Rabid

Well, it’s been quite an adventure around the farm here. And I mean, when is it not? But seriously, we’re really living the dirty life here- the circle of life is just constantly playing out in front of our very eyes.

For one, Scout, our dear, sweet, rescued Golden Retriever- who bit Tom 9 days ago- is about to roll into his 10th day of a 10 day rabies quarantine.

I wish I was kidding.

And how do we quarantine a potentially rabid dog around here? Well, we let him sleep on the couch as normal, wouldn’t you?

So here’s the scoop…

As I wrote about in my last farm update (here), Scout bit Thomas pretty badly a week ago Wednesday night. Thomas was feeding the dogs, and Scout went for a bowl of food that wasn’t his, and Thomas pushed on Scout’s shoulders and chest to move him away from the bowl. Before Tom even knew what had happened, his hand was in Scout’s mouth, and Scout was not letting go. Thomas actually had to use his free hand to pry the first hand out of Scout’s mouth. And then he had to hold Scout down until he calmed down, which took several seconds more.

The whole thing was- for the most part- very out of character for the old Golden. Although, it wasn’t uncommon for Scout to growl at us. He is old, and he’s pretty set in his ways, and although it’s unacceptable, and yes, even a warning sign, we didn’t really think much of it. Who ever heard of a mean Golden Retriever?

Sidebar: Was Old Yeller a Golden or a Lab?

Either way, once he bit Thomas and caused some pretty good damage to both of his hands, we knew there was only one choice… he needed to be put down.

Well… if only it were that easy.

Turns out, there is no test for rabies in dogs or in humans. The only way to know if a dog has rabies is to quarantine him for 10 days. A dog will die of rabies within 10 days of the first symptoms (aka the bite, or first sign of aggression).

The other option is to euthanize the dog, and have his entire head sent to the CDC for a special examination of the brain and brain stem. Isn’t that a pretty picture? Do you think that is standard mail or Priority?

Thomas called the vet, his doctor, and even spoke to the gal specifically in charge of all animal disease cases in our county. Turns out, if Scout does have rabies, he will be the first dog in all of Lawrence County Tennessee to ever have contracted the disease. Hey, we try to be trail blazers whenever possible, right?

We were on day 7 of the quarantine when Thomas spoke to this professional animal bite lady, and although I will admit, Scout had absolutely declined significantly since the bite in his physical well being- which is strange- he hadn’t started to exhibit any of the obvious signs of rabies. This is the only reason we didn’t have him locked up somewhere. The bite lady said that it would be smarter for us to wait out the 10 days because if he survived it, then we could pretty conclusively say that he did NOT have rabies, and it would all be well and good. And based on the fact that he wasn’t showing any obvious symptoms, she agreed it was unlikely that he DID have rabies. She also said that putting him down and shipping his head allowed for a lot of extra risk including the head getting lost (what?), the temperature of the head changing, and other contaminations that would affect the test.

And so the quarantine continued! Although we primarily kept him on the back porch away from the kids, he does still sleep in the house and come in to rest. If he doesn’t have rabies, and I don’t think he does, then I’d be so sad for a hurting, old dog to be dying outside in the cold. You know?

Here’s the deal… he’s definitely not well. His front leg and shoulder were hurting him the day of the bite. I saw him limping around and having trouble getting up and down. I suspect that Thomas pushed him on his injured leg and he bit him because of that. However, because he’s declined since then, and he isn’t getting up much because of the pain, his entire body seems to be getting more and more immobile. It’s very sad, but honestly, it’s terrible timing. Is he sick from being sick? Or is he sick from rabies??

There have been a few instances where he has shown aggression the last 9 days. Just now, actually, when I let him in the house to go to sleep, he hobbled over to lay down and when I went over to him to see how he was doing, he growled and showed his teeth at me. That’s freaking scary. And not cool man!

