Rosita, my 9 month old Golden Spangled Hamburg pullet and member of my breeding stock, was attacked by a dog yesterday.
Someone’s Wolfhound (cross?) had gotten into my yard through fencing that was designed to discourage birds from leaving the yard – not for keeping dogs in or out. It then knocked over another section of fencing and got into my main yard where the chickens were free ranging.
Here’s what I’ve been able to reconstuct from the piles of feathers, the cries I heard, the trail of feathers, where I found Rosita, and where I found Rosita.
I was sitting at my desk getting ready to play video games while I woke up before work and heard my chickens freak out – ground predator alarm calls followed. I opened the door beside my office and initially saw nothing. I shut the door but the alarm calls continued so I went to go and get dressed – as I was in my pyjamas and barefoot and it was very wet outside. As I walked toward the bedroom I saw a dog in the distance of my yard. I could tell it was a dog because it was too tall and leggy for a fox and its tail was very thin and long – but it was out of sight again within a moment. I got my husband to stand at the back window watching as I threw on clothes and boots.
I headed outside and immediately saw the pile of feathers that had been just out of my line of sight a moment before. I headed toward where I’d seen the dog. At this point my chickens were on the opposite side of the house where another layer of fencing would require that the dog make a whole loop around the house to get to them. Some were flying over the fence into the preschool (where they would have, in fact, been safe from the dog as they use solid colourbond fencing and large steel grates).
I didn’t even get all the way back in the yard before this Wolfhound comes bounding toward me. It’s immediately obvious that it’s friendly. It’s acting like I am the best thing it has seen all day. “HELLO FRAND I CAUGHT YOU A BIRB” is what its attitude says. It has a collar but no tag.
I put the dog initially in my quarantine pen (again, designed to keep chickens from each other, not predators from chickens) but it immediately rips the door down. It’s fine. I’m really annoyed but it’s repairable. So I put the dog in my coop which has solid wooden walls. I lock it up while I post my “HELP WHOSE DOG IS THIS HELP” post on Facebook. I wander out back to try and find the chicken I know is hurt. I can’t. I come back and I hear banging around. The dog is standing. On the roosts. Inside the coop. Looking out the windows over 2 metres up. Trying to break out of the mesh windows. This is clearly not going to work either. When I open the coop the dog has knocked the struts for several roosts loose. This is annoying, but it’s repairable. It’s fine.
I get a leash I somehow still had and hook it to the dog’s collar and lead it out. It is VERY interested in all of the feathers on the ground and the feathers now falling out of my pockets. I take it outside my front gate and stand. In the rain. Waiting for a response to my Facebook post. After about 2 minutes I’m sobbing from anger and stress and I’m cold and wet and no one is responding. I can’t go and find my chicken until someone takes this dog. I call the council ranger. I am obviously very upset so rather than asking me to wait because the ranger isn’t in town, someone immediately comes to get it. They seriously look like they want to hug me. They tell me that it’s not my fault, that I should bill the owner, that my fencing isn’t required to keep dogs out. I am calmed and reassured by that validation. They leave with the dog but I keep sobbing because stress and rage.
I follow the trail of feathers like I’m tracking an animal – because I am. Sometimes there’s several within a metre – sometimes there’s several metres without a feather and I can see the path the dog zig-zagged through the yard with, as well as the matted grass where it tromped. Then I see her. Rosita. Sitting in a pile of feathers in the back of my yard.
My immediate thought was, “It’s interesting how she died propped up like that. She almost looks alive.” followed immediately by a realization that she is. She is alive. Silent, still, but her eyes are bright and open. She looks like something had been interrupted while plucking her. I start sobbing again and pick her up very carefully in one hand. She’s only a little chicken. I take a photo of her in my hand for evidence and yell to my husband to get me an animal cage. I grab the only means I have of to pay for the vet visit – a high interest credit card I normally only use for large purchases as I get them interest free if they’re over $500 – but at 24% interest for things like vet visits – and I call the vet. He understands, he tells me to come in.
He tells me it isn’t good. She has several puncture wounds along her back and on her side directly above her kidney. She has a 10cm section of torn skin along her side. The puncture over her kidney is the worst. The skin tear is second worst. It may go necrotic. He tells me what he can do for her. Injected antibiotics and antiinflammatories, antibiotics in her water every 12 hours, dabbing with iodine every 6-12 hours. Force feed her if she won’t eat. Got it. Will do. He tells me I should be worried if she isn’t eating for the first day, but when she doesn’t, I’m not. I’ve been in incredible pain before. I know what it does to one’s appetite. She’s eager to drink and honestly that’s enough for me. She’s been through a lot. I’m happy for her to take her time – as long as she gets nutrients soon enough to keep her going. I contemplate giving her honey in her water for the calories, or encouraging her to eat some yoghurt with diced fruit in it. There are options – if she wants to drink I can get her some nutrients that way.
