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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Long ago when he arrived I knew someday he might break my heart

White Dog this morning in The Cone of Shame, with Arlo
We had a very serious incident with White Dog {aka Benedetto or Ben} yesterday, and the reality is, we are lucky he is alive. If you follow us on social media you saw the photo at the vet.

White Dog was slashed by Earnest's tusk. This happened once before about a year and a half ago, and it was because they got territorial about some dropped feed on the ground. If you are unfamiliar with a pig tusk, the last 1" or so is literally like a sharp knife. Pigs use their heads to move things out of the way, so they can accidentally slice you without meaning too - I had this happen with Earnest so am always careful when I stand near him-but things can happen.

After that skirmish, I never leave anyone alone with Earnest. We also built him his own paddock and 3 season hut. But in winter, I decided to move him into the interior barn where he lives next to the ponies and White Dog. This way I could keep his water unfrozen, and he'd have company too, and it was warmer.

I often let Ben come running out of his back paddock, through Earnest's paddock, so he can get tot he front field. In winter, the back gate is often frozen. But when I do this, I am careful, and make Earnest stand away. Yesterday as I left the pony stall after chores, White Dog came up from behind to get out of the gate, he wanted to go to his front field to patrol, and as he ran past me, Earnest was there. I don't really know how it started, but it happened fast. By the time I separated them with a rake, White Dog was crying in pain. I have never heard him cry-these are very stoic dogs. He was holding his right foot up.

I got him back in the stall and the blood began coming out in gushes. When it happened before, the gashes were small, and not deep and I could treat them on my own. Maremmas do not like to be messed with when they are hurt or sick, although Ben is better than Marcella. I have a bunch of muzzles I sometimes use, and put one on him, but he got it off fast. So I tried to find the hole and sort of did but the light was dim. I finally let him outside, and the blood was everywhere. In the light, I could see what I was dealing with. A huge 4" or so slit, and wide open, his tissue and more hanging on threads.

It was horrible.

Ben has been in the car once, to get neutered. It is very hard to get him in the car even with two of us, and I was alone. I ran in and called vet hoping maybe he could come to me but he couldn't. So somehow I got Ben in the front floor area of my truck. It hurt him. Blood everywhere. I knew he must be in pain because he allowed me to hold a towel on the open wound. I think the pressure gave some relief.

At the vet he continued to gush blood everywhere. The fist thing we did was take a chest and lung x-ray to make sure it had not been punctured, as that would kill him if he put him under. Fortunately, there was no puncture. So off he went to get put under and shaved. It turned out the tusk, which his about 4", had gone up way farther than I could have seen, and it almost punctured a main artery. If it had, the vet said he probably would have died before I could get him tot he vet-a 15 minute drive.

There were so many thing that could have been worse.

I left him at the vet for the afternoon, and came home to try to settle down. But I was vibrating all day, I just was so shaken. Firstly, I have been so aware about Earnest's tusks and the danger they can present, but even with that knowledge and care, this happened. Shaving them down is problematic, and must be done all the time. Putting a pig under to work on him-I am told by two of my vets-is dangerous [another vet didn't agree]. Some people cut the tusks with clippers, as long as they don't go too deep it supposedly is dead bone, like a hoof trim.

So no matter how careful I am, accidents can happen. We are mulling over what to do to ensure it never happens again. Some of the choices...are hard for me to imagine. I have always been loyal to Earnest. I love the guy. He gave us food when we were sustainable out on our Oregon farm, I wasn't going to leave him when we moved. But...it all seems so daunting right now, so for now...I just want to heal up White Dog.

Martyn was visibly shaken last night. He told me that when he heard, he just was...mad. He didn't want to tell me because he didn't want me to think he was mad at me. He was just mad that it happened to Ben. He told me he was so upset all day, and he realized how much he had come to love Ben, and want him around forever. Martyn has a relationship with White Dog, but the other barn animals are really in relationship with me. He said he just never thought about Ben dying, and he was worried he might not recover. Unbeknowst to me, he went out to barn last night when I was in bed, to check on Ben.

White Dog showed up on our farm, out of the blue. No dog had ever penetrated the fences where are sheep were. And coincidentally, we had a Maremma of our own, Marcella. How he got there is being told in the book I'm getting ready for print, a memoir of White Dog as told by him. But when he did arrive, and he had not yet settled in with us, I told Martyn,

"Someday this dog is going to break my heart."

I always worried he would run from us, not come back or get hit by a car. In the beginning, he did do some run abouts that nearly killed me, but he always came back and he had a lot of land to cover.

But now...as he ages, and is probably about seven, the idea of not having him here is hard to comprehend. Some animals, like people, are bigger than life, bigger than death. White Dog is surely one of those creatures.

Arriving at the barn this morning, there he was, alive. I guess I'm being dramatic, but, I held my breath, the wound was very, very severe, and the vet told me we were very lucky. The drip line that is in the wound, sewn in, will come out Friday at the vet. The wound looked pretty good to me, he is residing in the interior stall, surrounded by the sounds and smells he knows-that is where he wants to be. He actually wants to be outside, but not yet.

I am just so glad he is alive. I try never tell an animal, "Don't die," as it is selfish and unfair to their journey-but I don't want White Dog to ever die. But I know he will, someday, but not today.