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Sydney’s New Dog Fight Wound

Sydney is often protective of us, even if it is completely unnecessary.  This personality characteristic likely contributed to her latest dog fight wound.  In this picture, she is maintaining physical contact by sitting on the only part of my body available to her – my foot.

Thanks to Sydney’s wild west attitude and disregard for rules regarding canine size superiority, she once again put us both in a pickle and ended up with a dog fight wound.  This happened back in November 2016.

Our friends invited us over for a dinner party at their house.  They have a dog and have been looking for dog friends, so they invited us to bring Trooper and Sydney.  We hesitated to bring Sydney but decided to give it a go; we could always leave her in her car crate if it became clear that it wasn’t going to work out.

Brian and I went in first to meet the dog.  Tessie is a few years old, probably 60 lbs and some kind of heeler/shepherd mix.  She was very quiet and polite while meeting Trooper; no barking or aggression.  She has a clean record and has never inflicted a dog fight wound.  We waited a little while before making the decision to bring Sydney in.  During this time, we noticed Tessie becoming increasingly ‘protective’ of Brian and me. She kept squeezing herself between me and Trooper, as if I was hers to claim.

Once we identified what was going on, we started preventing her bossy possessiveness.  After a little while, things calmed down.  We were ready to get on with our evening.  Okay, so let’s get Sydney.

[Reflecting back on the evening of “the dog fight wound” that I will remember forever, I recall immediately perceiving that Tessie was an alpha female; even before she started pushing Trooper around. She had that confidence and speed of decision making that reminds me of Sydney.  Once she started shielding us, it was like witnessing Sydney in another dog’s body.  In retrospect, I do not understand why we went forward with the Sydney introduction.  She does not get along well with strong-minded canine ladies.]

The Dog Fight

We put Tessie into the backyard and brought Sydney in through the side gate.  Our goal was for more neutral territory so that Tessie didn’t feel the need to defend the household against Sydney.  (We didn’t do this initially because Trooper is generally well received by all dogs and never causes a problem.)

The ladies found each other pretty quick and they both did the aggressive face sniff that always proceeds snarling.  What is the face sniff?  When Sydney identifies another dog that she hasn’t immediately dismissed as small and petty, she sniffs them in the face.  She does not do the ‘respectful’ thing of going around to sniff the rear-end.  She quickly gets up and personal in their face, where she almost always causes the dog to want to defend itself or run off.  And guess what?  Tessie did the same thing right back.  Alpha on alpha.

There was some snarling and a little scuffle.  Our friends called Tessie and we called Sydney.  The wrestling broke up immediately and the dogs each ran to their respective parents.  Tessie eventually left her parents to meander around the yard.  Sydney ran over to investigate her (as if she’d never seen her before).  Tessie ran away from her; Sydney followed too closely.  Tessie barked and then Sydney ran off.

I didn’t take any photos of Sydney’s open wound; but here is another photo of her, once again, compromising the safety of her face.

The Dog Fight Wound

Next, Sydney trotted with her head down along the fence and went over to the gate.  Once she got there, she turned around and kind of walked quickly around with her head down.  Her behavior was way off.  There was no way she was bored of Tessie.  And even if she was, she wouldn’t go off by herself – she’d come chill near us.

I was watching her closely.  Since I love them so much and they get all of my maternal affection, I look at them A LOT.  I’m an expert on my dogs, as everybody should be.  So the first time Sydney swiped her face, I saw the movement and was at her side a few seconds later.

When Tessie had barked, she had also managed to bite Sydney’s face.  There was a two-inch gash down her snout, right between her eyes.  Sydney’s eyes were intact, but the tissue and blood vessels were exposed in her forehead.  I was horrified.  But at the same time, I was immensely relieved that I got to her so fast.  If she had kept rubbing it, it could have made the situation a lot worse.

I pointed out the dog fight wound to the other humans.  Tessie was put inside and our friends brought out a first aid kit.  Aside from keeping myself from crying, (which is honestly not my typical panic response; I’m actually a rescue diver and am usually very calm in stressful situations.), I didn’t do much.  Brian was chief problem solver from this point on out.

Our First Treatment Attempts

This cone uses velcro to close and was the type our friends had handy. Unlike the cone we have at home (which is threaded through the dog’s normal collar), this cone can go on over the collar and is very quick to get in place. If you don’t already have a cone, I highly recommend getting a velcro one.

We did our best to dump hydrogen peroxide in the wound, but it was tricky with it being located right between her eyes.  It was closer to one eye than the other and any liquid we dumped on her just wanted to stream right into her poor eyes.  The wrestling hold I ended up adopting was using my thighs to keep her body from moving and then holding her head in place with my hands.  Brian switched to saturating some sterile gauze with hydrogen peroxide and then pressing it and squeezing it directly into the wound.  The liquid delivery was therefore much less (more like a teaspoon than a stream).

We did that several times until we felt confident it was disinfected of any mouth germs from Tessie.  If you’ve read my post about treating puncture wounds at home, you know I’m a proponent of leaving accessible (small) wounds open so the dog can take care of themselves.  But this was different.  One swipe with her paw and Sydney could damage the minuscule piece of tissue between the wound and eyeball; and it also wasn’t in a location where she could keep it clean.

We created a square of damp gauze, pressed it against the wound and then used stretchy athletic wrap to hold it in place.  Since the wound was located on the front of her face, we knew it was going to be difficult to keep the wrap in place.  We initially tried a loop of the athletic wrap behind one ear, but it didn’t work well.  It closed off that eyeball and eventually slid to the narrowest part of her head – her nose.

Next up, we wrapped it around her head again, this time getting a loop behind each ear so it had tension in both directions.  This worked okay but it closed off both her eyes.  Naturally, she immediately started walking around and bumping into things.  No fear or concern.  If she couldn’t see, she was just going to feel her way around.  As we were assembling a cone (thank goodness our friends had one handy), Sydney gently swiped her face and removed our whole wrap job.

Okay, so clearly that wasn’t going to work.  While we thought about what to do, we put the cone on Sydney, put Tessie in a bedroom and moved our operation inside the house.

Trooper, oblivious to any sort of problem, took to his normal routine of sniffing and finding food remnants.

We were tempted to not do anything immediately but kept coming back to the fact that the wound was a giant slash on her face that was not going to heal closed without a little help.  And because it was an open dog fight wound in a place where Sydney couldn’t keep it clean, it would likely get infected.  Additionally, I couldn’t focus on anything beside Sydney’s comfort.  After the two wrap attempts, she had become very subdued and compliant.  We knew this behavior indicated fear, discomfort/pain or some other sort of unease, because Sydney’s default mode is much more energetic.  While I am a proponent of doing things myself, a dog fight wound is nothing to mess around with.  Time for some advice.  Time to call the vet.

(I’m breaking this into two posts because it’s kind of a long story.  Stay tuned…)