Nellie In Watercolor, Part 5, (The Rattler)

Nellie In Watercolor

She is finally done.  I hope you all like her.  It only took 10 plus years to complete.  Not that long to paint, but the procrastination and misplacing took years.  Now for one more Nellie story.

The Northern Pacific Rattlesnake as photographed that day.

The Rattler

The yarder engine roared and the cable snapped tight.  Limbs and debris went flying as the yarder heaved the logs into the air.  From the bottom of the canyon the logs sailed up the hill until they were suspended over the landing.  Then they dropped to the ground with an earth-shaking thud and a cloud of dust.

I was visiting a logging job to go over log quality with the siderod.  It was a hot, dry afternoon on the mountain.  On this day, Hawk and Nellie, two panting golden retrievers were riding in the bed of my truck.  They were my traveling companions.  “Okay, guys time for a drink,” I said to the dogs as I climbed into the truck.  We pulled out of the dusty landing and headed down the steep, winding road.

After a few miles, we stopped at a flat next to Deadwood Creek.  The Forty-Niners mined this little creek during the Gold Rush.  Its banks were piled high with the old mining tailings.  I popped open the tailgate and let the dogs out.  Smelling the water, they both turned and headed down a trail to the creek.  As I followed them, I could hear the wind rustling through the leaves.  They got right into the water and drank their fill.  This was followed by swimming and eating grass along the bank.  When they had enough, I started back up the trail, but didn’t call the dogs.  I was trying to beat them to the top of the stream bank so they wouldn’t run me over on the steepest part of the trail.  When they realized I was leaving they raced after me.  Instead of taking the trail, they took a different route.  We all reached the top of the bank at the same time.  They stopped about fifteen feet to my right and then I heard a rattlesnake.  The sound was coming from where the dogs were standing.  I frantically began calling them and ran toward the truck to draw them away.  They followed within seconds, but it seemed like minutes.  Once safely in the back of the truck I quickly examined them, but could find no bite marks.

Unconvinced that everything was okay with the dogs; I grabbed my camera and headed back toward the rattler.  When people are bitten by a rattlesnake it is important to know what specie of snake the venom is from.  The anti-venin given to treat snakebite is specific to each type of snake.  I didn’t know if that was true for dogs so I wanted to identify the snake just in case.  When I was within forty feet of the snake it started buzzing loudly.  I had a sinking feeling.  This snake was really agitated.  I got as close as I could and took pictures.  It was a Northern Pacific Rattlesnake.  I hurried back to the truck fearing the worst.  When I reached the truck my fears were confirmed, Nellie was holding her left hind leg up and out.

As quickly as I could, I chained Hawk in and scooped Nellie up in my arms.  I loaded her into the front of the truck and sped down the road, leaving a cloud of dust.  We were an hour and a half from town.  Nellie couldn’t sit still as pain from the snakebite racked her body.   She kept leaning against me until she couldn’t stand the pain anymore.  She would change positions, move around, and then come back and lean against me again.  All I could do was drive fast.  I stroked her, but could give no comfort or relief.  About thirty minutes after leaving the flat, I was able to get a cell signal.  I called Mary, my wife, and told her what happened and that we were an hour out from the vet’s office.  She said that she would alert the veterinarian and meet us there.

One very long hour later we arrived the vet’s office.  I picked Nellie up and headed for the front door.  We burst in and I said, “I have a snakebite here.”  Mary was there waiting and told me, “Follow me, they have a room ready for her.”

Dr. Joy came almost immediately and began the examination.  She took blood samples.  “Some snakebites are dry bites that don’t actually deliver any venom. We already know by the swelling she has been envenomated, but the blood work will tell us how she is responding,” she said.  After riding in the truck with Nellie I already knew the blood work would show that she was in bad shape.  Once the blood work confirmed that her red blood cells were being destroyed, she was started on antivenin.

snake, rattlesnake, snake bite, golden retriever

The initial snakebite wound.

There was nothing left for us to do but call our son.  Nellie was his, but he was active duty Air Force so she stayed with us.  Now we had to give him the bad news.  He was very worried for her and we promised to keep him up to date.  Later that evening, Dr. Joy called to tell us that they wanted to keep her for observation for a couple of days, but that Nellie had stabilized and was resting comfortably.  This was good news.

Nellie, snake bite, veterinarian

Mary and Tom dog visiting Nellie at the Vet’s office. She was one sick pup, but it sure perked her up seeing us.

About mid-morning the next day, while I was at work  Mary called me to tell me that Nellie was going downhill fast.  The vets shaved her leg to look for an additional bite wound, but they didn’t find two bites, they found six.  All bites were on the same leg, but on all sides.  The vets started round two of antivenin.  Again, we waited for the medicine to do its work.

By the next day she was doing better, and from that point on she steadily improved.  She came home a week later.  It took the fight out of her for a good long time.  Eventually she made a full recovery.  To this day, our veterinarians say this was the worst snakebite they have ever seen.

