From December 27, 2011
We could really use Cesar Millan, from the Dog Whisperer TV show, to roller-blade over to the east coast and straighten out our Cairn Terrier rescues. Nutmeg and Nora’s notorious spats reached new heights over the past couple of weeks. I’ll bet Cesar could figure out what causes their conflicts and tell us how we can avoid them, especially now that their fighting has resulted in a pretty serious injury to Nora’s eye.
Just when we thought we had figured out the triggers for our Cairn Terrier rescues’ violent fights, their skirmishes increased in frequency and intensity. They reached a crescendo a couple of nights before Christmas. Everyone had gone to bed, and I was ready to turn in myself. I don’t even remember what set them off, but they got into a terrible fight, and I sustained a bite on my hand while separating them and getting them into their crates.
The next morning, when I released them, I noticed that Nora appeared to have some gunk around her left eye. It had looked a little red the day before, so I thought she had some sort of irritation. When I dabbed at her eye with a warm, wet cloth, whatever I was trying to get off wasn’t coming. Ugh. I noticed then that her lower eyelid was split!
Horrified, I called Erie Animal Hospital. Thankfully, they were open on Christmas Eve until 1:00 p.m. Just an hour after I called, Dr. Jeff was shaking his head and remarking that Nora was lucky she still had her eye. So, I had to leave her there while they put her under and stitched her up. A couple of hours later, the technician handed me a groggy, limp pup with a cone on her head.
Now, there’s been an evolution in the nature of their fighting since September, when we rescued Nutmeg and Nora. At that time, Nora was the victim, and Nutmeg was the aggressor. Nutmeg would attack, and Nora would defend. After we would pull them apart, Nora would bark at her sister as if she were giving her a piece of her mind. Over the past couple of months, though, it became apparent that Nora was sometimes passive-aggressive, and would give a low-toned growl accompanied by a fierce scowl that would goad Nutmeg into action. Eventually, Nora added her own fierceness into the equation, and when the fights hit their height, Nora was an active participant in the conflict, every bit as vicious as Nutmeg. When separated, instead of barking at her sister, she wanted more and tried to continue the conflict. This is what happened when Nora sustained her injury. I believe that she is not as skilled as Nutmeg in the art of fighting, and therefore came out the loser in the fight which resulted in her injured eye.
That being said, I am incredibly happy that we made the decision to purchase two crates, because who knows what shape Nora would be in if they had been left unattended in a crate when their fights had escalated to such intensity.
When Nora came home from the vet with the cone on her head, Nutmeg didn’t know what to make of her sister. For the first day, Nora was subdued, and things were calm, but as soon as Nora started navigating through the house, the fights started again. We had to be ever-more vigilant in keeping them apart, and Nutmeg spent quite a few hours in time out, mainly because we couldn’t put Nora in her crate with the cone on her head. She was still trying to get it off, and we were afraid that she’d thrash around in the crate and break her neck.
Reflecting on the situation, I remembered the days leading up to Christmas years ago when our three kids were small. They fought; they acted up; they were full of anxiety. I usually couldn’t wait for Christmas to get here so that things would get back to normal. I thought all this commotion was because Krista, Kasey, and Michael were so excited about Santa, but Nutmeg and Nora don’t know about Santa (at least I don’t think they do), so what’s the explanation for them? Well, I think I figured out what their problem is, and perhaps this was the case with our three kids, too.
For a couple of weeks leading up to this past Christmas, we were preparing guest rooms, decorating the house, and shopping for Christmas presents. The weather got nasty and made us suspend Nutmeg and Nora’s evening walks. Morning routines became unstable, and the number of fetches with their favorite toys was reduced. Then the kids showed up from out-of-town, and the Cairn Terrier rescues’ routine totally went out the window. Would I trade any of the activities above? Absolutely not, but I think we could have done a better job when it came to attending to our pups.
As I started to write this blog post, both girls dozed on the loveseat as peaceful as could be, as if they had nothing in their hearts but love for each other. This is what is so confusing about them. We keep trying to figure them out, but they have a nearly three-year history that took place before we rescued them. I think if Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, would spend a week with us, he’d have them figured out and calm submissive in a hurry, with his famous, “Pssssssssssst.”
Update on January 1, 2012:
I’m happy to report that, a week later, things are calm again around our house. The fights, which numbered dozens per day at their peak, have been reduced to nearly none. Nora still has the cone on her head and will wear it for another week. Her eye looks pretty good, although, I’m afraid the lower lid might sag a little even after it heals. So, it does seem that the excitement of Christmas contributed to Nutmeg and Nora’s unrest. We will make sure, in the future, to pay adequate attention to them and give them lots of exercise and play when their routine changes. With houseguests, they might still stress out, but at least we know what to expect and can work in extra exercise and pre-empt their fights. We could still use Cesar Millan though. Cesar, can you hear me?