vet services are a good drive away. So, I decided to monitor her, try to retrieve the snake that had bitten her and call the vet if she didn't start acting more normally in a reasonable amount of time. I confined her, lest she wander off into the woods and get lost, and headed back to the water's edge. There, after some hunting around, I found the snake, hanging in a tree trunk that leaned over the water. It was dead, but I collected it anyway, figuring if Killian needed to go for treatment, it might be helpful to have the culprit. I collected my left behind fishing gear and headed back to the house.

When I arrived back at the house, Killian was sitting up...still groggy...not moving, but not completely immobile as she had been for the hour or so since the bite. Over the next couple of hours, she didn't move much, but, after dark, when I trekked the 450 feet up the driveway to the mailbox, she could not resist following me...slowly, still limping, but following me. Within a couple more hours, she was moving around as if nothing had ever happened. Her front leg was still swollen, but by morning she was walking on it without a noticeable limp.

I'd like to think she learned a lesson that day last week, but, I suspect she will continue to hunt all the critters as if she were still a young pup, rather than the 13 1/2 year old veteran she is. As I released the worms I'd collected for my fishing trip, I promised myself I'd give it another try on Thursday.................

Thursday it seemed more "responsible" to cut up the fallen tree.

And then the weekend was upon us and plans that involved lots of family fun up in Maryland took precedence. I never did get my little fishing "fix" last week, but maybe I will this week.

All in all, I DID get more excitement than I had anticipated and learned a thing or two about my dog and copperheads. And, perhaps I should have cut up that fallen tree on Wednesday, instead of going around it..... I keep getting that feeling that I need to pay better attention...

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