DaDane of DaWeek

 Created: 09/08/03


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– Tess, Revisted

September 8, 2003 – Two weeks ago, we met an interesting character named Tess, who lives in rural West Virginia. Tess's owner/breeder, Joanna Kimball, told us all about this mischievous puppy who, after some earlier set-backs, was finally growing up to become a lovely – and lively – Great Dane. (Click here if you missed the story.) Shortly after Tess appeared on DaDane of DaWeek, Joanna contacted me with some very distressing news:

August 27, 2003

Well, I think finally making it on DaDane was a sign to Tess that she needed to take her disaster-proneness to newer and grander heights. Here's what happened to us last night:

Tess wiggled out under the fence for the third time this week when my four-year-old let her out to piddle. ("Don't let Tess out without telling us" does not sink in very well in the preschool brain). Well, for the first time, she didn't come back after her usual ten minutes of rebellious romping through the woods, so Doug asked me to come home early from my office. I got home and spent a couple of hours walking the woods and calling. No sign of anything. Finally I took Mitch, our fawn boy, out on a leash and went WAYYY out down side roads, whistling. When got back, Doug was waiting for me on the porch – Tess had come back just seconds before, at a dead run, and he said that she looked hurt. I went inside and found her in a panic trotting through the downstairs, blood POURING from her mouth and nose. It wasn't just dripping, there was a steady stream of blood and saliva and snot running everywhere.

I immediately threw everyone (shoeless kids in pajamas, myself, Doug, and Tess) into the car and we took off about 80 miles an hour for the vet ER clinic 45 minutes away. By the time we got there, the bleeding had slowed to a steady drip, thank God, but I still hadn't been able to even look inside her mouth – it was all just a red cave. They whisked her away as soon as we got there. Well, to make a very long story short, SOMEHOW (the vet had literally never seen an injury like this) Tess had managed to destroy the front of her upper jaw without making a single mark on the outside of her face or anywhere else. Her left canine was knocked out (the vet found it stuck completely through the middle of her tongue), all of her upper incisors (basically the entire top of her bite) are gone, her palate had been partially crushed. There were bone fragments sticking out all over the place and her tongue is badly lacerated. Weirdest of all, there were bits of metal imbedded in the inside of her lips (not buckshot or birdshot, more like shrapnel). The bloody nose was just from the force of whatever impact it was. Thank goodness her top palate wasn't pierced, and the nasal canals are intact.The vet said it's the type of injury they see with gunshots or bad car accidents or even horse kicks, but there's always some sort of gross trauma to the outside of the dog. Tess is untouched – not even a graze on her face. So no one knows what happened.

The vet put Tess under heavy sedation, cleaned her all up, and stitched everything back into place. She's back home now, woozy and hurting, but otherwise OK. She even ate two meals today (ground, of course), though drinking is harder since her tongue hurts her so much. She's on antibiotics and aside from a slight swelling and the fact that she's drooling like a recent wisdom teeth patient, you can't see a thing from just looking at her. My house and the back of our Explorer look like we sacrificed pigs – new flooring is definitely on the Christmas list.

I'm trying to find the bright side – for one thing, she didn't get killed out there, or get one of the other dogs killed, which is a huge blessing – and heck, now I don't have to hire a handler for her. And now Doug has a major motivation to finish the hot wire around the bottom of the fenced yard, which was installed before this happened, but hadn't yet gone "live" because we were installing the grounding system. Mostly, though, I'm sitting watching reruns and getting more than a little weepy from delayed shock. I feel like an idiot that she got out in the first place, but we really were treating this fence digging like a minor inconvenience (since she always romped around for a few minutes and then came running back onto the porch) rather than as a real potential for injury.

Anyway, all's well that ends well, and she's safe and home. She'll have funny smile, but it's a small price to pay to have her alive and (I'm sure) only hours away from doing something else naughty.

August 28, 2003

Tess is doing MUCH better today. She is already begging for chicken backs when the other dogs are fed. The ER vet thought she'd need soft food for a couple of weeks while her palate and gums heal, but after that, she should be back to normal – as normal as Tess ever gets! She's lost six teeth total: four of her upper bite, her left canine, and the premolar to the left of the missing canine, but the swelling is already down considerably and she seems pretty happy. I actually had to stop her from playing with Mitch this morning. It's incredibly disappointing, of course, to know that I can't show her (she was finally really coming together and her movement is to die for. But alas, it seems pretty clear that unless I had gotten x-rays of the bite before the accident, any missing teeth are to be counted as a major fault, and it's absolutely true that it would now be impossible to evaluate her bite.) Considering what could have happened when she was gone, I think we got off pretty lightly. I don't have the slightest idea what caused this injury, but I'm glad Tess is back home and being troublesome again.

September 4, 2003

We have no idea what actually happened to Tess, but she is doing GREAT. She doesn't look or feel anything but well now, and aside from her funny smile and the fact that she drools out of one side of her mouth (that may go away as she learns how to compensate for the toothlessness, or it may not) you would never know that anything happened. We tested her with solid food (chicken backs) yesterday and she did beautifully – it's actually easier for her than soft food, because she can juggle it back to the back of her mouth and use her molars. She still has trouble picking things up from the ground, but she managed to rip up another dog bed last night, so somehow she's figured out how to get a hold of things. She's done with antibiotics, all the swelling is gone, and the tooth sockets are 80% filled in. She's back to her usual energetic and naughty self, and is initiating play with the other dogs. (OK, really she's just barrelling up to them and leaping full force into their faces, but "initiating play" sounds so much more ladylike.)

A Cautionary Tale
Reading about Tess's experience is a reminder to us all about how quickly the unexpected can happen. (Personally, I don't know of many Dane owner's who've never had to retrieve a sudden "escapee.") Like Joanna, I live in a decidedly rural setting, a reasonable distance from any busy roads or highways. As such, I've been a bit more relaxed when a dog has gotten loose. It seems like we have a little extra time to grab the dog before he can get into any real trouble. The Kimball's experience with Tess demonstrates that the unimaginable can – and sometime does – actually happen. It's food for thought.

Any Ideas?
Joanna and her family are still in the dark as to what caused such an unusual injury. I discussed Tess's story with the gentleman who owns and operates our local feed store. A farmer himself, he has seen lots of strange things in his day. He theorized that Tess might have bitten into a pressurized aerosol can, causing it to explode in her mouth. He told me his dog did that once, but the resulting injuries were not nearly as severe as Tess's. The pressurized can theory sounds as plausible as the horse or car theory, I suppose. Anybody have any other ideas? If so, please share them.

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