He said that the crucial milestones are 12 hours, 24 hours, 2 days, 4 days, 1 week, 2 weeks. If skes it past 2 weeks she’ll probably survive. She needs to be seen again tomorrow. More for my credit card. More treatment I can’t afford. When I think about it too hard I hear this wooshing sound in my head and I can’t breathe.
When I left the vet I posted on a couple of poultry forums I moderate and asked my friends questions. I wanted to know how best to handle the interaction with the owner. I’ve had attacks before – but this was the first time I’d had pet on pet attacks. Usually it’s foxes, magpies, hawks. No one is responsible. But this person’s dog wasn’t contained – and I need to hold them responsible, even if I’d rather not confront them.
Responses range from the very sympathetic and helpful – showing me the laws which state that the containment of a dog is entirely on the person keeping the dog – including someone pointing out that I’m not responsible for the gash above the dog’s eye which I assume he either got from fencing when he got into my yard or from a chicken’s claw when attacking.
…to the accusatory. Why wasn’t my fence dog-proof? Obviously if my fence wasn’t dog-proof I’m at least partially legally responsible. Why would I even consider asking the owners to pay for the treatment? I don’t want to make it seem like all I care about is money (I’m now stressed that I may not make my car payment. I need money to live. What the fuck?). To questions asking me how much a chicken could possibly be worth? (Well – by my estimation, AvGen will be selling this breed this year for approximately $450 for 5 unsexed chicks plus I have to drive for a whole day to get to them and a whole day back. So like…a lot. Last year it was twice that. It may still be higher than that, I don’t know yet. This is a rare breed of chicken and while my birds are only pet quality – they were my start.
But that isn’t really the point, is it? I don’t usually put a price on my pets and my chickens are my pets. My fencing is designed to keep them in – and that’s where my responsibility as a pet owner begins and ends. I’m not responsible for controlling the dogs of people. Had it been my son and a more vicious dog – would people be yelling at me for my kid getting mauled because I wasn’t prepared for roaming dogs? If I were walking on the street am I responsible because I’m not wearing platemail? Come on…
I turned the comments off on the post when someone yelled about her neighbour who she called a “psychopathic prostitute”. Nope. I’m done. Mental illness shaming and sex worker shaming all in one. Nope. Be a better person, lady.
I haven’t spoken to the owner yet – it’s been about 24 hours. I intend to tomorrow. As for today – I have to go to Sydney for my psych appointment that I’ve had booked for a month. I’m supposed to be getting my meds reevaluated for my anxiety attacks. I thought about canceling because of this – but my mother in law is also coming to visit us and she’s in Sydney right now at a conference – we need to pick her up as well.
Rosita’s made the first two milestones. She survived 12 hours in a lot of pain and would only drink when I sat her in front of the bowl but would drink eagerly. When I woke this morning she was standing on her own and moving around more easily, getting her own water and taking a few curious nibbles at pellets. It’s encouraging. If she doesn’t eat by tonight though, I’ll have to force feed her at least a bit by syringe. We need to get some nutrients in her.
This is the part I really hate.
While I hope that the owners pay Rosita’s vet bills, I can’t be sure that they will and I have a total of 55 days interest free on that card before I start paying out the nose.
If people are able – I’d like to ask for donations to help in Rosita’s treatment. She’s had one vet visit so far and if she survives she’ll have several more before she’s deemed well enough to stop antibiotics – at least 3 more. If the owners pay – I’ll use the donations to secure the weaker points in my fencing further. While it’s not my responsibility to keep dogs out of my yard – clearly it’s still a necessity. While replacing the entire side of my yard’s fencing would cost thousands of dollars – I can reinforce it with some lumber and sheets of corrugated iron and that will make a huge difference.
If you have the means and the willingness – you can donate to Rosita’s treatment fund by clicking the Paypal button below. There will be a note section that you can fill out. I will be including the names of everyone who donates on a Thank You page. If you’d rather I not – or you’d rather I use a different name, please let me know in the notes field when you make your donation.
Total Vet Bills: $105.95
Total Donations So Far: $50
Rosita and I love you all. Thank you. I’ll keep the feed running during the day (no point at night) and will update it as necessary. I have to refresh it every 8 hours because I do not have the encoding-fu to make a proper YouTube livestream, so I’m doing the Hangouts workaround. If you have the fu, halp.
If the feed is down it’s probably night. The cage is in my room – so when it’s night here it’s too dark to bother with running a feed.