Whole Dog Journal's Blog September 23, 2014

Accidents Happen...

Posted at 09:08AM - Comments: (17)

Accidents happen…but that truism doesn’t make it feel any better.

I feel HORRIBLE. I hurt a puppy – on accident, true. But still. I honestly feel sick.

The six puppies I’m fostering (until they are old enough and healthy enough to be brought back to the shelter to be put up for adoption) were running around my backyard; I had just cleaned out their pen, and was bringing a freshly cleaned and filled pan of water to the pen. I looked around, making sure my path to the pen was clear of puppies; they tend to run toward human feet. I was about six steps from the pen when my shoe made contact with a puppy. I heard a puppy shriek as I leaped/dodged as best as I could, flinging the water and the pan clear, but when I turned around, the puppy I had made contact with was still shrieking and was holding up one hind leg. My heart sunk.

Oh my goodness, look at all those little bones. No fractures, no dislocations, yet he's for sure sore. (The radiologist took shots of both legs, so as to compare the hurt one with the sound one, because xrays of puppy bones look crazy anyway, with the growth plates all being wide open.)

I picked him up and held him to my chest, trying to simultaneously comfort him and try to see what the problem was. It didn’t feel like my shoe came down on him; it felt more like the toe of my shoe kicked him. So I was certain I didn’t crush any tiny bones; I was honestly worried that I had dislocated his hip or something. Even after a few minutes, he didn’t want to put any weight on it.

I called the vet tech from the shelter – at 6 pm on a Saturday night – and she’s amazing, she answered. (She knows I am fostering the puppies, and she would have certainly known I was calling about them. But after working at the shelter for probably 60 hours that weeks? She’s terrific.) She invited me to bring the puppy over to her house so she could take a look at him. I was there within 10 minutes. But on the way, I called the closest emergency clinic, to ask about their rates. Would it be any more expensive to bring him in on Saturday night than on Sunday morning? Yes, it would be more than double to walk in the door, and there would be additional surcharges for just about every possible service, including xrays. Of course, if the vet tech thought he should go right in, I’d pay whatever I needed to. I’m lucky to have a well-appointed and well-staffed emergency clinic about a half-hour’s drive away.

The vet tech felt all of the puppy’s bones and joints in the affected leg and couldn’t feel anything obviously wrong. She thought it could wait until morning to take him to the vet, especially since he fell asleep on her lap as she palpated his tiny legs and rubbed his tummy. (I insisted he was in shock; I know I was.)

I took him home and kept him with me on the couch until bedtime. Then I put him back with his brothers to sleep in the puppy pile.

I was up at 6 am; he was still not putting any weight on that leg, though he was cheerful and wagging his tail as he ate breakfast with the other puppies. I hung out with the puppies until 7:30, then drove him to the clinic.

The radiographs didn’t show any fractures or dislocations, and the attending veterinarian thought the problem was in his tiny hock. He could just barely visualize some inflammation (fluid) in the joint, and thought the injury involved the tarsus bones and the calcaneal tendon – roughly analogous to our Achilles tendon. The toe of my shoe must have made contact right there, and while nothing was broken, the tiny little bones could have been pushed around enough to cause pain and inflammation. We discussed the pros and cons of splinting the leg so the puppy doesn’t put too much weight on it, but settled on a plan to simply keep the pup separate from his five brothers for a week or two, and keeping his activity strictly curtailed. The vet also gave me some pain medication for the puppy, to administer as needed to keep him comfortable.

As I write this, it’s been 24 hours since the accident, and while I am less prone to burst into tears about what I accidentally did, I still feel just awful. Puppy kicker! I keep reliving the moment. Did I not look carefully enough before I started walking with the pan full of water? Was I hurrying too much, or too distracted? I’m certainly going to be even more careful, and in the moment with these pups from now on.

Have you ever accidently hurt one of your dogs? How did you get over it?

Comments (17)

My Miniature poodle broke her leg recently in September and she just got her splint taken off today in November. She is still limping and she will not walk normal on it yet. Is this normal for her? Or do we just need to give her some time to cooperate from the splint coming off?

Posted by: Warriorkitty | November 10, 2016 9:22 PM    Report this comment

Years ago I purchased a collie puppy. The first day I had him I accidentally seeped on his right front paw. He yelped and then hopped around and of course I gave him lots of hugs and told him how sorry I was. Later that day I when I called him he came to me for more sympathetic loving, but he had forgotten which foot I stepped on and so he came hopping with the left paw held high in the air. Such a little ham. He was one smart dog.

