Friday night, we had an evening woods walk with few puppy families. Saturday was go home day for Bliss and Sailor’s 8-week-old puppies. The rattlesnake didn’t alert with a rattle. The puppy didn’t cry. No one knew anything had happened until symptoms set in. Our first thought upon discovering a pup with a swollen face was […]
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 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.
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.
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.
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;
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.
I have to apologize for taking so long to get to this latest installment of Nellie In Watercolor. Watercolor is supposed to be fast. However, Nellie’s painting is a guilty pleasure for me. As a result, I catch a few minutes here and there to move it along.
Nellie is a dog with many names. All of our dogs get nicknames along the way, however Nellie has the more than all the others. Her registered name is GoldenGlen Redtail Nitro Nellie JH WC. Around here she is mostly just Nellie, Boop or Boopie. She belongs to our oldest son, but lives with us for now. Our son came up with Boopie because it just seems to fit her personality. This also led to Boopster and Boopie Doo. Then there is Nellie Bean ( rhythms with Jelly Bean), Bean, Bean Dog, Nellster, Nellienator, and Fuzzball. When she was a growing puppy she went through an awkward phase like many puppies. Usually their feet and legs grow first and their body has to catch up later. With Nellie, her nose grew first and it was huge. That led to The Nose and Nozzle Nellie. Fortunately, she grew into her nose and became the swan that she is today. Then over the course of one year, she had multiple encounters with a skunk, which led to Stinky and Stink Face. Lastly, an incident with a rattlesnake resulted in Snake Bit, and Snake Bite. Hopefully, no more animal encounters she has enough nicknames.
Here is the latest on her watercolor.
I was in the concrete jungle of San Francisco today. It was a cool gray day with lots and lots of folks. I looked at the dense pack living conditions of the big city and I missed all the space I have in my normal life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I understand a lot of people love living in the city. Different strokes for different folks and all of that. However, a trip to SF makes me appreciate my daily contact with nature. At my home and at my work. It is a blessing to be sure. It seems to me that the people in the big cities must feel disconnected from nature in a way that makes a person want to protect, treasure and guard it. I think that experiencing it in this way doesn’t leave many people with a true understanding of nature. At a very basic level I wish that everyone had to go out hunt, kill, clean, cook and eat an animal. Honestly I believe people would have a greater appreciation of their daily sustenance.
In my firefighter days, many years ago, I worked with a fellow from SF. He had never left the city before to spend any meaningful time in a rural environment. He was a very capable guy and after we left our fire training camp I was stationed in Redding and he in Ogo. Ogo was a fire station West of Redding and was well known for it’s great population of rattlesnakes. A few days later, both our crews responded to the same fire. He seemed a little tired, but otherwise in good spirits. About two weeks later the Redding crew was on a fire with the Ogo crew again, but I didn’t see my friend. I ask about him. His other crew members told me he hadn’t been sleeping well because it was too quiet at night, but when the coyotes would howl in the middle of the night he would fly out of bed in a panic. After about ten days he couldn’t take it anymore. He packed up and went home. I never saw him again and the old Ogo Fire Station is long gone. He never took the time to get comfortable in that setting. It was sad, but maybe I would have trouble making the same adjustment to living in the city.
I wish folks from the cities in California trusted our land managers more. The people I work with love nature as much as anyone and take great pride in the job they do. Instead, in a time when the science and technology have reached a point that we can accomplish amazing things in the woods, politically we are forced to do a more and more mediocre job by trying to create conditions where no one can make a mistake.
Unfortunately, the desire protect the natural environment by stopping land management is resulting in loving our forest to death. Death by uncontrollable fires and bark beetle epidemics. People need to view land management as a tool to improve our forests where people are part of this ecosystem and not as an obstacle to a healthy forest.
It was a happy morning when I left the house today. I opened the door and said, “Ok girls left go,” and two golden retrievers raced each other out the door and to the truck. I usually take two dogs with me when I go to the woods and they ride in the back of the truck. According to my dogs, all of that empty truck bed is being wasted with out a dog. Today we traveled to the coast. It was a hot day inland but cool on the coast. It was good day to take my furry buddies along. I loaded up the mother-daughter duo of Nellie and Blitz. Once secured we headed west.
Taking the dogs to work has its own special requirements. The summers here are hot, very hot, 115 degrees hot, so the dogs can’t go every day. Today it was in the low 90s inland, but only in the 60s on the coast. It was a good day to ride along. This is the time of year when the road department is doing all kinds of road construction. When traffic is stopped by the flaggers, I try to stop my truck so the dogs are in the shade. I can’t always do it, but I do it when I can. The dogs have taught me that they need a break every couple of hours to air out.
When it’s hot they need a swim too, and the stops are more frequent. A soaking wet dog is the best air conditioning on those hot days. When we stop for a break, I like to pick out a remote spot away from the highway where they can safely get out and run loose.
I like to pick a spot with water, preferably swimming water, because as every golden knows a drink of water taste best while you swimming in it.
After a drink, we have to fetch a hundred or so sticks and then eat grass along the riverbank. Then it’s time to load up and hit the road. Down the road we go with a couple of brand new sticks to go with the other forty already in the back of the truck. I travel through many of the same areas frequently enough to learn all the good places to stop. I will use those places over and over again. That way I know what to watch for. When picking a spot to stop I also look for what to avoid. Around here, poison oak is near the top of the list. The dogs don’t care about it, but they aren’t the ones that get it. It’s miserable when they give it to me and even more miserable when we bring home for my wife. Not good, because then we are all in the doghouse.
Other things to avoid are rattlesnake areas and foxtails. For those of you unfamiliar with foxtails they are a nasty sticker that will bore into the dog’s noses, ears and between their toes requiring a trip to the veterinarian. Often an inspection of the site is in order before the dogs unload. Taking them along definitely takes a little more time and care, but nonetheless it is a joy to have them ride along. When we get home, I have two very tired and satisfied golden retrievers. They crash out on the rug after a long day on the road. Over the years, I’ve had my share of canine emergencies that I had to deal with. So, just remember when taking your dogs to work that sometime things happen and you have to be ready. When the dogs are so well traveled and so active they have more opportunities to get into trouble so be careful out there, but have fun.
One of great things about being a forester is taking your dogs to work. They want to go and I have an empty truck bed. It works out for all of us. It is a joy to take them along and bears run away from them. They are pretty handy to have around. When they find a yellowjacket nest they love to run to me so I can knot the bees off of them. If they find something dead or smelly they love to roll in it so they can find me and share their awesome prefume. However, we do have to watch out for rattlesnakes and Nellie could tell you a story, but we will save that one for later. Perks of the job. It seemed like a good time to bring up my traveling companions. They bring a smile to my face and with all the chaos going on around here I hope they do the same for you. More about them later.