Those of you who follow us on Instagram or Facebook know about the scary encounter Hope, Goose, Kerri and I had two weeks ago. With Hope getting bit, I hardly left her side for the first week, including getting to the computer to write up this post. Here we are two weeks post rattlesnake bite, Hope is 100% (besides some missing hair on her legs and back) and I am comfortable enough to share our experience. Let’s go back to that fateful day…
The morning started out like any other. Hope, Goose, Kerri and I met up at our usual hiking spot, Bulldog Canyon. We got there before the sun on this particular morning and headed out to our favorite hill top in the dusk. We got to the photo spot and took our usual amount of photos as the sun started to rise up over the horizon. Hope and Goose were so good for their little photo shoot and were rewarded with a ton of Zuke’s treats. After the sun had risen, we decided to make our descent down to the Salt River so the dogs could play in the water. We walked right through the sand that the snake would eventually be slithering through to get to the rivers edge. Hope and Goose had a hay – day. Goose jumping into the water to get his Ruffwear Lunker and Hope diving after her tennis ball. After about 30 minutes or so, the bees really started taking over the bank and we made the decision to pack it up and head home. Hope ended up getting stung on her foot by a honey bee but we were to soon find out that was the least of her worries.
Walking back, Kerri and I were talking and the dogs were doing their usual thing of trotting ahead a couple feet, then running back to us. We usually have the pups on leash until we reach our destination but we had been down this trail so many times, we felt comfortable enough to keep them off leash until we got closer to our vehicles and the road. As we neared the steep, rocky hill that would lead us out of the wash, Goose was out in front. We were just about to the base of the hill when Goose walking by triggered the approximately 3 foot, juvenile, Diamondback Rattlesnake that was slithering across the sand. With a light speed pop and rattle of his tail and a hiss, the snake immediately went into strike mode. Goose kept his distance, and backed away quickly, while Hope started sneaking up on it from behind. I remember hearing me screaming her name but it sounded like my own voice was distorted and off in the distance. Her recall was useless, and when Goose finally ran back to Kerri, the snake turned to see Hope coming at him, nose down. By this time, I was running up to grab Hope and pull her back by her Ruffwear Webmaster Harness, but I was too late. I pulled her back with the handle on the harness, but I saw blood and knew she had been bit. Everything was such a blur. I immediately thought I was going to lose my heart dog, my best friend. That was when the adrenaline kicked into overdrive and Kerri’s quick thinking took over, because my mind was a mess.
Kerri reminded me to pick Hope up so her heart wouldn’t be working as hard and pumping the venom through her body quicker. I picked my girl up and carried her up the steep, rocky embankment to the top of the hill. From there, we were probably about 1/4 mile from our vehicles. Between sheer exhaustion and thirst, I could not go on after about half of the way. Kerri took Hope from me and carried her another quarter of the way despite the fact she was worried about Goose and if he had also gotten bit, as he was limping. The last little bit of the walk, I took Hope back and sat her in the front seat, got in, and peeled out of there headed towards the closest place with anti-venom, First Pet Emergency, which was about a 30 minute drive away. I called my mom and asked her to start praying for Hope, because she was going to need a God-Given miracle.
I think I must have broken about every traffic law in the book that day, but we still got to the hospital safely. As some of you know, I work at an animal hospital but we were not open yet when this incident happened, nor do we carry the anti-venom. We always refer people to First Pet and ARECA for emergencies and since time was of the essence, I went to the closest one, First Pet. I had already called them on the way there to let them know I was coming in, Hope was stable, but grimacing in pain, how long ago the bite happened, etc. When I arrived, I was greeted by a less that worried receptionist and it took them 10 minutes just to get me in the exam room despite the fact the parking lot was empty at 7:45 in the morning. From the time it took the tech to get Hope’s vitals to the time the doctor walked in felt like a lifetime. I couldn’t understand how everyone treated this as just another day, and everyone was so slow. In the meantime, I was texting Hope’s amazing vet, Dr. Fornara. After asking about how Hope’s breathing and swelling was, she suggested I see if First Pet would sell us the anti-venom, hospital to hospital. This way, it should have been cheaper. For 2 vials, they wanted to charge $880. If they wouldn’t sell it to us, I was prepared to pay every dime that I had to save Hope’s life. Fortunately, they agreed to sell it to us and sent me on my way with anti-venom in tow and still charged me the $100 “Emergency Visit” fee. I honestly was so disappointed in their service that day, not only because of the lack of urgency but also the fact that I literally got charged $100 for a technician to take Hope’s temperature and then the Dr to come in, look at her from a distance, then hand me an $1100 treatment plan. The only positive thing I can say about the doctor was that he sat in the exam room with Hope while I made a phone call to Dr. Fornara whom told me she would be on her way to our hospital shortly.