Posted by: cmsjjdr6 | September 29, 2014 3:30 PM    Report this comment

I guess I've been at this too long. I've bred Aussies for 20+ years. Puppies, like cats, absolutely INSIST on walking between your feet! You finally learn a 'puppy shuffle' to try to keep them from between/under your feet. I can't count the number of puppies I've stepped on, but it was never my fault, (no matter how careful you are, they're fast little boogers!) but never done any injury. I don't know how I've managed that. I've also sort of dropped a couple of puppies on their head. I was leaning over to put them on the ground and they leaped out of my arms before I could grab them. Again, no damage. Again, I'm surprised!

What haunts me are the puppies that died. We had one born with some organ on the outside, we immediately rushed to the vet's for euthanasia. We've had 3 die of fading puppy syndrome, and a couple from Parvo. That's the heartache that comes with breeding. Thankfully that's outweighed by the dozens of happy, healthy puppies we've produced, and the countless number of lives they've touched. That makes all the tears, the mud, the fur, and the pooper scooping worthwhile! :-)

Posted by: LynnethAnn | September 26, 2014 10:58 PM    Report this comment

My miniature Australian shepherd Merlin and I were just outside the door, about to enter the building to attend his agility prep class. He was standing on my left side and slightly back. I'm supposing that he saw his buddy right inside the building, because he started forward just as I opened the door -- the moving door collided with his right front paw, eliciting a yelp of pain. But he was able to walk pretty well so we did attend the class. Next day I took him to the vet for Xrays and they showed no breakage but the outside nail had been pushed backward. The vet said that nothing could be done about that and that he expected the nail to fall off (and be replaced)--which it did not. Merlin still walks a little strangely but he is able to do agility and loves it.
I also have a Papillon, now 6 years old, who always wants to walk directly (and closely) in front of me, while we're inside the house. Luckily, I have never run into her or stepped on her. I have taught her to walk to the side of me but she doesn't always do it. I just walk slowly and watch carefully...hope my luck holds out!

Posted by: margeam | September 24, 2014 4:04 PM    Report this comment

I am so sorry that this happened to puppy and you! My husband (age 72) and myself (age 64) have fallen down avoiding stepping on our foster puppies....so far no serious injuries for puppies or us....but this story will make us even more careful.

Posted by: Olivia | September 24, 2014 6:48 AM    Report this comment

I can tell you one thing. Every single one of the people who wrote the comments, and you too, are the kind of the best people in the whole world, because you and me care so much.
What most comes to my mind is when my pup who was older was diagnosed with some serious health issues. I had inherited the vet we were seeing, and tried to keep a positive attitude, but increasingly I found her and the practice agitating. This escalated when she objected to my wanting to get a 2nd opinion from a source she didn't endorse (at a reputable referral clinic). I did go there, and I was absolutely disgusted with the pre-visit BS...i.e. a receptionist assuming I would condone a colonoscopy the same day, and ordering a 3 day fast prior, with no medical history known. And they wouldn't let me talk to the DVM unless we were a patient, and we weren't patients until we were seen to the tune of $150 or so. I kept the appt, but they were anxious to do every exam under the sun, insisting sedation was necessary for films (which it hadn't been before) and refusing to let me be present. More BS about how the DVM took care of everyone as if they were her own...but unable to look in my eyes as she said it. She was quite shocked when I said NO. NO to all of it. She went to write up her report taking over a half hour, and pointing out the horrors she was concerned my pup had...so many potentials to scare me...and too many to even be realistic.
I hunted down another specialist and my hope and faith were horribly misplaced. The place was a dumpy looking hodgepodge of mismatched kitchen chairs..My pup was so afraid she hid behind me and between my legs. I will never ever forgive myself for not leaving and listening to her. They took her away from me and I had no idea they did to do a fine needle biopsy without my consent. The vet gave me his cell phone number he acted so caring...and then he blew me off and didn't respond. He prescribed a med and it's hard to know if it was the cause or not, but she went downhill quickly and passed away. No way can I forgive myself. Even if it was "her time", I can't believe my poor judgement didn't play a role. All we can do is share our stories, learn from each other, and go on, remembering that our pups would forgive us and would never want us to hurt. May we all be the kind of person they think we are.

