May 2, 2010

Learn 'big dog, little dog' behavior

"That's not a dog. Your walking an overgrown squirrel," my past colleague said. He would never own a small dog; he needed a big dog.

"That's not a dog. Your walking an overgrown squirrel," my past colleague said. He would never own a small dog; he needed a big dog.

For many reasons, owners tend to favor dogs of certain sizes. In the dog world, there also is a "big dog, little dog syndrome" (BDLD).

Many small dogs have a "Napoleon complex," going on the offensive when they encounter big dogs. Large dogs can view small ones as rabbits or squirrels. As a result, twice a week small dogs seek medical help from Carolina Veterinary Specialists & Animal Emergency in Huntersville after being injured by big dogs.

Dr. Betsy Condon kindly treated our 13-year-old papillion, Jet, and guided us along the medical roller-coaster.

That draining week began with an evening walk. As my two leashed papillions sniffed the grass in front of a big-dog owner's house, a big black ball of fur emerged from the garage and lunged at the older "squirrel." High-pitched barks from the dogs and screams from me and the big-dog owner ensued.

My other little dog ran off. When the big dog's owner appeared, the fight ended, and the black ball of fur ran, tail down, back to the garage.

Having LakeCross Veterinary Hospital's phone number programmed into my phone, I immediately called asking for guidance. I wrapped Jet in a large towel the big dog's owner gave me.

Later I took off my jacket and covered him further. He tried to escape, cried, gently nipped my fingers and then quietly calmed down, but repeated that behavior several times during the 15-minute drive.

Everyone was wonderful at the vet's office. They stabilized my dog and then drove my car to the veterinary hospital; I was too upset to drive.

The big dog's owner kindly stayed with me at the hospital.

The first of two surgeries would determine whether internal organs were injured. Signing the surgical and anesthetic procedures sheet with an estimate in the thousands of dollars made us both pause.

The big dog's owner kindly insisted on paying. But what would be the outcome?

Our beloved little dog had a grand life, gave us many fond memories, delighted my children and most people we met on walks. Jet loved the company (most of the time) of our other papillon, Grace, 11 years younger, and lived longer because of her playful personality.

He fought for a few days after the first surgery, then began to fail. Both our college children talked to him by phone before we let him go.

The American Veterinary Medical Association brochure called "Dog Bite Prevention" lists these steps: Select your pet carefully; make sure it is socialized; wait until your child is older; train your dog and keep it healthy; neuter your pet; be a responsible pet owner; be alert; and watch for signs your dog is uncomfortable or behaving aggressively.

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