The boys spent hours playing in the back yard with Katie while they were growing up. And Katie did her job of protecting the boys and our house from squirrels, skunks and poisonous snakes.
The first time a snake invaded our yard, we heard Katie barking with an urgency that went beyond her normal squirrel chase bark.
Kathy went outside to see what she was barking at. Then she called for me to come out. Katie had been barking a snake that was close to our house. She was keeping a safe distance away, telling the snake to go away. Once family was in the backyard, Katie became more aggressive. Now she wasn’t just trying to chase the danger away. She was trying to protect us from the snake. She started darting at the snake. I had to run the wrong way, away from the snake, to get a tool to kill the snake. It felt like it took hours to dart into the shed and grab a hoe.
I got the hoe, and was back in the action. I tried to go in for the kill, but Katie was quicker. I watched with dread as Katie lunged and the snake lunged, too quick to really see what happened. I think she was able to dance out of the way in time. It looked like the snake missed.
Katie was still barking, still lunging. I got in with the hoe and started hacking away at the snake, usually hitting the snake just a little behind where I thought I would hit, but still getting in some good licks. Katie began to bark, but as the snake was getting more and more injured, and becoming less of a threat, we noticed Katie beginning to wobble and stagger.
I killed the snake. Kathy got a good look at Katie. She had two small bloody spots on her muzzle. We knew little about snake bites, other than they could be deadly. All of the good TV shows said you put a tourniquet around the injured limb, sucked the venom out and got to a doctor lickity-split for an anti-venom injection.
Well … we could do the last one. So I gathered the remains of the chopped up snake and threw it in a bucket. After all, if Katie is going to get an anti-venom shot, the vet will have to know what kind of snake it was that bit her, won’t he? The snake did not have rattles, but it was obviously venomous. Did young rattle snakes not have rattles? Is there another kind of venomous snake that inhabits South Texas? We didn’t know, so bringing the snake with us was important.
Then we bundled up Katie and put her in the car. Off we flew to the nearest vet. They are never as close as you need them to be.
We carried Katie in. We carried in the bucket with the dead snake. The vet looked at the snake in the bucket and asked why we brought the snake. He had no idea what kind of a snake it was. Ok, we thought, well maybe there is an all-purpose anti-venom that he uses.
We watched expectantly as the vet turned his attention to Katie.
He gave her a tetanus shot and a shot of anti - ….
What? Where’s the anti-venom? We were worried about Katie dying from the poison, and the vet is treating her against tetanus and salmonella?
The vet told us that there would be a lot of swelling, but that she would survive. A snake bite on the muzzle is the best place for a dog to get bit. The poison rarely gets down to the heart when the bite is in the muzzle.
He gave us a bottle of antibiotics medication and sent us home with Katie.
Katie’s face and neck did swell a lot. I’m sure she was in pain for a few days, but then the swelling began to go down. Katie recovered, with the only side effect being a little scar on her muzzle where the snake’s fangs had sunk in.
This was the first of three snake bites that our brave dog would take in her effort to protect us and keep us safe. The confrontations would always start with frantic barking. As soon as we stepped out, she would start lunging at the snake. Kathy would try to grab Katie while I ran to get a killing tool, usually the hoe.
Katie could evade Kathy, but not the snake. I would come in and kill the snake. Once we realized that she had been struck, we would rush Katie to the vet, who would give her another antibiotic shot, fill a prescription of antibiotics, and then send us back home.
Three snake bites did have one effect on Katie. As she got older, her skin would not quite return to the same tautness it had in youth. I'm sure if she could have seen herself in a mirror she would have been embarrassed at the double chin she had developed in her later years.