Swallowing Toads

There’s an old saying: “Swallow a toad first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

I don’t remember where I heard that, but it always made sense to me. Not literally, of course. But the sentiment is there and has pulled me through many a bad spell.

Years don’t generally start out with toads for me. And my 2014 toad isn’t as frightening as some of my friends, it’s been very stressful to my household.

I have a dog (and a cat, but this story is about the dogs), but my best friend seems to collect them at random times. As I rent half her house, her pets affect me and mine a great deal.

For much of our friendship, going to get pet food was always a dangerous thing because that’s where rescue groups display animals for adoption. I’ve gotten my last two dogs from these efforts (the Foo Bat and my previous dog, Amber), and she’s gotten many of her pack. Last July, we were going for dog food and she saw a greyhound/dalmation mix named Bella in one of the crates. I was not enthused about her getting another dog, since we already had four in the house, but she decided to bring Bella home.

Bella had a sad story. She’d been adopted from the local Humane Society as a puppy and lived with the same couple for 11 years. The reason she was back with the Humane Society was “divorce”. She was well trained and gentle and she got along fine with the other dogs. We took her to the vet and discovered that the warts all over her body weren’t warts, but a form of very aggressive, inoperable cancer. It wasn’t a hard decision: she wasn’t going back just because she had cancer.

And all was good through the holidays. Then, the weekend before last, my BFF came home from the movies while I was at work. The front room had been trashed, there was blood all over the place. Bastian, the terrier mix, was cowering in the upstairs bathroom and wouldn’t come out and Bella was covered in blood. She called me and I came home from work.

It wasn’t hard to figure out what happened: Bella had attacked Bastian. She has a couple of tooth scrapes and one real bite, while he was bitten all over his body. Most of the blood was his. Emergency vet visit turned into surgery. Bella went to our regular vet the next day. She continued growling and fixating on Bastian for the following week. Bastian, normally a very friendly and outgoing personality, was terrified unless he was huddled next to one of us.

Last Sunday, all dogs were sleeping peacefully and she got up from the couch. Before she moved more than two steps away, Bella was on him again. My BFF was certain she was trying to kill him, and couldn’t get her off him. Bella didn’t respond to commands or attempts to pull her off. When Bastian finally got free (after dragging the two into the kitchen and spraying Bella in the eyes with the vegetable sprayer), he ran to hide. I got another call at work to come home, this time to take my BFF to the ER because the dogs had chewed up her arm while she was trying to break up the fight.

Fortunately, none of the bites were serious. While I did see parts of my friend that Nature had never intended me to see, she didn’t require all that many stitches, isn’t on pain pills, and is pretty much functioning fine as of today. Bastian wasn’t hurt badly enough to require the emergency vet again, and our vet said he wasn’t in bad shape, all told.

On the other hand, there was nothing more we could do for Bella. We can’t risk Bastian, or any other the other (and smaller) dogs in the house, or ourselves. We had to take her back to the Humane Society, which hurt my BFF far more than the wounds.

We don’t know why, after six months, Bella suddenly decided Bastian had to die, but she did, and it turned our house into a constant war zone. It’s a totally toad way to start a year.

I’m expecting a much more sane 2014 after this.

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