Mortal Enemies

On April 29, 2020, AJ got into his first serious dog fight. Although, to be honest, it wasn’t much of a fight. We had just arrived at the park, AJ was still on leash, and another dog ran over and attacked him. AJ wound up with stitches over his eye and a few puncture wounds.

The owner of the other dog was incredibly nice. He gave us his phone number, offered to pay the vet bills, and assured us he was working with a trainer on his dog’s aggression issues.

Fast forward to April 29, 2021, exactly one year later. AJ was at the same park. He was at the water faucet drinking out of one of the dog bowls that’s always available at the park, when a group of playful dogs came by. I was watching carefully, but didn’t realize another dog, outside the group that was playing, had entered the area. It was the dog that had attacked AJ last year.

Unfortunately, that dog still carries the same dislike for AJ he did a year ago. Suddenly a fight broke out between the two of them. It stopped briefly while AJ ran away, but before I could get to him the other dog was on him again. AJ got away again and this time I was able to get in front of the other dog and yell at him.

The other dog sat and didn’t move until his owner ran over and leashed him. AJ came over to me and I could see there was blood on him. It was coming from his ear.

AJ didn’t appear to be in immediate danger, so we talked to the other owner a little bit. He, of course, felt terrible. He insisted his dog hadn’t had trouble with any other dogs in the past year. He always kept an eye out for AJ to make sure they stayed away, but with all the dogs gathered around the water fountain he hadn’t seen him in time.

We took AJ home and checked him over. I gathered towels, soap, a bucket of warm water, and bandages and tried to fix up his ear. I was pretty proud of myself for knowing how to bandage a dog’s ear, having attended a dog first aid class. I thought I did a pretty good job.

Bandaged ears

The difference between first aid class and real life is, of course, the patient. In class you bandage a stuffed dog. In real life, you bandage a wriggly, hurt dog who doesn’t want a bandage on his head. One good shake and AJ’s ears came right out of the bandage. So I tried again. The second time it took two good shakes. I gave up after that.

The next day we got up in the morning and saw a little circle of blood on AJ’s blanket, but not where his head had been. I realized he also had a small wound on his back leg. Then later I found one more on his hip. So I decided to take him to the vet to make sure I wasn’t missing any more, and to get the puncture wounds properly flushed out and get AJ on antibiotics.

Puncture wounds on the leg

He’s now resting comfortably at home, hoping we’ll head for the park again soon.

The other dog’s owner checked in to see how AJ was doing. He also let us know he wouldn’t be taking his dog to the park anymore. I really feel badly for him, I know he’s been trying. But for some reason his dog just really hates AJ. (I know what you’re thinking. I don’t know how anyone could hate AJ either.)

But maybe on April 29, 2022, we’ll stay away from the park.

AJ 2020

It’s been quite a year, hasn’t it?

One thing we’ve heard throughout this year is how lucky the dogs have it. All of a sudden their people are home with them: All. The. Time. This is a great thing for dogs. People are also spending more time outside, which means more dog walks. And pet adoptions are way up.

But for A.J., 2020 had been … 2020.

On January 1 I noticed A.J. had a bump on one side of his head, just above his left eye. On January 2 it was bigger, so I called the vet. His regular vet couldn’t see him for a while, so I found another in the area who could see him on Monday, January 6. By Sunday the lump was huge, and on Monday it was still huge but had broken open and was a little oozy.

It turned out to be an abscess. The vet drained it and cleaned it out, and sent A.J. home in a cone of shame.

Two weeks later the cone was off but the bump was back. We went back to the vet where they cleaned out the abscess again. This time they sent him home with a drain tube in his head.

After a few days we went back to get the tube out. But most of January was spent in a cone and was pretty unpleasant.

February goes by, and is mostly uneventful. Then comes March.

We’re halfway through March, and everyone has just started working from home full time. No more going into the office for the foreseeable future. One day, shortly into the stay-at-home order, we’d taken A.J. for his morning walk and then settled in to work. I had a few video conference meetings during the day. When my last meeting was over I looked down at A.J., and saw one side of his face twitch. I watched him for a minute, and his face kept twitching.

