What we learned about viruses, vaccines and being dog parents during a 90 day quarantine
If you follow me ever so often on even just one social media channel, you've likely heard me talk about my dog, Butters. We love her. She's our whole world (those of you who have human children, I know you're rolling your eyes). "Who rescued who?" is a sentiment shared often in our house because when we brought our girl home from the SPCA Kyle and I connected on a totally different level, my daily anxiety plummeted and she just gives us endless joy.
Back in September, Butters came into contact with a bat... in our yard... at 2:45 in the afternoon.
Our laundry and mudroom opens right out into our yard. I was doing laundry and opened the door for Butters to go play outside which she did fairly often. I would peek out at her but she was completely capable of being in the yard alone. Not long after I let her out, I heard her bark and if you're a dog mom you know there are different barks. This was her trying to get my attention. I found her pawing at a very alive and squealing bat - fangs out, wings spread.
When I got her inside, I called my husband, Kyle and we both were sort of at a loss on what to do. Butters is healthy and this is where I have some guilt. We did not have a traditional veterinarian - at that time, she had been seen by a clinic run by the SPCA for wellness visits and vaccines. Because of the nature of this clinic, the staff there was not properly trained to be able to tell me what to do after this type of incident. This started a span of 42 phone calls within a 24 hour period. We were looking at a possible rabies exposure.
Over the last 90 days I have had so many people tell me that we should have just let it go and not told anyone anything. Here's the thing. I was raised in a medical environment. My brother was diagnosed with cancer when I was eleven. I've spent the majority of my life heavily immersed into a world where vaccines are vital, medicine is important, doctors are there to help and you are responsible for being your own advocate or an advocate for your child. Well, Butters is my child. I knew enough about rabies to know that the vaccine is not 100% effective and that in the case of a possible bite, the animal should receive a booster of the vaccine.
She has never had a lapse in any of her vaccinations and we are very diligent about them!
However, my immediate goal was to get Butters the rabies booster.
Well, guess what? Most veterinarian offices will not give a booster unless there has been a confirmed rabies exposure.
Had the bat bitten myself or my husband, someone from the Department of Health would have come to collect the bat and personally talk to us about what to do. Everyone constantly told me that bat rabies was really, really rare. Guess what... it's not. And because this was a domestic animal exposure, no one could tell me what to do.
The vet clinic told me to call Fish and Wildlife.
Fish and Wildlife told me to call the Game Commission.
The Game Commission told me to call the Department of Health.
The Department of Health told me to call Fish and Wildlife.
FINALLY. Finally after 42 phone calls, someone was able to tell me that we could have the bat tested for rabies through the Penn Vet New Bolton Center Hospital in Kennett Square. I'll spare you the details but we had to let the bat die naturally because hitting it or any physical damage prevents them for testing for rabies. So overnight the bat went to bat heaven in a plastic tub in our yard and in the morning off we went before dawn to Kennett Square with a dead bat in the back of my car.
If you're laughing, so were we. But we were also terrified! Thoughts of Cujo kept coming into my mind!
The bat, tested by my alma mater, Penn State, did come back positive for rabies.
But I mean, HELLO.
It was a nocturnal animal squealing in my yard in the middle of the afternoon.
The different types of rabies and their respective symptoms were explained to us. We learned about how rabies travels through the body's central nervous system using neural pathways, how the virus causes inflammation in the brain, why it's nearly always fatal and that bat bites are nearly impossible to confirm because they are so, so small. All while being reminded that yes, the vaccine is wonderful but it's not 100% effective.
Finally, after this, Butters got her booster and a really caring evaluation by a new vet who has checked in multiple times in the last three months. Thank you, Dr. Tuma! We were also put into contact with the State Veterinarian through the Department of Agriculture and a mandatory 90 day quarantine was initiated.
For the past three months Butters has not been permitted to leave our home at all.
No dog park. No play dates. No walks. No contact with other animals or small children.
I guess I asked for this. I made the phone calls. I wanted the bat to get tested.
But truly, I just wanted our girl to have the booster and be extra covered!
We had been really used to going everywhere as the three of us! Butters travels fairly well, our families are really tolerant of us always having our dog along and we are lucky to have them as dog sitters!
During the quarantine - we have had to get all of her extensive energy out just with playing in the yard (which is basically impossible) and friends and family have to come to our house to watch Butters, including during our honeymoon (blog post about that coming soon!!!). It's shown us just how lucky we are to have amazing support systems but ooooh my goodness we were ready for it to end.
Butters has a ridiculous amount of toys but honestly, giving her new toys to play with and having a large variety of them has helped with her boredom. We invested in an extra Kong to stuff full of different arrays of treats and food for her. We took time to teach her new tricks like "sit pretty" and "high five".
I am so overjoyed to say that not only did Butters not develop rabies (thank goodness) but she has officially been released from her quarantine! We are promptly celebrating with a neighborhood walk and a visit to see her best doggie friend, Wallace, this weekend!
We have a lot to find joy in this year and we learned a lot during this... adventure.
AND CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE HOW ADORABLE HER HOLIDAY PHOTO IS!?
When you're stuck in your yard for 90 days, you get creative.
Happy Holidays! Happy end of quarantine!