“Butch has been in another fight,” the slightly sheepish voice one the phone informed me. “I took him to the beach, because he loves it so much, and I was watching like a hawk for other dogs, then my phone rang and distracted me for a moment. When I looked up, his tail was up, and there was a big bull arab that had appeared out of nowhere, no owner to be seen.”
“Oh dear…” I said.
Butch was an old customer of mine, and I’d patched him up 3 or 4 times already after he’d bitten off more than he could chew. Most times, the other dog had hardly had a scratch. He was very good at picking fights, and considered himself the toughest thing going round on four legs, but when it came to the crunch, he simply lost the plot! His dad told me what he was like in a fight, one time.
“It would be funny, if it wasn’t so awful, you know. He sees another dog, and sort of inflates, like a helium balloon. He puffs himself up, and his eyes glaze over, and by that point, all other sensory input closes down. He has a noise phobia too, but right then I’d be able to set a bomb off, and it would make no difference. I’m usually yelling my head off at him y now, but it makes no difference.” He sighed, and gave me a rueful look. “All the hair stands up on his back, and he takes off like a bullet, howling and yodelling like I don’t know what. By the time he gets to the other dog, he’s worked himself into such a state of staffy madness that he’s literally forgotten that the point of a dog fight is to bite the other dog… So he’s running around the other dog, yapping and screaming, and then he just gets monstered. And I’m sprinting up the beach, eyes popping out, trying to get there before the other dog tears him into strips.”
“How is he this time?” I asked.
“He’s a mess. It was a big dog, and he was a fair way off. Thank god the other dog saw me coming and pissed off, but he’s got quite a few holes in him. I wrapped him up in my shirt, and brought him straight home. Can you come?”
“I’ll be there in 15 minutes,” I assured him.
I pulled up at the door, and quickly rummaged my van to find all I needed. Antibiotics, pain relief, and swabs and antiseptic to clean it all up with. His dad was waiting at the door.
“He’s out the back, on his bed,” he told me.
“Jeez,” I said. “You look like you need some attention too!” (He was pale and shaky.)
“Oh god, it takes it out of me, it does. It’s been 2 years since the last one, and I was being so careful!”
We walked out the back, and there he was. There is nothing more pathetic and miserable on this earth than a staffy after a dogfight. Butch was still wrapped up in his dad’s shirt, covered in sand, and was lying there, whimpering. His eyes were big and shining with pain, and he looked about as sad and miserable as a dog can be and still be alive. His body was wracked with tremors, and if I didn’t know better, I would have said he was about to die.
“Looks pretty big and brave now, doesn’t he?” I said to his dad.
“Oh yes, bravest dog in Australia when it comes to the aftermath, isn’t he!”
I peeled the shirt off gently, and he winced and complained with every slightest movement. He had 3 sets of puncture wounds – one on his bum, one on his chest, and one on his right front leg. His whole body was crusted with sand and blood, but his gums were nice and pink, and his heart felt strong and steady. I gave him a shot of some anti inflammatories to start with – he winced at the injection, and gave me a very reproachful look.
“Right, old fellow, we need to get you up and out in the back yard, so we can hose you off.”
Butch gave me a stark look of disbelief – we both called him, but he just lay there and shook, and quivered, and moaned. So we gently levered him off the bed- all 25 kg of bone and muscle. He was a huge brick of a staffy. It was probably very fortunate for the other dogs in the fights that he got so over excited that he forgot how to bite, really. Anyway, he complained all the way out into the yard, then stood, holding up his sore paw, and looking even sadder when I got the hose. This was the last straw. Cold water? I hosed him off all over, gently rinsing the sand away, and allowing a gentle stream to play all over the wounds.
“I know I’ve told you this before, but a gentle hosing twice a day, 5 minutes or so for each wound, with cold water, seems to really help the pain and swelling go down more quickly,” I told his dad. ” There’s no use stitching up the wounds, if I do that it would most likely turn into a stinking big abscess. Better to leave it open so it can all drain well. I’ll give him an antibiotic injection, and leave you with some tablets. It’s really fresh, so he should be fine in a week or so.”
“I know the drill,” he told me. “It’s not the first time, but by god I hope it’s the last!”
We got him back onto a clean blanket on his bed, and he settled down gingerly with a huge sigh. The shaking had settled a bit, but he still looked so miserable, it was over the top.
I rang back to check in 5 days later…
“He’s practically back to normal. I had to nurse him like a patient in intensive care for the first two days – wouldn’t even get off his bed for food or water, I had to bring it to him. And the looks he gave me when I made him come out and have the hose… Then I’d get the giggles, and he’d get even more offended!”