Posted by: robin r | September 23, 2014 10:14 PM    Report this comment

For everyone who is still feeling badly about accidents that happened in the past, I wish I could just hug you all and take your pain away. Cesar Millan (The Dog Whisperer) tells us that dogs live in the moment; they don't ruminate over the past the way that people do. So our little fur babies aren't thinking about what happened in the past. Their concerns are more related to: Are they happy now? Are YOU happy and playing with them and paying attention to them NOW? Do they have water and food and shelter and playmates or toys now? The past isn't important to our dogs, unless you are stuck there - and in that case, they can pick up on our anxiety and sadness and worry - which is not good for them. So, once you have made the decision to be more aware of preventing future accidents - after that helpful change, any more of your feeling guilty or sad or anxious is actually bad for your dog.
Dogs give us a little glimpse into what perfect love is. Dogs don't harbor resentment against us for mistakes in the past. They don't judge us and find us guilty or lacking. They often have the ability to see into our true hearts, and they know that we love them, so that's what they see.
Dr. Phil said that the length and depth of our guilt does not correlate to how much we loved someone. So staying stuck in grief isn't proof of your love.
And in the case of dogs, it takes away from what they need from us - our joy and happiness and playfulness.
If your friend accidentally hurt you, and you knew it was unintentional, you wouldn't condemn them and make them pay for it for eternity! So don't do that to yourself!
Even God, the ultimate judge, forgives us and loves us once we repent and change and ask for forgiveness.
So if your dog has already left this in the past, and you wouldn't still be mad at your friend, and God forgives you, and your holding on to your guilt is harmful for your dogs, shouldn't you let it go?
Take a few slow, deep breaths, let it go, put it behind you, focus on this current moment, love yourself unconditionally, the way your dogs love you, and be the happiest, most playful, most joyful, and best pet parent that you can be, now, for them! :)

Posted by: ElisaHawkes | September 23, 2014 9:32 PM    Report this comment

3 incidents come to mind: 1) My aunt backed up over her Boston terrier in the driveway many years ago, having no idea the dog was out of the house, killing her instantly. She never had another dog and is 94 years old.
2) A lady brought a sick newborn puppy into my veterinary clinic and dropped him as she laid him on the counter! He fell to the floor of the waiting room and died instantly. She was devastated.
3) Another lady stepped on her puppy while carrying a load of laundry down the stairs. He died before she could get him to the clinic. Again, total devastation.
These were all horrible accidents and yet, even though we know we didn't mean to hurt an animal, it happens. It's tough to get over and we blame ourselves for a long time - maybe forever. They give us such unconditional love, even as tiny babies, that we could feel no other way. Please try to go easier on yourself and, as you say, you'll be more careful in the future.

Posted by: sharon Reamer | September 23, 2014 5:30 PM    Report this comment

Yes, sadly I did and as the other folks say, I remember it vividly... I had a very elderly Yorkie from the shelter who had been with me for just a few months. He wasn't very healthy but the sweetest little soul you can imagine. One afternoon I left him asleep downstairs while I took a shower on the first floor, I was just getting out of it when I heard a yelp and when I rushed out he was on the first set of stairs, but he had obviously fallen down from the stairs to the second floor.
He must have woken up and came to look for me, I know I didn't 'push him down' or something but I didn't block the ground floor access either....

He survived but had trouble walking, and just a little time later he succumbed to bronchitis, but the memory of his fall makes me MUCH more careful with any other dog!

Posted by: Jess | September 23, 2014 2:54 PM    Report this comment

"Puppy Kicker" it made me laugh - and cry a little. I am certain you are enduring much more pain then the Pup. A word of warning from my recent experience. My young rambunctious Malinios Shepard followed me outside and down the front steps. I thought she was going to make an attempt to navigate the stairs but true to her youthful exuberance she made a leap for the bottom. Following was the familiar yelping and hopping about. Of course I scooped her up, coddled her until she was calm; then proceeded to do the perfunctory check for damages. All my poking and pushing, stretching of the front limb and watching for swelling reassured me there was no major damage. Now approaching her 1st Birthday, I am constantly reminded of my negligence. We never travel very far before I am able to detect that slight falter in her gait. There it is - something happened.. It wasn't major, but it is permanent. A forever weakness in a dog that requires full strength and stamina to perform her daily work. Accidents are just that and no one needs bear the responsibility. It is afterwards that we need to show up.
I am saddened and ashamed by my decision to forgo a Vet exam for 'such a minor incident'.

