There came a time in my evening where i looked down and noted that Cashew’s face looked like this. Cashew is an aussie. She doesn’t complain. She doesn’t complain when there’s cactus spines in her foot. She doesn’t complain when she’s covered in fire ants. She doesn’t complain when she runs head first into a fence post, door, rock, or wall. That makes it hard to know what’s going on with her. Sili will tell you when she gets into something. Cashew will just come in the house and lay down like its any other day.
I don’t know when she got bit. She didn’t say anything. There was no yelp or howl, and there wouldn’t have been. Cashew does not complain. This is why when the numerous vets i consulted asked me if she was still eating i told them not to pay attention to that. This dog could be on death’s doorstep and she would still have her dinner and lay down in front of the door like it was any other day. She was like a cat that buried their feces. Best to hide any evidence of illness or injury, lest predators view it as weakness. I looked down and her face was all wacky. I knew i had children’s chewable benadryl in my first aid kit. I kept it there in case of a snake bite, to slow the progression of venom through the bloodstream by decreasing inflammation. It was not a fix for a venomous bite but it would buy time in which one could drive the victim to the hospital. At this point i wasn’t sure if she ate a bee, got stung by a scorpion, or tangled with something worse. All i knew was that i didn’t know so i figured i had better give her the benadryl to err on the side of caution. I pulled the curtain back and grabbed the first aid kit from the shelf. In there was grape flavored chewable childrens benadryl. While i was waiting on the internet connection to come through so i could google the dosage her face ballooned up before my eyes. It seemed to get worse and worse with each passing minute. I hurried to google the dosage and finally figured i couldn’t wait anymore so i went ahead and gave her two of the tablets while i continued to try to connect. Eventually i just called the emergency vet three cities over, in the nearest city with an emergency all-hours vet. She said she couldnt give me any advice but then she did end up calculating that i could give Cashew another half a tablet of benadryl based on her weight.
I gave Cashew all the chewable benadryl she could have and continued the dose every four hours. I did not know if she’d been bit by a wolf spider, stung by a scorpion, eaten a bee…all i knew was that she had facial swelling and facial swelling can lead to airway swelling. Then every second counts. Long story short, i didn’t go to sleep. I stayed up and watched her sleep all night, worried her swelling would reach her airway. I felt i had to monitor her condition closely and keep eyes on her at all times. I got one hour of sleep around dawn when i was so tired i couldn’t think or form words and sleep kind of just happened. I set my alarm to wake up in an hour and when i did wake up her swelling hadn’t gone down even though she’d been on benadryl all night.
Then i saw something that alarmed me. The side of her face had turned red with a line of purple shooting through the center. Then the skin of her whole cheek turned a dark purple color. now i knew it was a snake bite. Nothing else would do that. **** **** ****, i threw shoes on. In my pjs i ran into the yard and tried to put the seats up in the back of the car to form the trunk for Cashew to ride in. There was too much clutter. Frustrated and overwhelmed with a sense of urgency, i abandoned the idea and said aloud, “you’ll just have to ride in the front seat. No time.” I got on the phone with every vet in town. The nearest appointment i could wrangle was 1 pm. It was 8 in the morning. Some vets said they could see me tomorrow or next week. I decided to take the 1 o clock slot but i have no idea why. I knew it would be too late. She had gone all night without anti-venom and now the side of her face was turning purple and spreading up her head. **** i could drive to that city with the emergency vet but as the minutes ticked on and the swelling progressed towards her throat i concluded she wouldn’t make the drive. I kicked myself. Why didn’t i take her last night? My brain answered for me; because you didn’t see what she got bit by and without knowing that, they wouldn’t have given her anti-venom anyway. I felt very powerless and weak. Here my dog was. I knew where i needed to drive her to save her life, and yet, there were no available appointments so i was likely going to watch her suffocate. I suddenly remembered there was one last vet in the nearest town that i hadn’t tried. I prayed to God, crossed my fingers, and made the call. I described the situation to her. Half way through my sentence she said, “how far out are you?” I said “a 30 minute drive”. She said, “hang up, get here now. We’ll see you.”
