Saturday, January 10, 2009

Not So Cute Anymore--part 2

Almost a year ago to the week I had a run in with a ex-pet rodent-like being ( "Not So Cute Anymore"). Everything ended fine--my hand healed and the little prairie dog now lives in Oklahoma with others of his own kind. Not because of what happened but because there is a well known, well respected prairie dog sanctuary there. It wouldn't have been fair to him to live all alone and frustrated because he had been a pet and now wasn't because the people didn't. want. him. anymore. Being with his own kind was the best thing for him--and that's all that mattered.

This time the encounter was a squirrel.

Please do not think the sweet fluffy baby in the picture above is the one I speak of. He is not. The being of which I speak came to the sanctuary via his owner who didn't want him anymore. That's all I knew, for if I had taken just a few minutes to peruse his file I would have found out why. But I won't spoil it for you. You will have to read on.

I opened the cage the squirrel was staying in. About 6' tall, 5' long and 4' wide. A generous house. Tree branches were inside to allow for natural climbing and gnawing as well as a hiding box and bedding for comfortable repose. I cleaned the previous bits of food and began to replace the bowl that was there with a newly filled one. He seemed to be confused as to how to get to the new bowl (it was in a kind of tunnel but very accessible) so I closed the smaller door and opened the larger door where he was anxiously awaiting his breakfast. As I placed the fruit, nut, and veggie filled bowl on the shelf, he launched himself from one of the branches and landed on my forearm, teeth digging into my soft flesh.

(let's pause now for an image to develop in your mind.... forearm... squirrel attached via teeth, hands on either side of face like he's gnawing an ear of corn.... got it?)

I stood still in shock. My usual reaction is to fling whomever is gnawing a body part as far away from gnawed body part as possible. Said prairie dog flew a few feet then landed in deep hay. However, this time I was inside a rather large room, no deep hay to be found anywhere. So I stood there for what seemed forever while he gnawed my arm to the bone. I could feel his little rodent teeth as they scraped my ulna. Over and over. I thought (finally) about how I could distract him from his endeavor. I flicked his nose several times thinking the assault to his most sensitive sensor would make him stop.

gnaw. gnaw. gnaw.

I then tried to scruff his neck but he was so intent on mauling my arm that his little neck was like that of a turtle--scrunched down between his shoulders with muscles tensed so the only thing I scruffed was fur, which, in the moment, came out in my hand.

gnaw. gnaw. gnaw.

I quickly realized that he wasn't going to let go no matter what distraction I tried. I walked out of the room into the hallway and made a left towards the vet room.

gnaw. gnaw. gnaw.

I walked into the surgery room where Megan and Jaime were working on a patient

gnaw. gnaw. gnaw.

and threw my arm outward, squirrel still firmly attached, and said (cried, screamed...), " He. Won't. Let. Go!!!!!!"

gnaw. gnaw...

It's funny what one remembers in retrospect. Megan's eyes were huge, her mouth an 'o'. Jaime, on the other side of the table looked up and began to move in my direction. At the same time Megan moved in my direction the squirrel realized he wasn't where he started out, released my forearm, and jumped to my head. I vaguely remember telling Megan and Jaime that he was on my head, on my back, then the back of my legs, and off. I had tucked my head into my chest and closed my eyes because by this time the pain was becoming very intense.

Jaime gently led me over to the sink so I would stop bleeding all over the surgical table.

OH YEAH--the patient they had been examining, an elderly chihuahua, was only for a moment left alone on the table. Jaime rushed back and put her on the ground and then helped Megan try to catch the now rogue squirrel.

By this time I knelt by the sink with my bleeding arm in the sink. I began to cry as the adrenaline rush faded. My head was down and my eyes were closed. The pain was incredible. Meanwhile I could hear scurrying and footsteps as the girls tried to wrangle the squirrel. I could sense his path around the room and was surprised when he landed on my head. He immediately jumped and I looked up in time to see Jaime, with thick leather welder's gloves, trap him with both hands in the sink. Right next to my arm!

Jaime took the squirrel back to his home and later told me that I had left the door open and the other squirrel that was in there (there were two?!) was just sitting inside wondering what was going on. Cute.

Megan assessed my arm and prepared to flush the wound. (Let me just say if anyone ever gets bitten (or receives puncture wounds of any kind) make sure your first stop is finding someone to flush out your wound. This is the single most important safeguard of fighting off an infection!) She used a curve tipped syringe similar to this one, some dilute iodine, and began to flush the wound.( I digress but just so you know, in emergency animal medicine this is my 2nd favorite part of emergency care. Something so satisfying about cleaning all the bad stuff out and determining how big and bad the wound really is.) I was barely able to look up to watch as Jaime told me this was something she thought I really wanted to see. The syringe tip was in one of the holes filling the wound with fluid. If I hadn't been in so much pain I really would have thought it was cool to see my skin rise several millimeters.

After the flushing, Megan cleaned my entire forearm with betadine (apparently during The Episode the squirrel had scratched my arm nicely) and she then put a pressure bandage on and advised me to see my doctor as soon as possible for antibiotics and a tetanus shot. (She really rocks as a animal vet and a people vet!) Good thing I was current with my rabies shots--they might have had to worry about the little guy!!

I went to my doctor and he agreed that I had indeed been bitten by a small mammal judging by the puncture wounds and commented that Megan did a really good job cleaning me up. Major antibiotics and a tetanus shot and I was golden.

Almost a week later and the only signs are two small marks on my forearm, a little swelling, fading scratch marks on the inside of my arm and a righteous bruise that starts at my elbow and runs to my wrist on the outside of my arm.

Oh, and the reason the owner relinquished the squirrel--he was becoming aggressive.

Make note that the squirrel was in no way at fault in this situation. Squirrels are wild animals like it or not and not suitable in the least to be treated like a pet--for any reason. There is no doubt in my mind that in time he will be able to be released into his natural habitat and do very well.

Bottom line--wild animals do not make good pets.


DJ said...

Wow! That's a very exciting story. I can't imagine having a squirrel stuck to my arm, gnawing away! I always wanted to pet a squirrel, but thought that they looked a little too wild. Now I'm really glad I never got that close to one. I hope you're feeling better and healing nicely!

Leslie said...

Oh my gosh! How terrifying! I had a run-in like this with a guinea pig one time. I didn't know about the flushing, and it sure did get infected. That's when I went to the doctor. The guinea pigs name?

Chuckie. I kid you not.