Today at twelve she is still an eager traveling companion of mine.  She never likes to be left behind.

Nellie, always ready to go.

When I reflect back on the events of that day, I remember the sound of the wind rustling through the leaves, but it wasn’t breezy that day.  I realize that the sound I heard wasn’t the sound of leaves, but the sound of a nervous rattlesnake buzzing quietly.  The rattler had been sunning himself and warned us to stay away.  I didn’t recognize it at the time for what it was.  I believe that when Nellie reached the top of the creek bank she stepped on and stood on the rattler.  She is a very stoic dog and didn’t get off of it until I called her.  Meanwhile, the rattlesnake repeatedly bit her, because it was responding to her apparent attack.   The rocky tailing piles along the creeks are prime rattlesnake habitat.  Scouting these sites before turning the dogs loose is now our standard procedure so that none of our dogs have to experience what Nellie went through.

There is a snakebite vaccine made for dogs.  However, it has limited effectiveness for most rattlesnake envenomation.  It works best on Western Diamondback bites, but provides little or no protection from the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake.  If you are considering the vaccine for your dog, talk to your veterinarian.  Also, find out which poisonous snakes are most common in your area.

You will find Nellie’s preceding posts here;

Nellie In Watercolor, Part 1

Nellie In Watercolor, Part 2

Nellie In Watercolor, Part 3

Nellie In Watercolor, Part 4

Due to technical difficulties I wasn’t able to access all of the photos I planned to use, until now.  The Nellie painting was completed some time ago.  I apologize for the delay, and I hope you enjoy the post.

81 thoughts on “Nellie In Watercolor, Part 5, (The Rattler)

  1. Nellie is one lucky dog! Dogs invariably tend to get bitten by snakes almost every time they encounter one, as do cattle. I have seen so many die because most people had no idea what kind of snake bit their dogs ( you are right that the vet must know what type of snake it is) and in India the list of venomous snakes is pretty long. Plus anti-venin is an extremely precious commodity in our country considering the ratio of the human and snake population. Veterinary clinics( which in all states/towns/villages except perhaps in the metropolitan cities are government run) never carry any. Usually the local government hospital for humans has some vials but they can hardly distribute it for treatment of animals, quite apart from the fact that the dose for animals is higher than humans.
    I always found it strange when our text-books told us about identifying the different snakes by their markings and so on. I mean do you know how fast a kind cobra is? Plus, hardly any one in the lower income bracket’s and even middle-class ones will have a camera ( though cell phones carry some kind of camera nowadays and that is one accessory every Indian has now even in the lowest income bracket) let alone the idea that the identity of the snake is important.
    We just have so many many people struggling for livelihood in the little land mass of our sub-continent and history has not been kind what with invasions and such. Plus, it seems impossible that anyone can control the seething humanity that is my country. People encroach on municipal land all the time extending their homes beyond requisite guidelines right onto the road and it becomes impossible for government to tear it down for fear of igniting some minority/ sect/ religious community/ caste and loosing votes. Sometimes, a communist government doesn’t seem a bad idea. I think China were clever to realize it was the only way to control huge populations.
    We are just so short on space. When i see photographs from your country of the huge open spaces it feels magnificent. I think the only empty spaces in our country are the sheer sides of mountains ( though my state’s i.e. ‘Himachal Pradesh’s’ entire population is less than that of the the metropolitan Bangalore, where I stay now and we do have pine forests and green fields back home * nostalgic for home now*) . Something has to be said of the British genius for planning which shaped your country. You guys are so young and you started with a blank slate with so much experience behind you. Though I am sure if Indians had discovered a new land mass we would still have created incredible confusion and chaos.
    Lol! I am sorry for the long comment. I just woke up early on a weekend while the hubby is happily snoring away and I seem to be in a introspective, talkative mood 🙂 Notice the meandering from snake bit to government policy. If I continue I might just move to world peace and greenhouse effect.
    Anyway, extremely happy for Nellie. she is lucky to have an intelligent and prompt owner along with a loving one 🙂


    • Wow, that was a long comment. My wife and I enjoyed it immensely. Nellie was very lucky indeed. Nellie is a working/hunting dog. She has contributed to our family by retrieving wild fowl for years. She is a loved part of our family and we owe her the best care we could give her. We are lucky that we have the veterinary care that we do. The free enterprise system allows us to have one of the best veterinary systems.

      It is a wonderful thing to live in a place with wide open spaces. We are truly blessed here. Besides, our snakes aren’t as numerous, big and dangerous as your snakes.


  2. Wonderful story. All along the way while reading it I was hoping that Nellie was going to make. So grateful she did. Can’t even begin to imagine how you must have felt. Great post.


  3. Pingback: Liebster Blog Award « Divad's Blog

  4. I am so glad Nellie pulled through. I can only imagine the anxiety of the situation. In hind site, we probably are fortunate to visit the Livingston gang, late in the year, as we might be missing rattlers. The picture with Mary and Tom Tom, is an uplifting one too!:) A job well done by all!


