If Only We All Could be as Tough as Our Dogs

DSC07011Shiva has had a myriad of firsts this year. Her first overnight stay with a dog-sitter, her first time in a hotel, her first time welcoming another dog into her home. Much to our horror, she has now also had her first visit to the emergency vet.

It was a Sunday evening. A completely typical Sunday evening. Thoughts of Monday had begun to seep into the forefront of my mind and I struggled to dash them away. Shiva and I were just wrapping up a very positive walk in the ravine. Shiva had met a little grey Am Staff friend on the trail and since the other dog was already off-leash, I decided to take the risk and let her go free to play.

Fatal mistake? Am I the worst dog owner in the world?

It didn’t appear so at the time. Yes, this part of the ravine is “technically” on leash only. As a homegrown rule-follower only seldom do I take the chance. But it was late evening on a weekend with enough snow on the ground to deter cyclists. The trail was empty except for the other dog and owner who clearly didn’t mind. The two dogs played very well together as I knew they would. They are similar in size and enjoy the same types of play. The other dog was about a year old so wouldn’t mind Shiva’s wild energy. Young dogs and puppies are usually Shiva’s favourite companions.

All was well. All was better than well. The other owner and I chatted as we kept an eye on our dogs. After fifteen minutes or so the sky had darkened and I figured it was time to head back home. My practically husband had started making dinner before we’d left and I was getting hungry. I waved goodbye to the other dog and owner, promising to meet up with them again soon, and headed back down the path with Shiva jogging in front of me.

This is when I screwed up. This is the part I for which I will never forgive myself. If only – if only – I had put her back on the leash right then the rest would have been averted. But I didn’t.

I try to remember that Shiva has zipped through nigh zillions of forests before. Forests much deeper and much more dangerous than this one. Just a month ago we had let her off leash while we walked on a trail in the Rocky Mountains. This urban ravine should be nothing in comparison. I probably shouldn’t blame myself for something that was a one-off.

But I do.

Shiva is a dog with no self-preservation. I know this. Heck, it’s practically the entire theme behind this blog! Every time we let her outside without a helmet and bubble wrap we are taking a risk! You better believe it won’t happen again.


Those of you who read yesterday’s post will know the whole sordid tale. Since I didn’t witness the event, we actually can’t be sure of how the injury happened. We only know that the skin of her chest had been sliced and she suffered a major laceration requiring thirty minutes of surgery to stitch her back up. It’s likely she sustained the wound while leaping over a tree – something she has done almost every day of her life – and was caught on a protruding branch. The length and location of the lesion suggests she had been in full extension at the time. We’ve all seen her take two agility jumps at once before. It wouldn’t stun me if she had been attempting to overreach her stride once more.

It is something that could have happened a hundred times before and didn’t. It only takes once.

The vet also said we were lucky. The laceration was longer than most he sees at the clinic but it wasn’t very deep. It was all skin. If whatever it was had stabbed her further, possibly penetrating her ribs or organs, it would have been an entirely different conversation.

As it was, it was still pretty much the worst night of my life. Thank goodness for friends and family for being there otherwise it might have still not have ended as well as it did. It isn’t easy to come up with $1,300 on the spot, especially when one is only just beginning to re-grow her financial legs. More than that even, it was very comforting and humbling to know we have so much support. That there are many people out there who understand. That when something so awful happens, we aren’t alone.

The waiting was brutal. It felt like she was in surgery for days. In retrospect, it was not much more than four hours between the initial injury, getting her to the vet, the surgery, and then bringing her back home again. Again, we are so lucky the clinic is less than a ten minute drive. They sent us home to hang out and we attempted to eat the dinner my PH had prepared but neither of us could taste a thing. I think we watched a hockey game on television to distract us but I can’t be sure.

We just kept waiting for the phone to ring.

Once we did bring her home, the next twenty-four hours didn’t pass much better. I was so grateful to have Shiva with us, that she was alive and breathing and safe, but she was having trouble coming off sedation and was obviously in a lot of pain. There was nothing we could do for her but offer comfort. I hope we never have to go through something like that again.

It’s been a week now and I am thrilled to report Shiva is doing well. She has at least another rest of solid crate rest in front of her – no running, no jumping, no stairs, no chasing the cat, no counter-surfing – which is going to be a challenge for a tornado. It’s a challenge I am happy to meet. Her spirits are high, even with the cone of shame. She is amazingly resilient. It’s like she has just accepted the presence of this thing on her head and wants to get on with life.  After just a day of severe pain, she is over it. According to Sheevs, it is time we moved on.

Thank you for all of your concern and for keeping Shiva in your thoughts. She is going to be just fine. In fact, I am sure she can’t wait to get out there again. No doubt she already has a great story to tell the other dogs about how she earned her kickass scar.

If only we all could be as tough as our dogs.

