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PTSD (Post-Traumatic Snake Disorder)!

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  • PTSD (Post-Traumatic Snake Disorder)!

    Last week, as is my daily habit, I took my dogs on a little nature hike around the rancho. A jolly, carefree crone left the bunkhouse that day, but a broken woman returned. Why? Well, we don't call it Dreadful Acres for nothing. I allude, of course, to another close encounter of the venomous kind with a Western diamondback rattler.

    The dogs are just a couple of doofy retrievers, a yella lab and a golden, cavorting in a big hay field. Suddenly the yella lab leaps 2 feet in the air, startled. I'm 20 yards away, but from the dog's posture I know what it is even before I hear the rattle. Sure enough, the serpent uncoils, rising a foot and a half off the ground in strike mode. The lab is maybe 3 feet from the snake, and the golden is rushing over to investigate. I try to impersonate a happy and delightful crone, keeping the terror out of my voice as I call them back, but horribly, the rattling snake is more interesting than I am (says a lot about me, I agree), and both of those flippin' dogs totally blow me off!

    Finally the lab decides to heed my desperate cries, followed reluctantly by the golden, whose recall is notoriously the worst in all of Cottonmouth County. Immediately I stuff their faces with the emergency organic chicken hot dogs I carry for moments like this, hoping they'll remember, for future reference, that running away from rattlesnake toward me = cured smoked sausage. Tragedy averted, narrowly.

    So that's the backstory. The current status is that I am now too freaked out to let my dogs out of the yard. I mean, they've got a fairly snake-proof fenced-in acre that they can access through a doggy door, but that's pretty crummy when they're used to what the great poet Oliver Wendell Douglas called "land spreadin' out so far and wide." They got cabin fever. Unfortunately, I know all too well from past rattlesnake episodes that it will be a couple of weeks before I can face taking them out again, and possibly months before I'll be comfortable letting them down in the hay field.

    Even if I actually installed a decent recall on those dogs (heaven forfend!), it's no protection against the vipers they find when they're out snuffling around on their own. What's a crone to do?

    BTW, if you're gonna suggest that I turn to drugs and alcohol: I already tried that, and it's awesome, but it for some reason it doesn't seem to fix my irrational fear problem. If, on the other had, you're gonna suggest that I either suck it up or move to a serpent-free zone such as Antarctica, that's no good either, due to my having been born without that crucial part of the brain used to make sensible decisions (see "drugs and alcohol," above).
    Dreadful Acres: the chronicle of my extraordinary unsuitability to country life

  • #2
    I have no good advice -I don't think it's an irrational fear!! Don't want your dogs hurt.
    An acre to run around in isn't too bad. It could be worse.

    Originally posted by The Crone of Cottonmouth County View Post
    Last week, as is my daily habit, I took my dogs on a little nature hike around the rancho. A jolly, carefree crone left the bunkhouse that day, but a broken woman returned. Why? Well, we don't call it Dreadful Acres for nothing. I allude, of course, to another close encounter of the venomous kind with a Western diamondback rattler.

    The dogs are just a couple of doofy retrievers, a yella lab and a golden, cavorting in a big hay field. Suddenly the yella lab leaps 2 feet in the air, startled. I'm 20 yards away, but from the dog's posture I know what it is even before I hear the rattle. Sure enough, the serpent uncoils, rising a foot and a half off the ground in strike mode. The lab is maybe 3 feet from the snake, and the golden is rushing over to investigate. I try to impersonate a happy and delightful crone, keeping the terror out of my voice as I call them back, but horribly, the rattling snake is more interesting than I am (says a lot about me, I agree), and both of those flippin' dogs totally blow me off!

    Finally the lab decides to heed my desperate cries, followed reluctantly by the golden, whose recall is notoriously the worst in all of Cottonmouth County. Immediately I stuff their faces with the emergency organic chicken hot dogs I carry for moments like this, hoping they'll remember, for future reference, that running away from rattlesnake toward me = cured smoked sausage. Tragedy averted, narrowly.

    So that's the backstory. The current status is that I am now too freaked out to let my dogs out of the yard. I mean, they've got a fairly snake-proof fenced-in acre that they can access through a doggy door, but that's pretty crummy when they're used to what the great poet Oliver Wendell Douglas called "land spreadin' out so far and wide." They got cabin fever. Unfortunately, I know all too well from past rattlesnake episodes that it will be a couple of weeks before I can face taking them out again, and possibly months before I'll be comfortable letting them down in the hay field.

    Even if I actually installed a decent recall on those dogs (heaven forfend!), it's no protection against the vipers they find when they're out snuffling around on their own. What's a crone to do?