But he’s not foaming at the mouth. He’s not eating rocks. He’s not vomiting. He’s not afraid of water… these are all strong signs of rabies- especially of a dog at the end of a quarantine and, well, life if he has rabies. But if I’m being honest, I’m not convinced he won’t die tonight! Not because I’m thinking he really has rabies, but because he’s freaking old and definitely sick. So what then??

I asked Thomas when we were laying in bed the other night what the treatment was for rabies in humans and he said, “Oh it’s always fatal.”

WHAT????

Where are all the 5K’s to cure rabies? ALWAYS FATAL? What on earth? And so I picked up the good old phone and started researching- aka google- and turns out there is a less common display of rabies called paralytic rabies. It’s presents in lethargy and paralytic limbs. GREAT!!!

Honestly, I wish I was writing this blog with a funny punch line to insert right now, but I’m just writing it as we’re in the thick of it. Scout may die tonight, tomorrow… but if he’s not dead by Monday, we’re going to put him down, and we may be facing an expensive head ship and $1050 worth of vaccination shots for Thomas and hopefully nothing more dramatic than that- although that’s pretty dramatic if you ask me. I just can’t really believe that this is what we’re dealing with.

So if you want my advice, don’t take in stray dogs! Even if the Facebook story sounds really sad and convincing. DON’T FALL FOR IT!

I can’t think of any other kind of transition right now other than… in other farm news…

As Scout is potentially on his way out, our other Facebook sob story turned stray animal adoption- our grey cat named “Smokey-” gave us quite the surprise this week. If you’ll recall, I talked about how Stormy (who has been renamed to Smokey) came to live at the farm in my blog titled Winter.

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She was supposed to be pregnant, but given the fact that cats are around 3 weeks along when you discover they are pregnant, and an overall cat pregnancy is about 9-10 weeks, the time for baby cats had all but come and gone. We got her at the beginning of January and if she was meant to be 3-4 weeks pregnant at that point, we’d be quite overdue. I joke in the blog how we’d been had, and will likely never see, or hear from, this cat’s owners ever again.

Well, Tuesday afternoon, upon returning from the grocery store, Thomas headed for Nashville, while I began unloading the groceries and putting them away. Please keep in mind, as I tell this story, that I am NOT a cat person. Smokey is a brat. She, like most every cat I’ve ever known, is a brat. I don’t know what they’re thinking, what they want, and more importantly, what they don’t want. And whenever I try to be nice, they are just brats. So when Smokey started to meow incessantly while I was unpacking the groceries, I was absolutely annoyed. I tried to put her outside, but she scratched her way across the hard wood floors in protest. Okay, she doesn’t want out. Food? I don’t even know where the cat food is, honestly, so I figured she’d just have to figure out what her own problem was and leave me alone.

Just as I put Gage on the toilet for a number two, Smokey staged right outside the bathroom door and began her complete and utter rabid outburst. I’m not even kidding you, my very first thought was, “Oh my gosh, Scout has given this cat rabies!”

She screamed at me. Like literally screamed. Like a human. As loud as a human can scream, this cat screamed. And although this cat can’t be more than 6 pounds, I was honestly afraid for my life. I immediately called my husband, trapped in the bathroom, with a now crying 2 year old, and was considering if it would be weird for me to call 911. Intermixed in her alarmingly loud screams, she would let out a low, guttural groan like I’ve never heard a non-wild animal make. I mean, these are the kinds of sounds you hear the Mountain Lion on Homeward Bound make.

And if that wasn’t scary enough, she then began to hurl herself backwards into a back flip! Yes, a cat back flip. A screaming cat back flip. And although I wasn’t able to safely wipe Gage, I did escape the bathroom (closing him in) and was able to get to Merit, who was also crying and trying to hide.

At that point, she began flipping onto her back and licking her butt- or at least I thought it was her butt. Honestly, this made a little sense to me, because I then assumed she had a tick or a spider literally biting inside her butthole. Yes, I thought this. And although I would have loved to help her out with that, there was no getting near her in her rabid state.

And then, just as suddenly as it had begun, about 3 minutes into the whole charade, she had a baby… at the foot of my stairs. A tiny, slimy, gross, bloody, freaking kitten.

