How do you tell your dog about the dangers of bees, wasps and other stinging assailants? It's not easy; dogs take poorly to verbal instruction, and even more poorly if you write it down. You have to hope that the dog will either a) show no interest in stinging things, or b) learn early, and without too much pain, why to keep a distance from certain things that buzz.
The worst outcome is that your dog doesn't "learn" at all.
Take my Phoebe. I've written before about her Bee Bark - the brain-shredding sonic onslaught that marks her discovery of a groggy or dead bee. The bee, usually, has crawled into a crack or between the boards of our porch, but this attempt at escape merely goads Phoebe and causes her to turn up the setting of her Bee Bark from "Jackhammer" to "Haemorrhage".
So when I heard this sound yesterday, I knew she had cornered a bee. When the barking stopped, I took it that the bee had escaped.
The next thing I heard was more barking, but this time from Connor, and this time from the backyard. I headed back to investigate, and discovered Connor a metre outside the back step, barking and bouncing next to Phoebe's still body. Not a thing you want to see.
Phoebe was breathing, but lying rigid on her side. I fetched a shallow cardboard box, folded a dog blanket into it, and eased Phoebe on to it without changing her position. She didn't move a muscle, or make a sound, but looked terribly sad (see photo).
Now Phoebe, as a Dachshund, is prone to back injury. She suffered it once before, and my first thought yesterday was that it had happened again. Would she recover with a few weeks' crate rest, as before, or was this a worse injury?
The vet could take her in 45 minutes' time, so I called my partner to see if he could dive out of work and bring the car home - he could.
While I waited, Phoebe seemed to revive. She lifted her head and growled when Connor reacted to a cat in the front yard; as my partner drove the car up the drive, she jumped from the box and began running around as if nothing was amiss.
Still, we took her to the vet - who found nothing wrong, except for a bloody spot on her front paw where I'd seen her licking. I put it together with the earlier barking fit, and the vet agreed that it seemed Phoebe had been bee-stung, suffered a temporary reaction (pain plus fear?), but had rallied.
We got Phoebe home, where her first act was to run on to the porch - and start barking at the same, now dead, bee. I flicked it away, thinking how nice it would be if dogs could learn certain lessons a little more easily, and resigning myself to the knowledge that I had not heard the last of the Bee Bark.
Join Four Legs Good on Facebook.
If you like Four Legs Good, vote for it as "Best Blog" in the ESET Netguide Web Awards for 2013! Voting is still open. Follow this link, scroll to the Best Blog category, and write in Four Legs Good.