    BTW, if you're gonna suggest that I turn to drugs and alcohol: I already tried that, and it's awesome, but it for some reason it doesn't seem to fix my irrational fear problem. If, on the other had, you're gonna suggest that I either suck it up or move to a serpent-free zone such as Antarctica, that's no good either, due to my having been born without that crucial part of the brain used to make sensible decisions (see "drugs and alcohol," above).
    The problem with political jokes is that they get elected.
    H. Cate

    Comment


    • #3
      Sorry for first laughing at your story. You have to admit your story telling skills are excellent... but I also have a fear of snakes and I am so glad I do live in an area where there are no snakes of the venomous kind.. A garter snake would still send me running.

      I am glad your dogs did not get bitten. I have a yellow lab and I know that his nose takes him where no dog should go sometimes... I guess I would react exactly like you and not dare let them out of my sight... but can you really snake proof an area. these things can squeeze in such tight spaces...
      I must admit maybe not Antartica, but further North would sure entice me!
      Good luck.

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        As for snake-proofing, yeah, they can slither through tights spots, but I haven't seen a rattler in the yard since I installed two feet of 1/2" wire mesh over my 4x2 no-climb fence 4 years ago. These fat diamondbacks we have around here can't scale anything that tall, if the field guides are to be believed.

        I don't even have an actual fear of snakes in the classic "eek a mouse!" sense. I actually like the non-venomous ones. But for some reason those rattlers rattle me.

        As for laughing, feel free. My life is nothing if not a series of ridiculous escapades and doltish hijinxes.
        Dreadful Acres: the chronicle of my extraordinary unsuitability to country life

        Comment


        • #5
          Have you looked into snake aversion training? I know a lot of SAR dogs that work in snake infested areas are trained to avoid snakes as well as hunting dogs. I've got some friends that are in to tracking with their dogs and they've done the snake aversion training too.

          As I understand it, they give the dog a whiff of snake and then a pretty high powered jolt with a shock collar and then lots of praise and organic hot dogs when they turn away from the snake.
          I'm a second hand Vegan. Cows eat grass. I eat cows.

          Comment


          • #6
            I was thinking along the same lines of wirewieners- except my idea involved a robotic rubber snake that shoots citronella spray and fireworks.

            Comment


            • #7
              Labs must have some sort of suicidal tendencies. My 11 yo lab ran off with the young hound mix yesterday and was gone all day long, from about 8:30 am to 8:30 pm. I was looking and calling all over. They finally showed up, I put them in the house and went to Sonic for supper. Came back home and checked on the lab. Her muzzle was swelled up like a balloon. I couldn't find any fang marks so decided she must have gotten into a nest of ground bees. So I make a midnight run to Walmart for benadryl. Walmart is interesting at midnight. This morning her muzzle has gone down considerably but she is so tired and sore, she can barely walk. Poor old Stinker, she can't run with the young dogs any more.
              I'm a second hand Vegan. Cows eat grass. I eat cows.

              Comment


              • #8
                After losing my border collie to a rattler and spending four years getting nerve enough to own another dog in rattler country, my current 10 lb (she was the runt) rat terrrier was bitten twice, almost died the second time and has then been thru our local gun dog club snake proofing day.

                Many of our performance dog club's dogs are outside dogs, some hunting dogs, so many are snake proofed and it works.
                As long as the dog realizes there is a snake there, they are not about to approach one again, once proofed.
                Now, a surprise bite, a dog jumping right on a snake, or sticking it's nose in a hole that seemed clear and getting bitten, that can't be avoided.
                Some bring their dogs the next year to be sure and there is no way the handler can get the dog close to those snakes again to shock them, they remember "snakes shock!"

                The way the handler does, he takes your dog, puts on a long line and a shock collar on the dog and takes the dog for a walk around the spot.
                When the dog smells or sees the snakes, that he has prepared by milking the venom off right before the test, just in case, although he said he never yet had missed and had a dog bitten, once the dog tries to approach the snakes and is intent on them, he shocks them.

                I have seen over several years how he did that and seen from toy poodles to akitas and have never seen a dog do more than jump and at most let a little surprised yelp, it is not a strong shock to knock the dog over, just a surprise shock.

                Before they start, he puts the collar on his arm and that of anyone willing to try it and the shock, they say, is not even as strong as a hot wire fence.

                If you have a local hunting club, ask about any such programs.
                A friend told us that aversion technique is especially good with retrievers.

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Thanks for the aversion therapy tip, y'all. I thought about it last summer when a similar near-miss occurred, then promptly forgot to do it because winter happened and all the snakes flew south. If it works, I believe it would be worth a brief encounter with a shock collar.

                  My sister tried the vaccine on her golden, but he had a bad reaction and couldn't complete the series of shots.

                  So sorry about your border collie, Bluey. That really sucks.
                  Dreadful Acres: the chronicle of my extraordinary unsuitability to country life

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by The Crone of Cottonmouth County View Post
                    I don't even have an actual fear of snakes in the classic "eek a mouse!" sense. I actually like the non-venomous ones. But for some reason those rattlers rattle me.
                    Gee, can't imagine why. Couldn't be the angry brow or venomous fangs or the thought of losing your dogs or your own lower extremities, could it?