“Oh look, Merit, she had a baby!”

“She had a baby?????”

Yea, it shocked the heck out of me too! And honestly, it turned the entire energy of the house around. Gage climbed off the toilet himself and came into the hall to join us as we examined Smokey cleaning up herself and her baby. Oh and bleeding on my freshly cleaned floor. Stupid cat.

We were expecting company that same day, and just as I was thinking about how I’d have to clean the damn floors again, Smokey picked up her baby and carried her under the bed in the guest room, despite my squeals. Our arriving guest was allergic to cats, and surely didn’t want a bleeding, meowing cat and kitten under her bed.

Luckily, Smokey had made a home for her and her baby in a cardboard box that Cadence used as a pretend bunny house. It was actually a divinely perfect home, and I had completely forgotten it was under there. It also made it very easy for me to grab with a mop, and pull the entire box out to relocate it.

As I sat there watching the mom and baby, I began googling. Turns out I was going to be this cat’s doula, so I had better catch up on some reading. If it was her first litter, and I couldn’t confirm nor deny that it was- other than the fact that she didn’t seem to recall that what she was going through would result in a kitten!- she would likely have 2-5 kittens total. As I mentioned, this is a super small cat, and I couldn’t even imagine more than one of those kittens fitting inside of her. But alas, even though google told me to expect the next kittens 15-60 minutes after the first, 2 hours later, she began exhibiting signs of possession again. This time, however, she stayed in her box and didn’t scream as much. Baby number two was born without incident and Merit and I got to watch the whole thing.

After baby two was born, she seemed to return completely to normal. And although I seemed to be able to feel some strangely shaped things in her abdomen, she didn’t appear to be having any more babies. But she also didn’t seem to care all that much about the babies she did have. She wanted out, she wanted food, she wanted attention, she wanted anything other than to be in that box. I actually had to shut the door and lock her into the room with the babies to get her to nurse them, cause hey, I sure as heck was not going to do it!

But no matter what we tried, she was super restless, and unwilling to be the mom I was hoping she’d be.

Come night fall, and two cans of the appropriate food for a nursing mom (thank you google and Thomas for an emergency store run), she was at least willing to stay near the babies and give them some milk from time to time. Progress!

That evening, about 12 hours after the first cat was born, we discovered why she was being so weird. She had one more baby stuck in her. And she was finally delivering it. It was just after midnight, but the groaning and screaming wasn’t exactly something I could sleep through (oh but Tom could), and so I witnessed the third baby be born breach, with under developed hind legs. I couldn’t tell if the baby was alive or not, but it was out and Smokey seemed to be tending to it the way she had tended to the first ones and so I went back to bed.

Around 2am I got up to check on the newest baby, and I found that Smokey had evicted it. Smokey and her two healthy babies were snuggled away in the box, while the new baby, was gasping for air on the floor just outside the box. I continue to be fascinated by the instincts of animals.

I woke Thomas up and asked him if he would ‘take care’ of the sweet little baby so that it didn’t have to suffer, and he did.

In the morning, Smokey was a perfectly attentive and loving mom.

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Today, only 3 days after the births, the kittens and mom are still held up in our bedroom, in their box, and although Smokey comes out to say hello here and there, absolutely NO OTHER ANIMALS are allowed anywhere near the doorway of the room. Our bedroom is downstairs and the dogs are inside often. Let’s just say, Lucy and Harper have gotten a very surprising and very vicious attack from Smokey, that they didn’t even see coming, just for walking by the door of the bedroom. Like I said, the instincts of animals fascinate me. She’s always gotten along so well with the dogs. But now they’re mortal enemies.

So that’s the what’s what on the farm these days. Pray for Scout and Thomas, that they both do not have rabies, and that Scout is able to find peace however that comes to pass. I look forward to closing that chapter, no matter how sad it may be. And hey, if you’re in need of a kitten, we’ll have two available in a few weeks google says!

And the story continues…

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