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Hurt Tail

I think it’s going to take me three posts to catch up on what is now a month of Dog News. <sigh>

I would have gotten to this earlier but then the founder of Substack went and publicly advertised that they were happy to keep platforming and making money off actual Nazis, and I spent two weeks — the weeks that most people were on “holiday” — working on backend issues with migrating my newsletter to a different provider. I was on a self-imposed deadline because I had multiple paid subscriptions about to renew at the end of December / beginning of January, and I didn’t want to keep paying Substack for the privilege of hanging out at the Nazi bar.

Anyway, the miserable week I alluded to in my last post went like this:

Friday night — this would have been December eighth — Jak and I were watching TV and I was cuddling Tashi in my recliner and I happened to pet his tail and it felt … wrong. Wounded.

He didn’t want me messing with his tail and got squirmy and bitey about it, but Saturday in the daylight I was able to confirm that yes, completely hidden underneath the long feathery fur of his tail, there was a raw sore at least an inch by an inch and a half.

I’d seen him biting his tail — as well as his legs and feet and flanks — from time to time, but I had no idea that it had become that kind of problem. It wasn’t fleas; he was on a topical insecticide, but I double-checked him thoroughly anyway. He must have just been gnawing on himself out of anxiety, stress, or boredom.

It’s not like he doesn’t have other things to chew on. He was getting five kongs a day (stuffed with frozen gizzards) and has a Benebone always available (and makes good use of it). But here we were. I suspect it really became a problem because in late November and early December we had this weird rainy period, where it rained all day long for like nine out of eleven days in a row. Even in the actual rainy season that doesn’t happen; most of the rain happens in the late afternoon to overnight. But it was doubly bizarre for what is normally the dry season. Anyway, Tashi didn’t get his usual allotment of outdoor exercise during that week and a half, because the rain just wouldn’t let up.

Monday morning it was off to the vet, who confirmed the absence of fleas. And then I had to try to hold him still (and fail; my half-disabled arms were in no way up to the task) while she shaved all the beautiful hair off the middle of his tail and disinfected the wound. We both came out of that traumatized; his scrabbling terror and panicked cries of pain were terrible to bear.

Exposed, the sore was about twice as big as I had thought, and infected to boot. And of course he had to wear a neck cone to keep him from reaching his tail while it healed … but the vet underestimated both his limberness and his determination, and he soon figured out how to twist himself around so he could still bite and lick it. So Tuesday we had to go back for an even larger neck cone.

The World’s Saddest Dog in the World’s Largest Cone

It took ten days for the wound to heal up enough that we could take him out of the cone. In the meantime, there was a lot of misery all around. We had to ear him down twice a day and disinfect and medicate the tail, and Tashi absolutely did not believe us when we told him this hurting was “help”.

Tashi hated the neck cone, Jak and I hated the neck cone … the cats were actually fine with the neck cone at first, because it made him easier to dodge. But then one day he managed — probably by accident — to trap Gracie inside the cone with his head, and that was a calamity.

Worst, though, was how difficult the cone made his ability to use his words. He uses both nose and paws on the buttons, but prefers the nose; he also frequently tromps across the board space firing off buttons randomly, so there’s often at least some uncertainty about the intention of even the most sensible paw presses.

I wondered if — hoped that — he would switch entirely to paws while wearing the cone, but no, he was determined to keep using his nose. For every button he successfully nose-booped, the cone would activate three more, and sometimes a few extra from accidental paws.

So while he was recovering, the comprehensibility of his communication took a nose dive … and it hardly got any better when the cone came off. He’d almost completely stopped trying to use the wall sides of the board; with the more open sections he would press either one button that didn’t make sense by itself, or six or seven adjacent buttons in rapid succession. In general, it felt like he was just spewing nonsense for basic attention.

But at the same time he’d stopped actually requesting basic, one-word things that we’d come to depend on him for. He’d go a whole day without once pressing KONG, and we’d have to remember to offer them to him every few hours (they’re factored into his daily caloric intake). And then a couple-three days after the cone came off, he actually broke potty training and peed in the kitchen, something he hadn’t done for months. He hadn’t asked for POTTY or even OUTSIDE for hours preceding, even though from the quantity he obviously had needed to go for a while.

At that point I realized I had to roll everything back to the beginning and start modeling the basics like it was September all over again. As though, after a period of being forced into nonsense, he had to relearn that he could communicate sensibly, and that there was any reason to do so.

Details, results, and word updates on next rock.

Published inMetaMexicoPets


  1. David Gates David Gates


    I’m following this with interest and sending compassion to Tashi. However, I have no comment of interest. Thanks for these posts, they make me feel, well, included.


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