A Cautionary Tail
Back in February this year, our 10 year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Bart (aka Bartolomé, aka KC name Muffity Dearest Lad) we had brought with us to Oman in 2006, died suddenly from an acute twisted stomach he developed the day of his death. He died on his way to the vet. It was not something we had heard of and it caused pressure on his heart. Had he still held on, the vet would have tried an emergency puncture of his stomach to relieve the build-up. He will always be fondly remembered and missed.
Being worried about burglars and knowing how arabs are mostly scared of dogs, my wife asked me to get another dog. My kids too wanted to fill an empty hole. My wife wanted a medium-sized dog (puppy preferably) so I went the rounds of vets in Muscat etc to enquire if they knew of any up for adoption. I avoided pet-shops as the puppies on offer are often from mass-produced puppy farms in Thailand and the Philippines and, though expensive, often have bad (even fatal) health problems.
After about a month a South African couple phoned me and said they were leaving Oman and had a puppy for adoption. We arranged to visit them and saw the puppy, about 11 months old. It was a male called Tyson and we were told he was a Boxer-cross. He had a regular dog face with strong-jaws with a strong Boxer-like body-shape. He was a bit bigger than I had intended but he seemed friendly and eager, so we adopted him. Even then he was a hand-full and left to his own devices could be destructive of furniture. He also came with more pets – ticks and more ticks ! He had been kept mainly outside in a kennel in the yard.
Our first job was to remove the ticks. Our 16 year-old daughter (youngest of our family) and my wife took the lead in this and extracted some 50 odd ticks. We took him to the vet to treat him. He was registered, had an ID implant, got rabies shots and of course his full anti-tick treatment. When the vet asked us during registration, what breed do you say he is ? we said a Boxer Cross. The vet said “Well, I can’t see any Boxer, but he’s certainly part Pit-Bull”. He was taller than a Pit-Bull but it would help explain his solid muscles and sheer strength. That was the first hint that we’d taken on an animal that might be too much. Care must be taken.
Over time, we got used to his ways, including his neurotic need for attention. He also got bigger and stronger. My daughter was most involved with him and taught him various disciplines and tricks. My 19 year old son also interacted with him. My wife and I took part in training him. But then, a couple of months ago, he started acting up from time to time. He started to growl when my wife or daughter went to pick up their shoes from the living room floor or approach a certain part of the room. It became clear he was scared of my son who made it clear the dog didn’t scare him. One day as I bent down to look for something, Tyson went face to face with me while growling intensely. My son kicked him away as I looked to be in danger (and I felt it !) and as I was getting up he came back and did the same. He also started to growl at my daughter more and more on different occasions, the three of us in fact, but never my son.
I was looking to get rid of him by this time but no-one wanted him and the vets couldn’t place him. So we kept him.
All was quiet for a few days late last month and he seemed playful again, like before. He even gave me his ball to throw.
On Monday night 28th October, about 7pm, my wife and I were on a sofa on one side of the coffee table (wife on Facebook, me watching telly), on the other side of coffee table our son was on the other sofa (laptop games) and our daughter was sitting on the floor near him, doing her art homework. Tyson was there too, lying on the floor. Then Tyson got up and started to growl at our daughter. She patted him and said a few words and he quietened down. Then he growled again and suddenly, without warning, he started to snarl and launched himself at her. He knocked her over and jumped on her biting and scratching like some demented beast. She tried to protect her face as best as she could as he started biting the back of her head and her arm. Quick as a flash, our son tackled the dog, forcing it off our daughter and trying to restrain it, at the risk of getting bitten, as it was still snarling. My wife and I went over too, she then told me to get the car. Our daughter was bleeding from her face, head, arms and hands and my wife rushed to cover her with tea towels. My son locked away Tyson and stayed in the house too.
We drove to the nearest hospital 15 minutes away, a private one. They told us they couldn’t treat dog bites, only government hospitals could do that and give rabies shots. So they patched her up and we went to the nearest government hospital another 20 minutes away. There they told us they couldn’t do it, we’d have to go to another government hospital about another 30 minutes away. Eventually we got there and went to A&E. We explained all. The waiting hall was separated between males and females in dish-dashas and abayas and it was full. We were the only foreigners there. However, not much was going on for an A&E. No-one looked like an A&E case and they all looked pretty routine to me. If you had brought someone in and said “Spot the emergency case” there was only one – our daughter, head wrapped in a big bandage, nose bandaged and bleeding and arm and hand bandaged and her school blouse covered in blood. Yet the “triage” there didn’t take her ! We sat there and after 30 minutes asked if we could be taken now. It was ignored and further requests, as Omanis with sniffles got priority in the sleepy hollow that was their A&E. After 90 minutes, she was taken at last. She had suffered deep bite lacerations on the back of her head and behind her ear, her nose was clawed with a deep scratch ending with a gouge that left a flap of skin hanging, her wrist had deep bite wounds.
To cut a long story short, she had an operation to remove the ragged bite edges, tetanus and rabies injections and later got stitches in her head. She stayed in hospital just over a week in the plastic surgery ward. She’s had further injections since she got home and made trips to the plastic surgeon. All in all, she got off lightly, due entirely to her own and her brother’s quick reactions. We’ve all shuddered at the possibilities – if she’d been at home alone, if she hadn’t protected her face, if her brother hadn’t been so quick, if she’d been sitting on the sofa and the dog leapt at her face. I’m convinced the dog would have carried on the attack if she was the only one at home that night. It could have been very serious indeed, her face and eyesight could have been destroyed, even fatal if it grabbed her throat.
As for Tyson, the night of the attack, he was kept quarantined in a room and next morning, after I returned home from being all night at the hospital, my adult nephew and I took him in the car to the vet I’d spoken to on the phone. He was kept calm in the car. As agreed on the phone, the vet put him down. I didn’t take him back for burial but left him with the vet. I sighed with relief.
I realize a big dog was too much for us, though many large dogs are perfectly calm and friendly. Tyson turned out to be a psychopath ! I never would have taken on a Pit Bull / Pit Bull mix if I’d known beforehand !
We’re happiest with a Cavalier or a Pug or a nice wee Heinz 57 !