Arriving at my hospital, Alta Mesa Animal Hospital, I was greeted by one of our technicians, Rebekah, who immediately started working on getting Hope’s catheter set, blood drawn, and a kennel ready. In the meantime, Erin (one of my fellow receptionists), was calling ARECA to see what they would charge us for the anti-venom. Finding out it was cheaper through them, Dr Fornara made the decision to have me take the vials I had, back to First Pet and she would pick the new vials up from ARECA. I reluctantly left Hope, took the anti-venom back, then sped back to my hospital while calling everyone I knew to give them updates.
Once I returned, Hope’s facial swelling had increased a decent amount. At this point, it was about an hour and a half after she had been bitten. She was on IV fluids and I was anxiously awaiting Dr Fornara’s arrival. Once she arrived and saw Hope was still stable, she got her patients and clients that had been waiting caught up then proceeded to talk to me about the anti-venom and its’ risks. She prepared me for the chance that Hope could have a reaction to the anti-venom itself that could be as serious as collapse, anaphylaxsis and even death. She assured me though that they would give it in small amounts over a time period of 15 minutes or so and check her vitals 2 minutes after each injection. At this point, the first time of the whole morning, I started bawling. Dr Fornara hugged me, said she felt Hope would be fine, she was going to make it, and to hang in there. Jennifer, another technician and fellow mom, gave the first small dose slowly and then..we waited. Hope handled it exceptionally well and we waited 2 minutes, made sure her vitals were stable (they were!) and we moved on to a second small injection via IV. After that, and Hope doing so well, Jenn was instructed to give the first vial via IV over the time period of 15 minutes. With me sitting next to her, petting Hope, the vial was administered. A short period of time later, the second vial. All the while, I never left Hope’s side. I was covered in dirt, Hope’s blood, my mouth was dry, I was weak, but I didn’t care…Hope needed me and I knew she had never left my side when I was sick before. Hope remained on IV fluids and would the rest of the day. Once Dr Fornara felt it was safe, she gave Hope a pain injection and antibiotic injection. She would get those a couple more times throughout the day.
I stayed with Hope until about 12:30 or so that afternoon and I realized I would have to go get my daughter from school soon. Dr Fornara assured me Hope would be fine, to go home, shower, pick Maddy up from school and come back around 5 pm to take her home. I did not want to leave but knew I had to and she was in the best hands. Exhausted, I went home and showered, picked Maddy up from school, then waited the long 3 hours until I could see my girl again.
When we arrived right at 5pm, my family and I went in the treatment area to find Hope vocalizing and very anxious. Apparently, she had been like that since I left.Her swelling had increased tremendously and she had bruising all under her front legs and on her chest. With a snake bite, things are going to look worse before they got better. She was still dripping blood from her mouth and my heart was just so broken. I hated seeing my best friend in this much pain. We slowly made our journey home and I fell asleep with Hope on our living room floor. Eventually, we made it into the bed and she stayed curled up next to me and did not move all night.
The following morning, I was surprised to see some of Hope’s swelling had gone down. I quickly got ready for work, got Maddy ready for school, and headed back to my hospital. I only worked until 1pm that day, as Maddy got out of school at 1:15pm, so I was told to leave Hope at the hospital on her IV fluids and so she could get her usual pain and antibiotic injections. Leaving her in the more than capable hands of Dr Shaird, Dr Moore, Whitney (Our Hospital Manager and Certified Vet Tech), and Gabby (newest vet tech, I left again and was prepared to come pick her up at 5:30 that evening. I was happy because Hope was making progress. She was up moving around more, eating small amounts of food and had been drinking on her own. I don’t think any of us were expecting what happened next.
