Dogs have personal space, too |

Dogs have personal space, too

Nadine Lober
Vail CO, Colorado

The following is a letter from a client that was sent to Dr. Nadine Lober.

Personal space.

That’s what went through my mind as I braced my golden retriever during emergency surgery to reconstruct her ear. Pugs snore. Labs shed. And goldens have no concept of personal space.

Tabitha (really, the world’s cutest dog, just ask her) often forgets that pets and people aren’t as enthusiastic about meeting her as she is about meeting them. It became evident early in her life when we’d be walking through the neighborhood on leash and she’d give me the false sense that she was under my complete control. One time, a new mother and her baby approached us on the sidewalk. Tabitha stealthily used her Milkbone-sized brain to estimate that she had 0.8 seconds and 14-inches of slack leash to satisfy her intense desire to kiss the baby in the stroller. She succeeded. She’s a sloppy kisser but the baby did not bite her for invading her personal space.

It was under somewhat similar circumstances that Tabitha lost a good chunk of her ear over Memorial Day weekend. She was on an early morning walk on a dirt trail in Edwards. Off leash, this time. Along comes a guy enjoying a morning run with his dog ” on leash. Tabitha may appear pretty dumb on the outside but she surely calculated that she was about to win the space-invader lotto. She would have the time and the physical freedom to achieve the pinnacle of golden greetings: a nose to the guy’s crotch and a sniff of the dog’s rear. She galloped her goofy gait toward her prey with feathers flying and tongue lolling to the side of her mouth. Could life get any better in that moment?

Decidedly yes. She miscalculated. Before she could get to the guy’s crotch his dog snapped and chomped her ear … OFF.

Ouch. Accidents happen. But why on Sunday morning when it’s so inconvenient? Fortunately, a friend knew Dr. Nadine. We called her at home and she told us to bring her over. The ear was bleeding like something you’d associate with a chainsaw massacre. Not only had this dog taken off a quarter of her ear in a split second, he had torn the skin from the flap of cartilage that makes golden ears so adorable. She needed surgery. Pronto.

Tabitha was a dog I got for free. Her family gave her up because she had some medical issues and they didn’t have the time nor money to deal with her. She was so darling I decided to take her and get her all fixed up. Bilateral entropion surgery on her eyes. Bilateral hip replacements. Hyperthyroidism. Allergies. Weird lumps and bumps removed (once she sprouted some sort of mini rhinoceros horn above her eye). Typical conditions of a poorly bred dog. She’s been through a lot over the years. I knew she could make it through one more trauma. She had been poked, prodded, and pained without so much as a raised eyebrow: always sweet and gentle.

Our options for emergency surgery were limited. I begged Dr. Nadine to do the surgery right away with a local anesthetic. It takes a confident and skilled doctor to fix a complex laceration with only a local. A friend and I held Tabitha in our makeshift operating room (most people would call it the front porch). Dr. Nadine worked her magic with sutures and scalpel. I held Tabitha’s ear stump in the odd positions required to put it back together in some fashion that wouldn’t have other dogs at the park sniggering. Tabitha laid still for most of the operation, thinking this was some sort of weird group petting session. One hour and a few dozen sutures later: voila!

No story is complete without a return to the scene of the crime. Hours later, in the exact spot of the rude encounter, on the edge of the trail lay my dog’s EAR. The whole thing, cleanly chomped off. Golden ears are so cute, and here was hers! So what do you do with your dog’s ear? I was going to mail it to the biting dog’s owner but I was afraid there might be some sort of U.S. Postal service restriction on mailing body parts. So I put it in my freezer.

Meanwhile, Tabitha’s ear modeling career is on hold. Now, what do I do with the ear besides keep it out of the ice cube section? I think a dog’s ear in the ice cube section would count as an invasion of personal space.

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