Birds fly, rabbits hop, dogs fight

mia and leo 9.23.13
Bestest friends in the light of day

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. 

Published by Kari Neumeyer

Writer, editor, dog mom, ovarian cancer survivor

9 thoughts on “Birds fly, rabbits hop, dogs fight

  1. Best line ever – “Mia was outside and on a diet, but sensed food being given away.” Of course, the image of you spraying them with citronella is awesome as well. 🙂

  2. Well, at least I’m not alone. I’m still at a loss about what to do with Morgan, and my husband doesn’t trust her at all, which is just making the problem worse. The last scuffle here resulted in me having scratches and bruises. *sigh*

    1. That’s tough, I’m sorry. What I finally realized with Isis was that we wanted her to get along with other dogs (Leo, specifically) more than she wanted it. She was happiest being the only dog in the room. It must be so hard having to balance Morgan with your other dogs. Hang in there and know that you’re giving her the best life you can.

  3. I do feel for you. I have been through similar with dogs many years ago. In a way it was worse as the fights happened more often but they were smaller dogs so easier to break up. It’s hard on everyone. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the feelings and tension that follows a fight, although the dogs seem to get over it quickly … until the next one! Good luck, I hope you don’t have any more.

  4. I’m so sorry to hear about this. I know it must be difficult, and oddly made even more difficult by the fact that it doesn’t happen very often. If it were happening all the time, you could reconcile having to rehome one of them. But only happening once in a while leaves you to wonder if/when it will happen again, and will it be worse next time or not as bad or…?
    Let’s hope for NO next time!

    1. That’s an interesting point, I hadn’t thought of it that way. Since this fight wasn’t bad at all, in the grand scheme, I’m okay with them having one fight a year, especially since we were able to separate them safely. We just have to be alert for the next time one of them catches a rabbit!

      1. I do apologize if my comment seemed rather serious. I would probably be fine with once-a-year fights too, especially since like you say, you were able to break them up. Plus, both times… there was a cascade effect of things happening that preceded the fights. The fights had obvious triggers instead of seemingly occurring out of the clear blue nowhere.
        The reason for the seriousness is that a fellow blogger just lost one of her dogs due to a bad fight between two of theirs that had lived together and been fine together for a long time. It was unexpected and there were multiple injuries for all involved, including her and her husband since they were trying to break it up. We’ve all been brokenhearted for her and have tried to be as supportive as we can. It is devastating to process the loss when our sweet ones pass away, but to lose a dog to a fight that you had to witness and also be hurt by is… there just aren’t words. They are all still healing from both the shock and the loss, and well as their physical wounds. They still have the other dog that was in the fight. He sustained pretty severe injuries, but was able to be patched up.
        My response would have probably been less serious if this hadn’t just happened. Just be careful with your babies and be extra cautious of possible triggers.
        They are both gorgeous, btw.

  5. Oh, that’s just awful! I had recently read a couple of posts about “sibling” dogs fighting, just before our dogs’ fight, too, so I had that going on in the back of my head. You have no reason to apologize. It is a reminder to always be vigilant. Thank you for your post.

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