domestic dog fight
Thursday, January 9 2014
During the night a strip of some sort of hairless animal hide had appeared in the living room. It was about the size of dollar bill and included a layer of fat on one side. I smelled its gamey odor well before I actually found it. The origins of such non-vegetarian artifacts in our household is often deer shot by hunters in the forest, but in this case I suspect the piece of hide had come from an ad hoc animal disassembly undertaken by our downhill neighbor, an octogenarian former butcher. In the wee hours of this morning when I refueled the woodstove, I gave the strip of skin to Eleanor to see if she might chew on it, but it didn't interest her.
This morning I gave Eleanor an empty can of cat wet food to lick, and as she always does, she took it to the lumpy green carpet in the first floor office to work on (a process that usually results in a couple puncture holes right through the galvanized sheet metal of the can). Meanwhile, Ramona had found the strip of hide in the living room, and had plunked down there to devour it. But then, out of nowhere, I saw Eleanor charging aggressively at Ramona, apparently incensed that she was chewing on that piece of animal hide. Instantly, I knew this couldn't end well; Ramona has a certain amount of food and toy aggression, and there was no way she was going to let Eleanor bully her out of her treat. Besides, the rules of the house (which is a consensus developed by the dogs and cats among themselves) state that whoever finds a bit of food or a toy that isn't presently being eaten or used by someone else has full rights to it. A fight erupted, and it was worse than the usual tiff that sometimes happens. The moment Eleanor slammed into Ramona, she reacted entirely by reflex. I couldn't separate the dogs on my own; I'd push them apart but they'd quickly maneuver around me and be back at it. Gretchen ran over and started pulling on Ramona while I pulled on Eleanor, but Ramona had her jaws locked tightly on a part of Eleanor's head and I had to punch her to get her to release. Once we had them separated, they quickly calmed down and seemed to have second thoughts about their aggression. Ramona immediately went back to looking for the strip of animal hide (which I'd hidden), while Eleanor trembled on the couch, looking a little like she's looked after being attacked by a bear. Initially we didn't see any injuries, but then I saw she was bleeding fairly heavily from the tender spot under her lower jaw. Investigating the injury, we found a puncture right through the skin that resembled similar punctures made by the canine teeth of bears. Later we found a number of other injuries, including a shallow cut on top of her head (and some weird clicky cartilage issues beneath it) and a scrape behind one of her eyes. As for Ramona, her only injury appeared to be a bruise on her chest. Clearly Eleanor, though she'd been the instigator, had faired the worst. Why had she charged at Ramona? Had she experienced a transient neurological problem? Or did she feel some unusually strong proprietary attachment to that piece of hide because she'd been the one who had found it and brought it home? In any case, the trauma of the fight made her behave strangely for the rest of the day. She went for the morning walk with Gretchen as she always does, but once she returned home, she wanted to retreat into the dog house. It was sunny outside, but with temperatures in the low 20s, we couldn't let her do that. Several times today I had to outside and coax her out of there (or else call for her; one time it seemed she'd gone up the road to Andrea's place, where she used to occasionally be dog-sat).
To solve the animal hide problem, I'd used the band saw to cut it in half and then given each half to Ramona and Eleanor respectively. Eleanor didn't want hers (of course!), so Ramona ended eating both halves in relatively short order (and then regurgitating a strange white foam in various places throughout the house).
In the afternoon, I drove into town mostly to get groceries for Gretchen (she needed active vegan yoghurt cultures, tempeh, and potatoes, among other things). I also had a need for small CD/DVD cases; I want to organize my collection of installation CDs for Windows, Mac, and Linux instead of having chaotic piles of discs in various places.
The dogs came with me on the drive into town, though Eleano remained a basket case on the back seat the whole time. It wasn't so much that she seemed afraid of Ramona after the injuries caused by her bites; it was more that she seemed ashamed. By this point Ramona was doing what she could to make up for the fight, even trying to lick Eleanor's injuries (though Eleanor sometimes growled and showed her teeth when Ramona got so close).
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