Posted by: gypsylife | September 23, 2014 12:15 PM    Report this comment

Earlier this year we brought home a french bulldog puppy. When she was about 4 months I was cleaning and put her on the sofa so I could vacuum uninterrupted. I bent over to pick something up off the floor (turning my back to her for just a second) and then I heard screeching. In that brief second she had jumped/fallen off the back of the sofa onto the wood floor. I knew instantly something was broken. I especially beat myself up over it because I'm a nurse and nurses are always looking out for safety first. I can't believe I didn't realize that leaving her on the sofa unattended would jeopardize her safety. We ended needing surgery, of course I got the best orthopedist in the Midwest. 4 pins and 5 months later little Ouisey is just fine, I of course still feel terrible about it.

Posted by: NurseLena | September 23, 2014 10:55 AM    Report this comment

Recently I returned from work. My female greyhound was so happy to see me she was jumping around me. I went to shut the door and didn't notice that at the same time she was heading out the door. I caught her poor little leg between the door and door jamb. I immediately felt it and threw the door back open but she was standing there with her tail tucked under and holding that back leg up, refusing to put weight on it. I know exactly how bad you feel. The only thing that helped (a little) was time. Once she started weight bearing and acting normal again, I started to feel a little better. I'm not sure I'll ever feel totally better but you can put money on the fact that I never shut that door without checking 360 degrees.

Posted by: YIKMDLF | September 23, 2014 10:26 AM    Report this comment

I am a first time dog owner and I chose a Yorkie. I read everything I could about Yorkies and when I finally got her, I realized I knew NOTHING!! I certainly didn't know how quick they are and how they just dart around EVERYWHERE, including always by your feet. The first week I had her, I didn't realize she had darted right in back of me, and I stepped back and stepped on her. She screamed in pain and of course darted around (showing that she wasn't really injured), but I felt so horrible that I had hurt this little being. She was fine, and we both learned a lesson. She has since become pretty adept at avoiding feet and I CONSTANTLY look at my own feet and make sure she is nowhere near them!!

Posted by: Sportschick | September 23, 2014 10:11 AM    Report this comment

Just happened yesterday. She has food allergy which also tends to cause ear infection. Keeping her ears clean and free of cerumen is important and I deep clean them frequently with 1.0% Zymox. I reached in with my big fat clumsy finger and my nail scratched her. Her scream of pain went way beyond her normal stoic old demeanor. I still feel the guilt pangs. I fervently wish I could be sure that she knows it was an accident, and how much I love her, and how blessed I am daily by her presence in my life.

Posted by: cosmic | September 23, 2014 10:01 AM    Report this comment

Pls forgive yourself. You didn't mean to hurt the puppy. That's why these things are called "accidents". I know someone who DROVE over their small dog! The dog was fine after 48 hrs of the most intensive TLC family & friends could offer.

Posted by: Chester's mom | September 23, 2014 9:55 AM    Report this comment

Happened 50 years ago and I still remember it. I was rushing to get ready for work and our miniature poodle puppy was digging up the newly laid sod in the backyard. I brushed her aside and to my amazement, she few up and hit her head on the concrete patio. The young ER vet and I became life long friends. Stephanie recovered, and lived a long, very spoiled life .She was the first and last small dog I ever owned. My agility trainer commented, old ladies shouldn't have big dogs to which I replied, " I would rather be hurt by my dog, then hurt him. .

Posted by: Kody | September 23, 2014 9:54 AM    Report this comment

Happened 50 years ago and I still remember it. I was rushing to get ready for work and our miniature poodle puppy was digging up the newly laid sod in the backyard. I brushed her aside and to my amazement, she few up and hit her head on the concrete patio. The young ER vet and I became life long friends. Stephanie recovered, and lived a long, very spoiled life .She was the first and last small dog I ever owned. My agility trainer commented, old ladies shouldn't have big dogs to which I replied, " I would rather be hurt by my dog, then hurt him. .

Posted by: Kody | September 23, 2014 9:53 AM    Report this comment

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