My dogs get in one fight a year. Last year’s was on Labor Day. Rob gave Leo a bit of his hamburger in the living room. Mia was outside and on a diet, but sensed food being given away. There she was, poking her head under the folding TV tray where Leo dropped the burger.
Mia rumbled like she usually does when she wants something of Leo’s, but this time Leo rumbled back. The TV tray collapsed on them and the snarling escalated. I lifted the tray and ushered them to the back door so they could get outside and have some more room to work out their differences.
Somehow, they moved with me, but didn’t stop fighting. I did the pointless clapping and “hey!” thing before turning the hose on them. The hose did nothing but get them wet; thanks to Leo’s chew holes, we didn’t have much water pressure.
Rob and I each grabbed a dog by the hips and tried to separate them. Rob had Mia almost inside the house when she slipped her collar and went back into the fray. By the time we had them apart, Rob had bites on his hip (tearing his jeans), shoulder, and forearm. Neither I nor the dogs shed any blood.
The shoulder bite probably was from Mia, because it didn’t break the skin (her teeth are worn with age). But the forearm bite was a deep puncture wound. Leo. Rob felt betrayed. I wished I’d been the one hurt. I didn’t think either dog meant to bite him, but Rob was wary of Leo for a little while.
The balance of our two-dog household was so fragile. What if they can’t get along? What if Rob never forgives Leo? For the first and only time, I considered rehoming Leo. Leo, not Mia, because he’s the less reliable of the two, even though we had him first.
That was a year ago. The dogs got over it quickly. Rob took slightly more time, but he got over it too. We’ve been a perfectly happy family ever since.
Until early Monday morning.
Around 3 a.m., Mia whined at my bedside, so I let them both out. When it was time to come in, Leo pranced down the hill a little jauntier than usual. In the dark I could see something in his mouth. For a second I thought it was a stuffed hedgehog toy, but just before I took it from him, I realized it had legs.
A rabbit. Ew. Instead of reaching for it, I held Leo by the scruff and asked him to drop it, but by then, Mia was beside us. Leo wriggled out of my grasp and under a folding lawn chair, and that’s when the snarling started, exacerbated by the folding chair collapsing on Mia’s head (see a parallel here? TV tray, folding chair. The caged effect of collapsing furniture). I untangled the chair from them, thinking they’d lose interest in the fight. They didn’t.
Grabbing the Spray Shield* that I bought after last year’s fight, I fumbled with the safety mechanism before spraying citronella toward the dogs. On their heads. Saturating their heads. No response.
This scuffle featured less thrashing and gnashing than last year, but their snarls were aggressive. Each had such a firm grip on the other’s neck that they seemed somehow latched together. If only I could find the release switch.
“What’s going on?” The snarls had woken Rob.
“They’re fighting,” I said in a voice more incredulous than panicked.
Rob blasted the air horn that I also bought after last year’s fight. It didn’t distract the dogs from fighting either.
“Should we try the hose?”
“I think we can separate them,” I said, because this fight was less intense than last year’s.
We pulled them apart from the hips without getting bitten. Neither dog was hurt, just panting, thirsty, and soaked in citronella.
We crated Leo the rest of the night, allowing the dogs to calm down.
I felt rattled, of course, but nothing like the despondence of last year’s “What happens now?” This fight was not a big deal. We handled it better, and I knew everything would be okay in the morning.
Even the rabbit. It must have gotten away, because I can’t find it anywhere.
*I’m sorry, but look at the picture advertising Spray Shield. That woman is so getting bit.