My heart leapt and in a flood of gratitude i sprang into motion. I put flip flops on and left the house in my pajamas. I put my purse and a leash in the car. I had to lift Cashew onto the seat. She stood at the door but sat down and then laid down at the side of it rather than getting in. I lifted her in and closed the door. I drove to the gate and opened it. I left the gate wide open as we took off down the road. I drove those country roads 20 miles over the speed limit the whole way to town. I drove like a bat out of ****. Beside me, in the seat, Cashew began panting heavily. She was drooling more than usual. The panting did not worry me. When i really started to worry, was when the panting stopped. She stopped panting and started opening and closing her mouth repeatedly but no sound came out. Her tongue was hanging droopily from the side of her mouth and she was just opening and closing her lips. She seemed to panic and was turning around in the seat and falling off the seat as i drove. I was trying to comfort her and assure her i was going to get her there as fast as was humanly possible. I think i was saying, “stay with me. We’re almost there.” I know i was talking to her. I was also trying to drive very fast on some winding roads and pay attention to the cars in front of me. I couldnt really look at her. Her fur disappeared from my hand and i realized she had laid down. Her eyes were half closed and she was staring blankly at the door handle in the passenger seat. I called her name but she did not look up. I patted her aggressively. She did not look up. I could feel the panic rising in me. I prayed to God to let her make it until we reached the parking lot. We were so close.
when i made it to the parking lot i flew into a corner space, jumped out the car, ran around the side of it, lifted Cashew out, and ran into the clinic shouting, “Cashew, possible snake bite!” The woman at the front desk got a vet and told him the snake bite was here. He came right over and he and another man took Cashew from me and hurried her through a door. Then i was standing in a waiting room in my pajamas and flip flops. I looked around. All the people in the waiting room were being seen 30 minutes late because the vet had agreed to take my emergency. I apologized to the people in the waiting room and was surprised to find that many of them were understanding and trying to comfort me and assure me she would be okay while we waited.
The vet returned after a short time and told me that they had examined Cashew and that at the moment she was breathing fine so they were not worried. She had been given a steroid shot and they would give me steroid pills to take home with me. They were going to watch her for allergic reaction to the steroid for a bit and then she would be allowed to leave with me. They said she had definitely been bitten by a snake, either a copperhead or a rattlesnake. They weren’t sure which one. They said i had waited too long for her to have anti-venom so steroids was the way to go now. Whether or not the side of her cheek would come off would depend on how much venom she got in her but she was going to live. I thanked the vets, the reception staff, everyone in the waiting room, and pretty much anyone who would listen. I had had time to think about what it would be like to lose Cashew and return home without her while i was racing her into town in the car.
After 3 or 4 days on steroids her swelling had gone down and she looked pretty normal again. She did not lose her cheek. I finally found the puncture wounds. They were on the top of her snout. The day i brought her home she and Sili went in the dog run. The first thing they did was corner something underneath the dog house in the big hole they were digging to china. I flew through that gate so fast hollering and screaming at the top of my lungs for them to leave it. As soon as i’d seen sili jump back i knew what it was. Neither of them heeded my instruction. I sprinted to the dog house and grabbed both dogs by the fur, hurling them backwards from the dog house. Sure enough, in the darkness under the dog house i could just make out the shape of a coiled snake. “House” i hissed under my breath in a serious tone. Both dogs began sauntering towards the house. I did not want to disturb that snake. I refused to full on yell at the dogs while standing right next to it. I just wanted to get as far away from his or her hiding spot as possible. I would lay into them later.
As soon as i made it in the house i turned to both dogs and said, “you learned nothing, absolutely nothing. Oh my God! You nearly die, i get you home, put your steroids on the counter, and the first thing you go and do is put your face back in a snake, cuz that’s a good idea. Learned nothing, absolutely nothing!”
The dog run was declared out of commission and i barely let them out of the house to pee. I paid a wildlife wrangler 200 dollars to come and comb the entire property for snakes and relocate any found. The guy did not find any snakes or nests. He picked through the whole brush pile and checked underneath the dog house and shed. He even combed the unmowed field. He concluded that the snake had just been passing through, following the rodent population. I told him we did have mice in the field and the shed. He guessed it was a rattlesnake. He said i didnt have enough leaf cover on the ground for copperhead habitat. With the all clear from the wildlife wrangler i felt safe to let the dogs outside again. The experience forever changed my level of perceived safety on our property. Im constantly listening for rattles or rustling of the grass when im walking on the property. I bought a lot more childrens chewable benadryl and restocked the first aid kit with it. I’m grateful to the vet for saving her when no one else would fit us in. I’m grateful to God for watching over her. Im grateful for the first aid kit. Yall, do yourselves a favor and always keep chewable benadryl in there, just in case, especially if you live in the country. It will buy you some valuable driving time.