Fonticulus Fides

Monday, August 15, 2005

St. Francis, please pray that my dog doesn't have rabies!

My dog killed a weasel this morning.

Yes, a weasel. And no, weasels are NOT commonly found in town. In fact, I'm such a city girl (born and raisedin Chicago), I didn't even know what that thing was. I let the dog out for her morning duty, and the next thing I knew, there was this terrible sound of animals struggling, occasionally pierced by a sound like a hawk screeching. I ran to the backyard and found my dog battling some small animal.

At first I thought it was one of the neighbor's ferel cats (her mother was the notorious neighborhood cat lady who put out many bowls of food for all the stray cats, and she continues the tradition on a smaller scale), but it was too little. Kitten came to mind next, but the shape was long with short legs and tiny ears. I finally concluded it was a stoat. Yes, I know there aren't any stoats in Nebraska, but that's what the thing looked like. And it was the source of that screeching sound, not a hawk.

Anyway, my dog barked at it, and it lunged for her. She grabbed it, shook it, dropped it, and it lunged at her again. They did this over and over again. It took quite some doing to get my dog off the animal. In fact, I was unsuccessful until the little thing slipped through the chain link fence to the neighbor's yard. I dragged my dog into the house -- she would have gone after it -- and checked her over. I didn't see any bites, so I wiped the dew off her and sent her to her kennel.

My husband laughed at me when I said it was a stoat. We finally concluded it was somebody's pet ferret who had gotten loose, and I just hoped it found its way home.

Well, at 10 a.m., my husband's cousin, who is babysitting for us today, took the children out in the backyard with the dog. The dog went nuts and hopped the fence -- it's 42 inches high but she can jump it without a running start. She's half Doberman, so she's very agile, and she has all the enthusiams of her Labrador mother. Long story short, she killed the ferret in the neighbor's yard as cousin M. tried to call her off.

My husband was going to bury the carcass during his lunch hour, but when he got home, he thought it was suspicious looking. He called animal control, and their officer identified it as a weasel. We were both close in our guesses -- weasels, stoats and ferrets are all closely related.

Odd thing is, weasels are very elusive. The fact that it was (a) in town and (b) behaving agressively (lunging at my dog after she put it down) is troubling. It wasn't foaming at the mouth, but maybe not all rabid animals do that.

Animal control is testing it for rabies. They're going to let us know if it comes back positive. I don't know what that will mean for us. Unfortunately, my dog is about two months overdue for her rabies shot. We simply have not had the money to take her to the vet. And because we are very controlled with her (i.e., limiting her to our yard and virtually no contact with other animals), we figured we could take a chance and put her shots off for a little while. I hope and pray that decision doesn't come back to haunt us, but seriously, we were at the point between choosing between shots and dog food.

I love my dog. Not in the crazy way, like some people who personify dogs. But we got our dog for protection, and she's a great protector. She looks fierce enough to keep people who have negative motives away. A drunk tried to get into our house once (we were still awake with the doors unlocked), and my dog kept things from getting ugly. And when three people tried to rob the little old lady next door (a few years before she died), my dog scared them off. Who knows how many other times her mere presence has protected us from something awful?

In a way, I have to think that if this weasel was rabid, my dog probably kept it from biting one of my kids. And I'm grateful for that.

I don't see any bites or scratches on her. I hope and pray to God that this would mean the chances of her getting rabies herself are slim to none. And if she has contracted it, I hope and pray there is a way to treat her so that we don't have to put her down. She's only 5.5 years old (that's 38.5 in dog years) -- still has a lot of life in her.

So...St. Francis, lover of animals, please pray for my dog, Lazlo! And if you want to pray for her too, I'd be grateful.


P.S. Before anybody bothers to post it in the comments box, YES, I now know the difference between a weasel and a stoat: A weasel is weasily recognized, but a stoat is stoatally different. I found that joke (about a billion times) this morning when my husband and I were on Google trying to figure out what the critter was.


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