Daisy the Weim and the Cone of Pride
When we arrived home from New Zealand/Australia a few weeks ago, we were greeted by a Super Highway of bear activity, right out our front door. It was sort of like being at the zoo—except the house was our cage, and the bears were in the open, roaming as they pleased and picking apples from our apple tree to store up for winter. We would take our ceremonial photos, and then run outside yelling and banging pots to scare them off. After a week, we counted five different bears that had made our property a regular stopping point on their daily jaunt. Even after picking all the apples, the bears still saw something magical about coming to visit the Busbys.
When you have so much wildlife activity outside, one must be very strategic about how and when she lets the dogs outside to run and play and take care of business. (It’s dogs, plural, because we have our friends’, Russ and Brittany Hopkins’ dog, Ava, with us for a few months during their year-long teaching trip to China—which you can read about on their blog here.) Every morning, I walk outside before the dogs and clap loudly, listening for that familiar rustling. I peek around corners to check the bears’ favorite places. Once the coast is clear, I release the dogs and they dash outside to chase the nearest squirrel up a tree and all is well.
But last Sunday, we weren’t so thorough—partly because we’d been outside all day. We were desensitized to the “safety” one feels in their own front yard. We had been outside with the dogs painting furniture, playing frisbee… you know, the things you do on a Sunday afternoon. Unbeknownst to us, a sow and her two grown cubs were slowly approaching out of earshot.
It was about 5:30pm and we were preparing for the arrival of some friends for dinner. Daisy wasn’t outside for more than a second before her instincts kicked in and she took off running, ready to defend her family and her territory. Ava started to follow but retreated on our call. We didn’t see the incident with Daisy happen around the corner, but Sean could see two cubs in a tree across the street while the mother was guarding them at the base. He instantly called to me. We screamed for Daisy and soon, she came limping around on the other side of our house—her chest slashed by the mother bear, and her right front “wrist” slashed through to the tendons. After she darted inside, we stopped her in the middle of our black and white checked kitchen floor where bright red blood began to pool from her leg wound.
This was our first “tragic incident” together dealing with blood. I will say it was a bit like the TV shows when someone arrives in the ER—GET ME A TOWEL! WE NEED TO STOP THE BLEEDING! GET THE NUMBER FOR THE VET! HOLY S*&% THIS IS HAPPENING! Meanwhile, Daisy was sitting on her back haunches, teeth clenched, not making a sound. It was almost surreal, like it wasn’t actually happening. But it was.
Once I identified the worst of the wounds and saw Daisy being so strong, I calmed myself a bit and focused on stopping the bleeding with the nearest paper towel and a multi-colored beach towel. The drive to the 24-hour emergency animal hospital was probably the worst part. I was in the back, holding Daisy’s leg above her heart, trying to stop the bleeding… trying to keep Daisy from sliding clear across the trunk of the Durango around every corner. Poor Sean—completely frazzled at the wheel—was convinced that we were behind the slowest people in Whitefish… the entire 20 minutes to the hospital. I think the Universe put those people on the road to keep us from recklessly speeding. It wasn’t until we arrived that I realized I had taken the trip without any shoes on, while wearing paint-stained yoga pants, a grubby sweatshirt and a faded denim hair scrunchie circa 1998.
The vet came out to our car to assist in getting Daisy inside. The bleeding had stopped and she was able to limp herself into the hospital. Remembering that part, her strength still amazes me.
Throughout the whole process—including a 3 hour surgery to stitch up her wounds and re-fuse a vein in her leg—the doctors kept saying how lucky she was. Despite how wild her leg looked, her chest wounds were actually worse than they thought, being only held together by a thin layer of skin. Lucky for Daisy, that skin held on tight and the stitches will make it like new (aside from a gnarly scar she’ll have). Shout out to Dr. Dean Aldrich for taking such good care of her. He said they typically see about two bear incidents per year, and sadly, they’re usually fatal. Although Daisy was given a “Cone of Shame” to wear for two weeks until her stitches get taken out, we’d rather call it the “Cone of Pride.”
Our dog—at age nine—attacked a full-sized mother bear and survived to tell the story. What a girl… Thanks everyone for your well-wishes during her recovery. I assure you, aside from the cone and a slight limp, Daisy is still the same happy dog she was before!