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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Angus and the fisher attack

Before 2004 all I knew about fishers, I had learned from a PBS show I had seen, Marty Stouffer’s Wild America “Fishers in the Family.”

On December 29, 2006, I quietly let the poodles out to go pee while Marly ate supper. They went out on the porch, looked to their left and took off like two little shots. Loud poodle barking ensued...not an unusual occurrence. Marly heard something I didn’t though, immediately went to the door and wanted to GET OUT! A moment later, there was a note of high-pitched hysteria in the barking that I had never before heard, and hope never to hear again.
Outside in the dark I listened closely and heard only two dogs and I saw only Max and Marly. Marly ran back and forth in high alert.
I thought: Angus is dead.

Max and Marly were looking toward the upper part of our nine-hundred-foot driveway, which crosses a hayfield. I went back inside and got the flashlight and walked quickly up the driveway, rapidly swinging the light from side to side. The dogs, emboldened by my presence, preceded me up the driveway and circled around a spot far up in the field.

I found Angus lying unconscious on his right side, with an open hairless wound on his flank and blood visible elsewhere, with his eyes turning blue, his mouth open and his anal sphincter relaxed. But he was breathing.
I went back to the house...the dogs would not come with me and I wondered how I was ever going to get them back into the house...and got a towel, got in the car and drove slowly to the spot. I laid the towel next to Angus, picked up his legs and rolled him onto it. No reaction. I picked up the ends of the towel to make a hammock and put it on the passenger seat. At that point, Angus' head came up and he yipped a few times. Thank God! He was alive and could make noise!

Husband got home from work just then and took care of getting Max in.





So we left her outside and drove to the closest emergency vet an hour away.
Most of the bites, a gazillion of them, were on his front end. Everywhere there was a bite, the skin was pulled away from his underlying muscle sheath. The alarming phrase the vet used was “partially skinned alive.” They took x-rays of his body and told us that his worst injury that they could find was the broken ribs, broken in a “flay pattern." They poked every which way, indicating blunt force. The vet was realistic and told us Angus was in "guarded" to "poor" condition. He was very shocky, which probably saved his life.
Four harrowing but increasingly hopeful days later Angus was stable enough that we could travel from the emergency vet to our home vet’s clinic. In the exam room I opened the crate door to settle him down because he was moving around quite a bit. Once I put my arms inside the crate he turned himself around and put his little shaved-top head on my arm and cuddled up and made the little baby sounds that he always makes when he’s feeling needy. His eyes were bright and he was in there again.
On January 5, Angus ate a little bit of slurried up canned food for the vet tech. When I went to him after work, he sat up, all wobbly, he threw his little head up and back, and yelled, "mom mom mom!" His voice was a little rusty and weak, but it was his voice! I took him out and held him on my lap and various techs came over and talked to me. I could see in their faces that although they were trying not to be negative, nobody had been very encouraged by his behavior during the day.
I had taken some kibble to work with me in a ziploc snack bag and right before I left work I put some water in so it would sog up. As Angus lay on my lap, I fed him ONE little kibble and he licked some of the juice off my fingers. He wasn't really interested.
After a while I put him back in the cage and kind of hung over him. Put the little scrap of fleecy blanket over him. He put his right cheek on another piece of soft fuzzy stuff that they had put in his cage so all I could see was his left eye. That eye, which couldn't close because his head was so swollen, roved nonstop all over my face while I talked to him and petted his neck.

I had reached the end of my own resources.
I said the Lord's Prayer and the Serenity prayer over him...and asked God, whatever had to happen (Thy will be done), to please not let the little dog suffer any more than he had to. I told God I've learned some lessons and I'll try to keep learning them. I finished praying and kept on petting and soothing Angus.
Ten seconds later, he turned his head the other way, sniffed the air, got up and went over to eat. It was hard for him to put his head down to the food dish while he stood up, so I fed him one kibble. It was gone practically before it got to his mouth.

I gave him two kibbles.

I scooped up enough to fill my cupped palm. He ate frantically, couldn't get it in fast enough. He ate more than half of the food I'd brought. Then he thought maybe he'd like a drink of water, and he drank about half of what the tech had given me when she saw he was eating. He got tired of standing and lay down and kept drinking.
After he'd eaten and drunk, he turned around, looked for my arm in the cage, and arranged himself so he could snuggle his head on my arm. I covered him up with the fleecy thing again; he gave a big satisfied sigh, and settled down to sleep.
I stayed there until he looked as if he was really settled...it was getting to be time for them to close up...the techs were cleaning up...and I left.
He came home on Saturday, January 6, and by the end of the month was about back to normal.
Angus does not accompany us for walks when it is near dusk.
He knows there are devils out there.

While fishers and mountain lions are the only regular predators of porcupines, the fisher is the only predator to have a specialized killing technique. A fisher first approaches from the direction the porcupine is facing. The porcupine tries to protect itself by turning to present its tail, covered with quills, to the attacker. The fisher then jumps directly over its prey, forcing the porcupine to keep turning to protect its vulnerable head. A dozen or more such maneuvers suffice to exhaust and confuse the porcupine into a stupor in which it can no longer protect itself. Then, by repeatedly biting and scratching at the porcupine's face, the fisher causes it to bleed to death. The fisher eats the porcupine by flipping the dead animal over and starting with its unprotected belly.


Tigerbi said...

Even though I knew the outcome of this attack, I found myself tearing up with emotion and fear as I read this........powerful stuff !

Carolynn Anctil said...

Wow. I had no idea Fishers were so formidable. It sounds like they're right up there with Badgers.

I'm glad to hear Angus pulled through, although I'm not at all surprised that your prayers were answered and that your love & support during Angus' darkest days had a rejuvenating effect.

Smart little fellow for staying inside where it's safe, at night.

Jeeves said...

My!!!This moved me. Fishers seem so dangerous.

Anonymous said...

I just saw a fisher in my yard in CT. Thanks for posting this. I wasn't familiar with this species. I have two Jack Russells (who spotted it). I'm so glad to read that your dog is OK.

June said...

Gee, Anonymous, I only saw your comment today, and I'm sorry about that.
I hope your JRTs didn't/don't do their JRT thing and relentlessly pursue the furry little demon the way I'm sure Angus did, to his sorrow.
Angus, btw, is still a fearless little warrior but I think he's more aware of the perimeter beyond which he must not go.
And we no longer have Marly, The Defender, to try to safeguard him.

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