18 thoughts on “If Only We All Could be as Tough as Our Dogs

  1. LOL! I am SURE she is aching to tell everyone about her kickass scar.
    I am so very glad she is okay. I just remember seeing your words asking for thoughts and prayers and knew it was serious. Shiva – you have got to stop giving your hu-mom heat attacks! Yeesh!

    Glad you’re okay sweetie.


  2. I am so relieved that Shiva is going to be ok, but what a scare for you guys. Seems she has a habit of doing that to you!
    We humans whine and moan with any pain, but animals just get on with things after the initial hurt – they are tougher than us, that’s for sure; amazing is the word!


  3. Poor Shiva. Hope she continues to improve. 🙂

    Last Spring I know a dog who had a similar injury. The dog was cut from the hip to the shoulder. It required two solid hours of stitching to close the wound. This happened on the owner’s own property so it can happen anywhere. It was just lucky that you were able to get her to the vet and fixed up. In the case of the other dog, it was a piece of metal from some farm machinery the owner’s kid was scrapping. The guy who owned the property and the dog had no idea he had left it there. It wasn’t even a big piece sticking out, but it was sharp.


  4. Wow, what a story. I can only imagine how you felt. What a painful ordeal, for you, and of course Shiva. I’m so glad she’s going to be OK. We had the dogs out in the desert today hiking, off leash because we were the only people for miles and miles. Torrey is over and under and through everything. I have always worried about her catching a stick with her tummy. Now I know it really is possible. Scary.


  5. Stuff happens. That’s the reality. Shiva will be fine and you will be too. Don’t be too hard on yourself. These situations happen to a lot of us. All we can do is to learn from them so that it never happens again to us.


  6. So glad it has turned out okay!! I’d have been as hard on myself as you’ve been under the circumstances; but we need to forgive ourselves, especially since our dogs don’t blame us in the first place. I have a really nice, soft crate that I got for Callie when she had her ACL surgery in February…if I knew how to get it to you, I’d let you borrow it for Shiva.


  7. Glad to hear that she is on the mend.

    Don’t beat yourself up too much about it. Things happen. Life happens. People and dogs get hurt. If it happens while doing something you love, it’s really not so bad. ALthough I think some of us creatures need to walk around in bubblewrap 🙂


  8. Wishing Shiva speedy healing!

    Don’t blame yourself. It isn’t your fault. A dog has to have a chance at freedom now and again. Life was not meant to always be lived on a leash!


  9. I am so glad to hear that she is doing ok! Yours is not the first injury of that sort that I’ve heard of – my neighbour’s husky was particularly embarrassed looking this summer, with a foot-square patch of shaved fur on her side from the equivalent.
    I always feel guilty too, when Gwynn gets hurt. Because of his long hair, I sometimes don’t even notice a small cut until I’m grooming him (sometimes day of, sometimes a few days later, because I am a horrible person).
    Good luck reining in the tornado!


  10. I totally get you. I am such an “if only” person. I run through scenarios over and over again thinking of all the things I wish/should’ve/could’ve done differently. I know the inclination is for everyone to say, “Don’t beat yourself up!” but as an obsessor, all I can say is this: It will lessen over time. You will eventually get enough distance from the event. Until then, just love on Shiva! I’m so glad she’s okay.


  11. I’m sure the surgery took so long because the doctor wanted to be sure Shiva wouldn’t have a terrible scar when bikini season arrives. 🙂

    But seriously, I remember waiting to hear Honey had come out of her squeakyectomy. It took forever. And all I could think was I had probably killed my puppy because I didn’t have the heart to take a cheap toy away from her that I knew was a bad idea.

    In truth, dogs do all kinds of dangerous things all the time with no negative consequences. Until something happens.

    Glad Shiva is on the mend. When she’s ready to go back to the woods, you’ll probably be a nervous wreck. If you’re lucky, Shiva will have a smidgen of self-preservation she’s never exhibited before.


  12. Your last post had me with my heart in my throat….so glad to read the follow up and know that all is OK.
    I can’t even tell some of the stories of things that happened with my dogs that I to this day feel guilty about….it’s hard to find the balance between keeping them completely safe and letting them have fun and live. We do the best we can and sometimes bad stuff happens….but that’s life. We have try to forgive ourselves and just be grateful when it turns out ok.


  13. I’m so glad Shiva’s doing well and I hope you recover as quickly. Honestly, we could protect them from everything, but they wouldn’t get much opportunity to be dogs if we did. It was an accident – not your fault – and I bet Shiva’s already looking forward to the next time you let her off-leash in the ravine.


  14. So glad to hear that she is on the upward swing of her recovery. I read your story and very scary. Take care and give her a hug from me


  15. This must have been so scary and stressful. Sorry to hear the accident happened. As you said, it it something that could happen to any of us so I hope you’re not beating yourself up. I’m glad to hear Miss Shiva is doing better. I’m sure it’s been hard to keep her still during the healing process.


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