                    I'm with you. I generally like snakes. But we have Eastern Diamondbacks and canebrake rattlers where I live. I am not.a.fan. Although I like them better than I like cottonmouths. No offense.

                    Once, when I was the reptile wrangler at a pet store during college, the dipshite owner ordered a rattlesnake for one of our biker customers. Naturally, it escaped before the biker could come pick it up. I will never forget banging around on the walls of the store with the snake hook and listening for a rattle - not sure whether I wanted to find it or not! Anyway, as it turned out, the guy who sold dipshite owner the snake in the first place happened by with the next week's snake order and he was able to catch it. That was the last venomous snake we ordered for anybody!

                    I think I would absolutely look into the snake aversion therapy in your place. I am fortunate to have a large chicken snake who lives under my house. They're non-venomous but bitey and long ago taught my pack to fear the snake.
                    I'm not ignoring the rules. I'm interpreting the rules. Tamal, The Great British Baking Show

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      We only have garter snakes up here - I still run. The dog really doesn't seem to care - she's more concerned about the silly squirrels - they drive her nuts.
                      The problem with political jokes is that they get elected.
                      H. Cate

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I am petrified of snakes. Laugh all you want, but I was at a friend's house on Saturday when one of her cats brought in a little garter snake and dropped it on the floor for us. I went ballistic. Snake had just come out of hibernation and was still cold to the touch (according to my friend, I wasn't going to touch it!), but even so, I was about to climb the walls to get away from it. Id never heard of the snake aversion treatment for dogs, but it's a good idea especially if you have dogs that hunt or are able to run on a large property.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Do you have a gun filled with snake shot? It's like a small, hand-held shotgun with tinier pellets and you use it to dispatch the snakes.

                          I know a "good ole' boy" who kept some in a fish tank. Then he started having nightmares of all of them getting out.. He decided that they should go into the freezer, then the frying pan.
                          Founding Member: Spotted Saddlebred Pals Clique
                          Radar: “Why do women ride sidesaddles?”
                          Col. Potter: “Would you marry a woman who didn’t?”
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                          • #14
                            Oh my gosh. I just discovered the OP's blog. Bloody hilarious!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Soo happy the only snakes i see are garter snakes! Those are kinda cute and corn snakes, those i will try to catch. Everything else? Totally phobic! Along with spiders...ickk
                              Beyond the Ring-para dressage, training, coaching
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                              Proud Team Four Star Minion! Renegade for Life!

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                              • #16
                                I too suffer from PTSD ):
                                www.thetexasequestrian.com

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                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  I know this was keeping you up at night, so I'm just checking back in to report that I have scheduled a snake avoidance training session with a local bird dog trainer. He's got 2 de-venomed rattlers and a copperhead. $60 per snake per dog. Will post the results on the flip-flop. Thanks again for the suggestion.
                                  Dreadful Acres: the chronicle of my extraordinary unsuitability to country life

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I think the aversion training is a great idea. I'm another snake lover, I find them beautiful and fascinating -- actually two of my favourites are our pygmy rattlers (they're freaking purple, how awesome is that?) and copperheads with their gorgeous patterns. We encounter the latter and cottonmouths quite frequently at work, we just let them have their space, no issues.

                                    But I also treat them with a great deal of respect, likely because as a kid we lived in SoCal and on my grandmother's ranch, we received strict rattlesnake lectures before wandering, always had to take a dog as a lookout, and had to keep our distance upon pain of a meeting with the wooden spoon, LOL. I probably have a little advantage being very familiar with reptile behaviour and habitats, so I'm very comfortable around them. I still wouldn't keep a hot snake in my house (kinda don't understand the point of that -- it's not like you're going to snuggle with it) though.

                                    Do let us know how the training goes; I've known many dogs large and small who have recovered fully from snakebites (especially copperheads, since adults often dry-bite or inject very little venom), but as bluey mentioned, there are exceptions and that is just heartbreaking, it's so sad to lose a furry friend!
                                    Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                                    Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by wildlifer View Post
                                      I've known many dogs large and small who have recovered fully from snakebites (especially copperheads, since adults often dry-bite or inject very little venom)
                                      Growing up in the mountains, I knew members of certain churches who were walking around with pit viper scars on their hands and arms. I always attributed their survival to dry bites, although they claim it's because of Mark 16:18.

                                      If any of you ever get invited to a church whose name ends in "with signs following" - don't go!!!
                                      I'm not ignoring the rules. I'm interpreting the rules. Tamal, The Great British Baking Show

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by The Crone of Cottonmouth County View Post
                                        BTW, if you're gonna suggest that I turn to drugs and alcohol: I already tried that, and it's awesome, but it for some reason it doesn't seem to fix my irrational fear problem.
                                        For some reason, this made me laugh until the tears came. I'm going to tell my trainer that the next time she tries to over face me in a lesson. May I have your permission to use this as my signature, giving you full credit for the quote?
                                        One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. - Virginia Woolf

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