I'm not the worst mom ever; it just feels that way because my ignorance caused our beloved pet to be imprisoned for ten days.
Now I know how my own mother felt when, as kids, we'd tear in to each other with Hot Wheels tracks, croquet mallets and other pint-sized weapons. Rarely did we all emerge from a fight unscathed and, as karma is wont to do, I've now witnessed my own canine kids get into a brawl.
The trigger is less important than what happens afterward. In our case the dogs became agitated at what was happening on the other side of the fence, accidentally bumped into each other, and dog v dog ensued.
Two hours later I'm being interviewed by the local sheriff and an animal control officer while I'm getting stuck in the behind with tetanus and antibiotic shots, forking over $450 for a rabies quarantine, and saying goodbye to Fido* for ten days of observation at which point he'll either be dead or returned home. If it's the former, they cut off his head and send it to the Texas A&M labs for examination.
My mistake was placing my hand in Fido's mouth to unclench his grip. It didn't matter that we were current on rabies shots, it didn't matter that it was my hand going into the mouth instead of him biting me, it didn't matter that it was on my fenced-in property. Laws must be followed and Fido went into the custody of the county.
So what's a guilt-ridden mom to do? We discussed baking a cake with a file in it but instead formulated a plan for a daily dose of love. We weren't allowed to see Fido but — by bringing gifts each day — we demonstrated that this pet was a valued member of the family and hopefully would be treated as such by the staff.
Offerings included shirts worn for three days straight, blankets with our smell on it, a frozen Kong stuffed with peanut butter, afternoon snacks, the favorite toy that Fido was always trying to steal and a little recordable heart.
According to the veterinary techs Fido knew exactly what was happening when they played our voices uttering all the sweet doggy talk nothings that he was used to hearing. His whole demeanor changed and they vowed to play that recordable heart each day of his sentence.
The upside is that Fido's home now, though we had to bring an extra suitcase when he checked out for his amassed pile of loot. And we're going to work on behavior training and eliminating those triggers so that dog v dog never happens again.
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In the meantime, here are some tips from animal control about how to break up a fight if it ever happens to your family.
1. Make a big ruckus by shouting, screaming or clapping your hands.
2. Blast an air horn to startle the dogs and, if they're on a leash, pull them apart.
3. Spray the dogs with a garden hose.
4. Throw a blanket, jacket or tarp over the dogs to startle them and hopefully stop the fight.
5. Separate the dogs with a piece of wood, a skateboard or a plastic shovel.
6. Use a citronella sprayer; apparently this is like Kryptonite for dogs.
7. Keep a break stick on hand to place between the dog's jaws and then twist.
8. If there are two humans — and only if both are experienced dog handlers — grab the hind legs of each fighting dog and pull them apart after the jaws are unclenched. There's a lot of fine print on this one, as dogs in a frenzied state can redirect their aggression to you, so this is a last resort.
The Texas bite law is in place for good reason, designed to protect both you (getting treated for rabies is costly and painful) and our community. I may not agree with all of the nuances of the law, but that can only be changed through legislation.
* Names have been changed to protect the identity of our prison-pup.