“Why are you twitching?”


Time to call the vet again.

“My dog has some sort of tic on his face.”

“He has a tick on his face?”

“Oh, no, not that kind of tick, a facial tic. His face it twitching. Should I bring him in?”

“Hang on, let me ask someone.”

“You should take him to the emergency vet downtown.”

Uh oh, this is not good.

So we all got in the car and headed downtown. At this point we discovered the one plus side to the recent lockdown: there was absolutely no traffic on a Friday afternoon. We made it downtown in no time at all. We also then quickly discovered the big downside: When we got emergency, we had to call in, explain over the phone why we were there, then wait for someone to come get A.J. and lead him away while we waited in the car. And waited. And waited. (This would become an all-too-familiar process over the coming months.)

Eventually the vet called us. They weren’t able to find anything wrong with A.J., but they could clearly see the twitching. Apparently there’s not really any such thing as a standard tox screen for dogs, but they ran some bloodwork and everything looked fine. That was the good news. The bad news was that they were afraid he was having small seizures. With his bloodwork looking fine, the next possible cause would be something wrong in his brain. (They carefully avoided the words “tumor” and “cancer.”) This vet hospital didn’t have a neurologist on staff, but had called and consulted with one at another hospital. They recommended we make an appointment with the neurologist.

So we took A.J. home and I made the appointment.

A couple of days later, A.J. was still twitching and we took him in to see the neurologist. While we sat in our car she evaluated him, then called us and explained the various issues that could be causing the twitching. She recommended an MRI, and we were fortunate they had an opening that day. So we agreed to the MRI and went home to wait.

When the vet called later she said his MRI came out clear, and outlined our options. She recommended we put him on anti-seizure medication. She also said with a clear MRI, there was no way to know if he really was having seizures or if it was some sort of nerve problem. The only way to know for sure would be to take him to the nearest veterinary hospital with the facilities to monitor dogs for seizures. That would be UC Davis, which is almost 600 miles away, and at the time wasn’t even open for non-emergencies due to the recent lockdowns.

So we took A.J. home with his new medication and hoped for the best.

A week later we talked to the vet again. There’d been no change, but we were advised to continue on the medication for a while longer.

In the meantime, A.J. was still being A.J. He was eating as much as we’d allow (and sometimes more) and still as energetic as ever. So energetic, in fact, that he managed to tear a toenail again while he was at the park chasing squirrels. Back to the vet.

Fortunately he’d only partially torn the nail, so he didn’t need a cone this time, but he had to stay on leash for a few days.

After several more days, it was decided that A.J. was not having seizures. His twitching still hadn’t changed at all, and the vet said if it had been seizures he’d have been dead by then. (That was the first I’d heard that prognosis.) So we slowly weened him off the anti-seizure medication.

His first day back to the park after is nail healed and we were going to let him off leash, we had just walked into the park when another dog suddenly came charging straight at him. I tried to head off the other dog, but that just resulted in me being taken out at the knees. Suddenly there I was with hurt knees, temporarily unable to move, and I look over to see A.J.’s head in that dog’s jaws.

The other dog’s owners ran over and one of them tackled his dog. The other put the leash on and led the dog away while the tackling owner stayed to see if A.J. was okay. As soon as I thought I could move I took a close look at A.J. I could see right away he had a bite right between the eyes and another above his left eye (right about the place his abscess had been). We later discovered another by his ear. I was sure at the very least the one above his eye would need stitches.

The other dog’s owner gave us his number and offered to pay any medical expenses. As soon as I thought I could walk we headed home. I was pretty hobbled, but A.J. was just kind of annoyed he didn’t get to run in the park. We went home, got in the car, and headed to the emergency vet.

He did need stitches above his eye. The other bites were cleaned out and left to heal on their own. We took him home, once again in a cone, and brought him back a week later to get the stitches removed.

