Saturdays in the country are never boring.
A few weeks after the deer in the pool incident (just one of several pool incidents in the short time we’ve been here), Pixel returned from his morning romp in the back 50 acres covered in mud. The damn dog just refuses to stay clean since we moved here. He doesn’t even look like a doxie anymore; he’s just a muddy swamp rat.
D left to get groceries, so I threw the dog in the tub and commenced to scrubbing. Since he has alpecia (the only dog I know with male-battern baldness), he no longer has a wiry overcoat. He’s covered in super-soft fur , so he truly resembles a teddy bear. Unfortunately, that super-soft fuzziness picks up leaves and sticks easily, resulting in gnarly mats in less than 10 minutes. So I wash, pluck, condition and trim constantly. This particular morning, I was more than a little pissed off at him, so I gave him an extra spray of Bath and Body Works sparkling body cologne so he was glittery.
“There,” I said with smug satisfaction. “At least you’ll be pretty for a few minutes.”
About that time, D returned with the groceries. The moment he opened the door, Pixel darted out and ran straight for fence. I silently cursed both the dog and my husband, and began to put away the groceries. A few moments later, D returned with the final bags and said, “Do you hear that?”
“Something is shreiking out back.”
I walked out the back door and immediately realized that the shreiking was Pixel, howling and crying in pain. I could hear him behind the fence, deep in the woods, but there was no possible way to get to him. The sound was horrific, like he was being torn apart. All I could do was call out to him.
“Pixel! Come here, baby! Pixel!! Pixel!!!” My hands began to tremble in fear as I heard him moving towards the fence, his piercing cries evident that he was in serious pain. When he finally made it to the fence, I saw him run past a clearing to the hole he had dug beneath it, and following close behind was the biggest coyote I had ever seen. My heart dropped. I’d heard this happened, but I never thought in a million years that it might happen to us. I couldn’t think fast enough as I watched the coyote coming in for the kill as Pixel continued to run for his life.
“D!!” I screamed as the two dogs fell out of sight behind a line of trees. “Get your gun!! Get your gun!!” I heard Pixel continue to shriek as Dan burst from the back bedroom door, gun in hand. About that moment, Pixel burst through the trees, running directly for Dan before falling at his feet.
At first glance, it appeared that he had escaped with only a bite. Near the back of his long abdomen there were two deep puncture wounds where the coyote’s teeth had pieced his skin. As I attempted to calm him, I tried to pick him up and he screeched in pain. I looked at D helplessly.
“Get him to a vet,” he said. I knew at that moment that Pixel was in serious trouble. We wrapped him in a towel and I took him to the nearest emergency vet. He whimpered in pain as I set him on the backseat, but when I tried to move him, he screamed. I did my best to scoop him from underneath as I walked him in; the vet took one look at him and immediately took him away. A moment later I heard him shrieking again, his cries so loud that I could hear them in the lobby. My heart broke.
Thirty minutes later, the diagnosis stunned me. Four broken ribs, two broken dorsal vertabrae, and several puncture wounds, the most dangerous one piercing through the wall of his abdomen. The coyote had snatched him right behind the shoulder blades, crushing Pixel’s ribs in his powerful jaws. The vet believed that he shook Pixel viciously before snapping at him again, getting a bite on his head before landing another bite in his long, soft belly.
“I don’t know how he’s still alive,” the vet said. “Honestly, with these wounds, I would have layed there and let him kill me.”
The words were a death sentance. I understood what she was telling me. She continued with the bad news. The puncture wounds were so deep that they feared his intestines were pierced. An ultrasound showed that his liver had been nicked as well. There was no way to guarantee that he would survive the night, and the vet wanted to do emergency surgery to explore the wounds.
This is that moment as a pet owner that you hate. How much do you spend on an animal? Especially when you have a family? Do you put yourself in debt and try to save an animal that is probably not going to make it anyway? I called D with the heartbreaking news. Together, we decided that we were not going to sacrifice our financial stability on a dog with horrible odds. I sobbed as I told the vet our decision. She understood, but wanted to keep him overnight for observation.
Around midnight, she called again to let me know that Pixel’s condition was dire. She implored me again to do the surgery, but we simply couldn’t. The cost of care was already pushing $2000, and the surgery would take it upwards of $5000. I hung up the phone and sobbed in D’s arms. I knew he’d be gone by morning.
But he wasn’t. The next morning, I called to check on his condition, which had not improved, but it also had not deteriorated. The vet cautioned us not to get our hopes up; the wound to his abdomen was deadly. If bacteria from the coyote’s mouth didn’t cause an infection, then it was likely that the intestines would begin to leak into his stomach cavity and he would develop sepsis and die quickly.
Later that day I came up to the vet and lay on the floor with Pixel. He was heavily medicated with morphine, but the moment he heard my voice, he started to wag his tail. I put my head down next to his and stroked his fuzzy face, not sure how much longer he would be with us.
24 hours later, the dog was still hanging on. At that point, we had to move him from the emergency vet to a regular one. Again, the prognosis was grim; he liekly would not survive then next 48 hours. All we could do was wait.
I called my mother, who has always been my rock in situation like this. She drove all the way to Houston from New Orleans just to sit with the dog while I had to go to work.
A couple of days passed…. the dog still lived.
We decided it would be best for him to have someone in the house with him all day to monitor him, so Mom took him back to New Orleans to recover. A couple of months later, Pixel has returned home. His bark is considerably quieter. He has a horrific indentation where his ribs used to round out near the top of his shoulders. The punctures on his head and abdomen have disappeared, leaving little knots of scar tissue. He wobbles slightly, and still yelps when you lift him from underneath.
But his first night home, when I let him out in the backyard, he headed straight under that god-damned fence. I stood out in the dark with a sad little LED flashlight, calling his name for over an hour. About two hours in, he would dance just close enough to the fence where I could see him, then dart back into the woods.
Three hours in, I threatened to wrap him in bacon and throw his fuzzy ass over the fence if he dared to come back. Finally, I had to call it a night and went inside, worried sick as I laid in bed imagining all the ways he was going to die.
Close to midnight, I heard a scratching at the back door. When I opened it, he stood there wagging his tail happily, covered in mud and dripping dirty water on the tile floor. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I did both.
It’s amazing how a fuzzy little face can twist your heart so terribly. I never wanted a little dog; they’re yappy and needy and annoying… yet I love him anyway. He defied all odds with his survival, and it just proves that sometimes the sheer will to live and a whole lot of love can make miracles happen. I’m 100% sure that if we weren’t there, he would have died. I’d like to think that he heard my voice calling for him and that gave him a reason to fight, but even if it was only a determination to survive, I can’t forget how he collapsed at D’s feet with complete trust that we were there to help him. He has a fighting spirit in his fierce little package, oblivious to his limitations.
And that’s exactly why he’s grounded now.