I came back at 5:30pm with both of my kids in tow. My oldest daughter is 7 and my youngest is 2. They were as happy to see Hope as I was and she greeted us with tail wags and her “smile” when we walked back to the treatment area. Dr Shaird was still at the hospital preparing to discharge a patient, but that was all that was going on at the time. Whitney had Kesha get Hope out of her kennel for her final injections of the day: another pain injection and Cefazolin, an antibiotic. I was standing off to the side if them as Whitney said she was starting to give the Cefazolin injection. Immediately after the injection was given, Hope became unresponsive. We did not know why, but we all went into emergency mode. I ran over and grabbed the anesthesia machine so Hope could be put on oxygen and while Kesha and Whitney worked on intubating ( to insert a tube into (a pets trachea for ventilation) Hope, I ran into the exam room and grabbed Dr Shaird. At that point, I absolutely lost it. Right before I ushered my kids out of the treatment area, Hope started expelling all the old blood she had swallowed from the bite area through the trachea tube. I sat up front with my girls, Maddy and I both bawling, but praying for a miracle. Calling everyone we knew and asking for emergency prayer. After about 1o minutes, that felt like a lifetime, Gabby came up front and said quickly “she’s ok, it’s going to be ok” as she walked by. Whitney came up a few short moments later to let me know she was stable, but still vomiting up the reddish, brownish stuff and Dr Shaird wanted to leave the breathing tube in for as long as we could to make sure she got all of that nasty stuff out. Eventually, I was asked to come back to Hope because she was vocalizing and they wanted to see if she would respond to me and calm down. Sure enough, as soon as I took her in my arms, she turned her wobbly head back to see me, quieted right down and gave me a lick on my nose. At that point, everyone was crying! She just wanted her momma! Our bond grew 10 times larger than it already was that day.
After all of that, it was decided she had an allergic reaction to the Cefazolin. Her bloodwork was normal, she was normal, it was just after she got the injection that she immediately became unresponsive. We took Hope home that night and I don’t think I slept a wink. It was just the girls and I home and I was waking up every hour to make sure she was still breathing. Sure enough, she made it through the night and amazed me even more the following morning when her swelling had gone down even more. From that day on, she only improved. That evening, since she was eating, she was sent home with oral antibiotics and she had a Fentanyl patch on for pain from the day before. Still refusing to leave my girl, she went with me everywhere I went. If she couldn’t go, I didn’t go. Slowly but surely, her swelling continued to decrease and the skin sloughing inside her mouth from the bite had already started to heal. She was even bringing me her ball wanting to play!
So here we are…2 weeks later and Hope is good as new. The edge has worn off a little bit and I am able to rest easier at night because I know she is well. I am, however, looking for snakes everywhere I go. My senses are heightened and I know hers are as well. I have also made the decision that, no matter how well we know the trail, Hope is to be on leash at all times unless it is for a brief photo op and immediately afterward I will put her back on leash. The desert is SO unpredictable and because of that, I almost lost my heart dog and best friend. Fortunately, Kerri found out that Goose had not been bitten, he was limping from a cacti that was stuck in his foot.
I am a firm believer in God and in prayer and I strongly believe that God sent Hope a miracle. She had everything against her: She only weighs 16 pounds, the snake was a more dangerous juvenile, time and distance from anti-venom. And Yet, she is here with us today. She was sent angels in the form of my co-workers and doctors, Dr Fornara and Dr Shaird. We could not be more grateful for them and their knowledge, quick actions, compassion and medical training. We also are extremely grateful for our friends, Kerri and Goose. If we had been out on the trail alone, no doubt I would not have made it back to my truck as quickly and I would have been more panicked and unable to carry Hope the whole way. I am also thankful for the thoughts, prayers and good vibes we received via Instagram and Facebook. I was amazed at people that I did not even know and their compassion for Hope and I and their dedication to us during that difficult time. So thank you, thank you ALL so much. Your acts of kindness, compassion, care, and all that was done will NEVER be forgotten. I also want to just say that God answers prayer. For my family and I prayed every single day for my sweet, sweet Hope that He gave me and entrusted me with her care.
Our next big adventure is at a much higher elevation and I highly doubt we will see any snakes. Temperatures are to be in the 60’s during the day, too cold for those scaly creatures. Until then, we will go on small walks and hikes close to home with our eyes peeled and diligently watching for those venomous, slithering things. To our readers, please be safe out there and hug your pups a little tighter tonight. We never know when life is going to throw us a curve ball and suddenly we are helping them fight for their lives. You can bet that every sunrise with Hope will be that much sweeter for me. And every moment I have with her, until the day she is old and ready to cross that Rainbow Bridge, will be cherished with every inch of my heart. Momma loves you Hope-A-Lope…and I am SO thankful you are still here with me!