  5. I am really pleased that you had a happy ending to such a dramatic tale. It always amazes me how trusting a dog is to the human alpha male. Once you took control of the situation the dog felt safe knowing that you cared. I am sorry that I had not followed you sooner for I am sure that you have some fine stories here which I will read as soon as I can. Ralph


  6. As I read I feared the worst for Nellie and had tears in my eyes – am so glad she pulled through. A friend’s dog was also bitten, and survived. I am grateful we have no poisonous snakes lying in wait in my area.


  7. Wow, I was holding my breath through this whole story! Nellie looks like our sweet Hurley! Did you know that Nellie was the name of James Madison’s mother! What a funny connection! But we are so glad she is okay! What wonderful dogs you have and what a great and well written post! We just love the paintings!


    • Thank you so much. I enjoyed your post about Hurley very much. He would fit right in with our pack no problem. By the way did James Madison have an aunt name Blitz. We have another girl. You never know.

      Also, thanks to both of you for your service.


  8. Wow! That is quite a story. You had me biting my nails, hoping the dog would be ok. I’m so glad it turned out well. Your painting is beautiful and I’m very happy you left a note on my blog that led me to your terrific blog. Thanks!


  9. I too was holding my breath while reading this post, worried that it might have a sad ending. I was so happy to hear Nellie’s doing well! Lovely painting of her as well…she must be truly flattered!


  10. “It only took 10 plus years to complete. Not that long to paint, but the procrastination and misplacing took years…”

    it may also have been therapeutic for you rather than procrastination; the process behind it, since it took 10 years. that is huge amount of time, i have yet to encounter a similar task; though the closest i could come up with would probably be the same number of years i’ve quit drawing and the difference between how i was then, compared to now.

    reminds me of the story about ‘the samurai and the zen master’ where the latter taught the former about the virtue of patience by serving him the most delicious bowl of miso soup.

    ‘Nellie in Watercolour, Part 5’ to me, i think, is the ‘miso soup.’ it took time, but i’m quite certain it’s worth the years involved. and of course it may have been a fantastic journey.



  11. Here in Indiana we don’t have but a few poisonous snakes, very few cottonmouth, copperheads, and almost never seen, rattlers, so we have very little to worry about. Glad to see your good friend survived to give more happiness. I also enjoy your art work, I just have been so busy that I haven’t got to visit much. Have a great Holiday!


  12. Very touching and fortunately “happy ending” story and the picture was well worth taking time over (10yrs! LOL) – the finished result is a triumph, especilly when considering, as you have to, the provenance and the story. Many thanks for taking the “time” to post.
    Fortunately we don’t have many snakes – perhaps the odd Adder or common Grass Snake, though I’ve only seen one in my life.


    • Thanks, I’m trying not to take 10 years on other projects, although I have another one to finish when I have time. I am glad the painting of Nellie wasn’t a memorial painting.
      The snake bite was the only one we have had to deal with. We have raised a lot of golden retrievers over the years and had some near misses with rattlesnakes along the way. Hopefully we won’t have any more.


  13. Thank you for sharing this story, dog lovers will understand the experience very well. If I know my dogs suffer from something, I feel it my self and this is mutual, that’s why they’re so wonderful beings.
    Lovely action painting.


  14. Pingback: Sweet Nellie Left Us Today | THE FORESTER ARTIST

  15. This story made me cry. The dogs have been such a big part of your family and what a brave girl! It had to be so hard to lose one and I’m so sorry. Her painting turned out beautiful and you have to be very proud of it Tim.


    • Thank you Terry. When I finished the painting, I matted and framed it. Then at Christmas I gave it to my oldest son, because Nellie was his girl. I’m just so glad to have gotten it done and to him before she passed. Now he will have her with him always.


  16. Great story. We live in Tucson, AZ and have lots of different species of Rattlesnakes here. I brought my dog to Rattlesnake class because I wanted him to have a chance if he encountered one.
    It was amazing the way they do it. I never heard the Rattlesnake rattle once, or make any sound. On the first encounter at the class my dog went straight for the middle of the snake and it went for him. If this had been on the trail, or yard, he would have been struck. I blogged it because if somebody sees it and it saves a dog, it’s worth it. It wasn’t pleasant for him, but he did it.
    Here is my blog: and I hope it helps. We paid $75 for the class and I think it was well worth it. They give refresher classes for $50 each for the dogs life after that.
    Beautiful painting. I can see the dog’s personality in it. Fine painting of Nellie. Thank you sharing it.


  17. I loved Nellie’s story. Just read it after your post of April 23rd. Two of my daughters are married to hunters and between them, they have 5 Labs. I know of the bond between a dog and his handler…. powerful story, very well told. May the Lord above hold Nellie, you and your family in His strong and capable hands, giving you all you need.
    I’ll be reading a lot more about your life and your art since I’m now following you.


Let me know what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s