Thursday, 26 March 2015
Elegant, gentle Harry is really just a hound dog, a ruthless killer. When the fox took off almost under his nose, he just had to chase it. Pad and I watched from afar as Harry and Bella tracked the crafty creature across a wide field and into a tree-lined ditch, jinking and jiving, yipping with pure doggy joy. (Lulu was on the lead, and could only moan.)
We saw the fox cut across an adjacent field. He gave 'em the slip, we thought.
We walked on, watching for Harry and Bella to catch us up.
Twenty minutes later came Bella, with flecks of blood on her legs and chest and muzzle. Oh my.
We climbed up onto the tumberon to see where Harry was. In the distance he was coming, head down, tired. Evidently the fox we saw run away was not the fox in question. Or some other fox had taken the fall for him. Because when Harry came round the corner, he looked like something from "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."
I do not like my dogs killing wildlife. Foxes have as much right to live as any other critter, but these dogs were born and bred for chasing them down. Lulu mixed it up before with these same foxes, not very long ago. Everyone came out of that encounter without any bloodshed, far as I know. But this time, Harry's face and paws, neck and muzzle were covered in fresh bright blood. It was not all fox blood. Harry's face was bleeding, his mouth was bleeding, his paws were, too. It looked like maybe the fox won this fight.
We got everyone home. We sponged down Harry, put some Betadine on the obvious injuries. I phoned the vet. He was out purging sheep. We'd have to wait til 4:30 p.m., bring him in then.
And we did.
By then, Harry's slender nose was swollen to a shnozz. Blood crusted his front end. He was sad, crying, limping a little. He knew he needed help. He jumped right into the back of the Kangoo.
Veterinary care is a great cultural disconnect between Spain and the United States. In America, when your dog is shredded by a fox, you drop him off at the vet's office and wait in anguish until they phone you up with the outcome and the bill. Here in Spain, the person who brings in the patient is the person who serves as surgical nurse, anesthetist, and handler.
Pet ownership here is not just cuddling and feeding and sweetness and light. It is pinning down the flailing, screaming creature who was your pet, watching him pant and twitch and fight as the second dose of tranquilizer takes effect. It's holding his head while his eyes roll and his tongue lolls and his blood and saliva dries on your hands and face and the walls of the exam room. It's looking someplace else while the doctor swabs the Betadine, runs next door for sutures that will dissolve inside a dog's mouth, while the doctor says "look, look how deep this bite is, the goddamn fox was going for his throat!" while he pumps a puncture full of black iodine with a plunger meant for printer cartridges.
The Bar Deportivo is right across the street from the veterinarian's office. I wonder if the vet gets a percentage of all the pet-owners who head over there after their pets take on foxes, automobiles, rat poison, or the neighbor's bull. Or just the vet.
Here in Old Castile, if you own a dog or cat, you assist the vet during "procedures." You give the follow-up injections to your animals -- intramuscular, or just under the skin -- donkeys, dogs, cats, rabbits. It's a given. You leave the vet with a little bagful of IV needles, the anti-inflammatory, the antibiotic, the vitamin, the one to make him sleepy. You learn quick how. Now I know how, too. I think this is a better way. Pet owners are so much more responsible this way... you see your pet suffer, you suffer yourself, you are hands-on part of the cure. You cannot just hand over the animal and a credit card, and pick him up when it's all over. It's your animal. You have to take care of it.
It took a full hour to stitch Harry's muzzle and gums and shoot him full of healing chemistry. He'll probably be OK, but he's going to hurt for a while. He's a mess. His stitched and shaven skin is sprayed with blue antiseptic and silver scar-forming stuff. He looks like a clown after a four-day bender. God knows what he feels like.
The vet carried him out to the car, laid him on a beach towel in the back. Once home, Paddy and I carried him, supine on the same towel, into the barn, onto the busted old sofa. The other dogs came to sniff him. His eyes rolled. They turned away and asked where their dinner might be.
I have to shoot up Harry Dog with two kinds of medicine for the next three days.
The vet didn't give us a bill. Not til Monday, he said. Not till we see how he's doing.
We will probably see that fox again, the vet told us. Tough as nails, foxes. His own terrier dog has its face carved up like this with some regularity. It's just awful, he says, but that's nature. That's life. That's dogs, foxes, pets, animals in Spain.
We signed up for this. It is how it ought to be. We stopped on the way home to buy him some soft, canned dog food. And for me, some Albarino, Galician white wine. Sustenance. Anesthesia.
Poor old Harry.
Poor old me.