Saturday, July 25, 2009

• The dog whispering that turned into a yell!


My friend and neighbour Jeanne saves me all her vegetable peelings and scraps for my chickens and usually hangs them on her front gate for me to collect as I pass by. However, with the weather soaring in the 40’s we agreed on a signal being left on the gate telling me to collect the scraps from the coolness of her yard.


That being said, I entered the yard 3 weeks ago and was met by a rather anxious dog, barking and growling at me. I learned that Jeanne and her husband Rob had adopted a new dog, ominously called Tyson, and it was still settling in. Being an experienced dog owner I knew exactly what to do.


I brought my dog whispering techniques into play. I sat down at the dog’s level, averted my gaze, held out my hand, fingers tucked in for him to sniff but not easy to bite and talked to him gently. We were getting on famously. He settled down and came to smell my hand and arm and seemed much more relaxed. I continued to talk to him in a soothing voice, telling him I would visit him again and we would become firm friends. My friend’s daughter Cissy, standing on the doorstep, was very impressed. I thought I had the situation under control until I went to leave and the dog took a leap and bit the back of my leg.

“Ow”! I yelled, “He bit me”.

“Yes”, said Cissy, “He does that when you turn your back”.

A little late to tell me that now I thought !

A few days later - Whats that smell?

At first I thought that one of my kittens had left me a smelly present in a corner, so I cleaned the house from top to bottom but still the smell persisted. I cleaned out the fridge but the smell followed me wherever I went. Sitting on the sofa that evening, I put my feet up across my husband lap. He gently informed me that the bad smell was actually coming from me, well the wound on my leg.


I couldn’t understand this as I’d done all the right things after the bite. I cleaned the wound with surgical alcohol, put on antiseptic cream and covered it with a sterile dressing. I went to see the practice nurse at the doctor’s surgery who looked at my leg and told me it looked fine and it should heal well. As I had had my last tetanus booster ten years ago when we visited India, I asked the nurse to give me another one as you can’t be too careful especially as I work on the land and so closely with animals.


It was only a little bite but the wound went deep and the smell drove me to revisit the surgery. I saw a different nurse who took one look and ran to get the doctor and both declared their horror.

“Esta muy feo” (it is very ugly/nasty), exclaimed the nurse.

“Si, fatal” (yes, critical), the doctor replied.

They told me gangrene had set in and surgery could not be ruled out. The wound was cleaned and dressed; I was given a course of strong penicillin to kill off the infection and told to return the next day.


The following day the nurse cut away the dead, black and smelly skin with a scalpel leaving a hole the size of a golf ball (she didn’t even give me a bullet to bite or a brave girl plaster). I did get my husband to hold my hand while she did this but I found him gripping my hand much harder than I was gripping his.


The strong antibiotics made me feel groggy for a week or so and all I wanted to do was sleep. Once they were finished I was prescribed another but different kind, intended to help the wound to heal. I still have to go to the clinic to have my leg cleaned and dressed daily and will probably be left with a nasty scar but at least, owing to the skill and care of the practice nurse, I still have my whole leg intact as surgery was avoided.


Next time I think I’ll leave the dog whispering to the experts.


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