The emergency hospital we took him to for the bites was the same hospital where his neurologist was, and she happened to be there when he came in. When she heard he was there she went in to take a look at him and evaluate his twitching while he was there. She confirmed that there was nothing more that could be done for the twitching. The final verdict was that he has some sort of nerve problem. It could have happened when they drained his abscess, but it’s hard to know for sure since the twitching didn’t start for a few weeks after that. We were told it would either get better on it’s own, stay the same, or get worse to the point where that whole side of his face would freeze up and give him a permanent lopsided grin. If it got bad enough to interfere with his eating or swallowing, they’d give him Botox, which would make that whole side of his face sag.

The dog attack happened at the end of April. We then had a quiet couple of months. In July A.J. had to go in for scheduled vaccinations. Two weeks later we were back at the vet again because he managed to get some nasty dry grass stuck in his paw. The vet had to dig it out, and yes, that’s right, he came home wearing a cone.

It’s been eight months since the twitching started, and it hasn’t changed. One side of his mouth is a little higher than the other, but I think I’m the only one who’s noticed that, it’s very subtle. He sometimes rests that side of his head against my leg, so I think it gets tired sometimes, but otherwise he doesn’t seem to notice. He has a few little white hairs stick out among the black fur on his face where the bite left a scar.

We’ve finally reached the end of this year. Thankfully our only trip to the vet in the past few months has been to get A.J.’s nails clipped. He’s actually had a pretty good second half of the year.

In August we spent a day at the beach. A.J. chased seagulls, ran through the waves, and rolled around in the sand.

Cannon Beach

He continues to make people smile wherever he goes. And late in December, he even managed to treat himself to half a cake.

Happy New Year to all of A.J.’s friends and family, may 2021 be much better for all of us!

Dew Claws Again

Yesterday, after almost two weeks recovering from his accident, A.J. got to run off leash. After chasing squirrels around the park (well away from the road), I hooked the leash on and took him home. But before we left, I noticed he was bleeding from his dew claw.

He has ripped off his dew claw twice before, both times while trying to climb up trees after squirrels. This time I thought we got away lucky. The bleeding stopped shortly after we got home, and he seemed to be fine.

Later in the day we took A.J. for his afternoon walk. We had gone a couple of blocks when I decided to check his paw. He was bleeding again. We cut the walk short and went home. I was still hopeful that it wasn’t too bad and the bleeding would stop soon. No such luck.

A.J. was licking at his paw most of the evening. At bedtime he actually got worse. When he laid down to go to bed he couldn’t even figure out where to put his paw so that it wouldn’t hurt. It was another long night.

This morning he was still licking at his paw, and it was still bleeding. So after giving him his breakfast and taking him for a very short walk so he would go to the bathroom, we put him in the car and headed for the vet’s office.

Today is Sunday, so we had to go to a different veterinary office, the closest 24-hour vet. When it was our turn we went back and I explained to the vet tech what had happened. I also let her know that he was still recovering from being hit by a car, and explained what happened there. After I had explained everything, she said

“So, really, we can blame the squirrels for all of this.”

I laughed. “I like that, that’s much better than blaming mom.”

Like everyone else, she insisted none of it was my fault. (Just before we were called back, Greg said to me “You’re such a helicopter mom, but your dog is still hurt all the time.”)

Since this is the third time A.J. has ripped off this same dew claw, we knew the drill. They took A.J. back, sedated him, cut the nail off, wrapped his foot all up, and sent us home with pain killers, antibiotics, and a very woozy dog.

So, one more week where we have to work from home because A.J. can’t go to daycare. One more week with a sad and sore dog. One more week with a sad and stressed-out me.

A.J. ripped off his dew claw – again.

Eye Drops

Three weeks into the new year and we found ourselves in the vet’s office once again.

After a beautiful week of snow, it was finally starting to melt. The off-leash park where A.J. likes to run had turned into a lake as rain came down and a foot of snow started to melt. What little grass is left in the yard began to show through. A.J. was once again coming home from walks covered in mud. Everything was a wet, soggy mess. In other words: business as usual in Portland, Oregon. Continue reading “Eye Drops”