Thursday, September 4, 2008

Once Bitten Twice Shy

So this past Monday (25 August) I had one of my scarier experiences in Cambodia. So much so, that I have actually postponed blogging about it until now, when I am fairly certain I’ll make a 100% recovery. I actually didn’t even tell my family until yesterday, just to save them from unnecessary panic… 

The story starts last Monday, as Naomi and I rode the Super Cub home from the Chinese Noodle Restaurant on Monivong. As had become my tradition with every return home, I stayed downstairs to play with my landlord’s dogs while Naomi went upstairs.

My landlord has two dogs, Bel and Jo-Jo. They are both un-neutered males, both about 4 years old, and both a little… well unpredictable. Bel is the “house dog”, who gets to sleep inside at night and generally seems cleaner and better loved. He’s also more of a punk – some days he’ll run right up and play with me for as long as I’d like, while other days he’ll just stay in the house (where I can’t chase him). 

Jo-Jo is about 45 lbs, and roughly the size of a Australian Shepherd. Jo-Jo on the other hand is always more eager to receive love, as he gets very little.  Jo-Jo, while affectionate, is also rather unaccustomed to human interaction, and rather wary of people. He’s growled and even snapped at me in the past when I’ve accidentally rubbed him the wrong way.


On Monday, as typical, Bel wouldn’t come near me, but Jo-Jo came right up and I started petting him. Bel, jealous at the attention being given his rival decided to start provoking Jo-Jo with some somewhat innocent pawing and yapping. However, Jo-Jo and Bel are at that touchy stage when there’s no clear “alpha”, and the dogs regularly get into scraps with each other.

 In response to Bel’s provocation, Jo-Jo started growling, and I attempted to prevent a fight by turning his head, a tactic successfully employed on several previous occasions. However, this action backfired, and Jo-Jo viciously snarled at me and bit my right wrist. 

When he bit me, I tried to subdue him by grabbing his collar, but this just further pissed him off, and he turned and REALLY bit my wrist. 

I remember looking down and seeing him with my wrist in his mouth, shaking it like a chew toy, and I immediately grabbed him by the neck. I started choking him, and he was getting more and more enraged. At this point I had the tiger by the tail, and I was afraid to let him loose, because he was more likely than not to lay into my leg or something.  My landlord, who was standing by for most of this incident, had no idea what to do to stop the attack, and was holding a pinky-thick bamboo stick (to fight him off?).

I tightened my grip and picked the dog off the ground, and he’s now choking and spasming. I see a pool of blood on the ground and my first thought is that he’s coughing up blood. Then I realize it’s not his blood but mine. At this point, I realize I got to get my arm cleaned up as soon as possible, and start looking for a way to neutralize the dog’s threat. I consider choking him out, but then realize it will be much quicker to just throw him out the gate and close it behind him, which I promptly did.

 At this point I run upstairs, and call out to Naomi “he bit me”. Her face turns white as she sees the blood pouring down my arm and off my elbow. I go straight to the bathroom and started washing out the wounds. My landlord and Naomi come to help and pretty soon we had my wrist cleaned and bandaged. I’m still panting and sweating like I just came through a fight for my life, and I tell Naomi it’s time to go to SOS, our local medical clinic.

 My wrist is throbbing, but not bleeding, and I tell Naomi to grab some money, as I remembered from another late night visit to SOS that it’s at least $100 to play ball after hours. I turned down an offer from my landlord for a ride, as I still wanted some time to cool down, and we walked 5 minutes down the street to the clinic.

 The staff at SOS was fairly competent and they had me on a bed and were getting me cleaned up again within 10 minutes. As I type this I can count about 17 major puncture wounds on my right wrist. The gnarliest was on the underside where a small piece of fat was hanging out – it was pretty gross. The doctor snipped it off, cleaned everything twice with Iodine, and wrapped me up with some gauze.

 Then we started looking around for other wounds, which I had on both feet (must have kicked something) and my left knee. Doc cleaned and bandaged these, and then started looking into vaccinations.

 Now like you, I had heard the rumors and seen the episode of Beavis & Butthead where they got 20 shots to the stomach for rabies then find out on TV at the end of the episode that you only need 5 shots in the arm now. Thankfully, B&B were right, and it’s only 5 shots to the arm now. I’ve got 3 down and 2 more to go in the coming weeks. Jo-Jo had been vaccinated previously (according to my landlord), and was not displaying any signs of rabies, but they recommend vaccination in case of any bites. Had he been suspected to be rabid, I would have required a $940 shot of rabies immune globulin.

It had been a while since my last tetanus vaccination, so he decided it was time for another.  Also, as with any wound in Cambodia, the risk of infection is very high, so the doc prescribed a 5-day course of amoxicillin.  He also gave me some Tylenol (I won’t need those, though I…) and told me to observe the dog for 10 days to ensure he’s behaving normally and remaining healthy. 

Thus began the road to recovery. Tuesday and Wednesday were some of the worst on record, as I moped through work, barely able to move my hand (but somehow able to drive my motorbike?), and very down. I changed the bandages twice per day, took the antibiotics, kept the wounds dry, and prayed for a speedy recovery.

Thankfully, God was gracious, and everything has been healing faster than ever. I will probably be bandage-free tomorrow, and my arm feels fine, save a little numbness on the side of my thumb remaining from a damaged nerve.

I’m still pretty angry at the dog, and my landlord has been careful to keep him away from me. I’d love to be friends with him again, but I’m sorry to say that I think the next time he comes within arm’s reach of me will be the last time he does anything.

3 comments:

Jonathan Ichikawa said...

What a terrifying story! I'm so glad that you're (more or less) ok.

Bob said...

My eyes were as big as saucers as I read your account. I'm so glad Jo-Jo only got your arm. That sounds like a nightmare.
Praise God you are okay.
-Bob

Dustin James said...

Glad you're okay man. Nice pun at the end there.