Monday, March 1, 2010


I'm home from my trip to Swakopmund, but tales of that adventure will have to wait till tomorrow.

The first creature to greet me home was Lala, the beautiful and sweet yellow lab whom you can see in this photo with Pickles and the two baby boons in my bed one night. (When I got home, Pickles was in the kitchen with Cecelia, the cook, so it took her some time to hear me. Pickles is what I call a "meat-whore" and will love you for a bite of your supper.)

Once the two dogs and I had made re-connections and had a small lick-fest, the two joined me in my room while I unpacked. Soon, though, Frikkie called Lala out for an afternoon walk with Martha, the lion cub. She ran out my door--she loves taking walks in the bush.

A few hours later, I went into the office, and Mariska asked if I had heard anything about Lala, who, she said, had been bitten by a mamba on the lion walk. It was the first I had heard. I bolted for the clinic.

When I arrived, Lala was unconscious, with an IV drip in, and the vet was pumping air into her lungs every few seconds. The bite of a mamba paralyzes the lungs so the victim can't breathe. Her heart was beating rapidly (240 beats a minute) but the only thing keeping her alive was the slow pumping of air into her lungs. I tried to be strong, but Lala is such a good dog--only 6 six years old. She has raised a leopard cub and a lion cub as their surrogate mother, and has such a sweet temperament. We all took turns crying and petting and talking to her.

People were racing to Gobabis for the anti-venom, which arrived around 6 p.m. The vet put four doses into her and we waiting, taking turns pumping the air in. Her heart continued to beat at an alarming speed, and her temperature soared, so we packed her in ice until it came down. The snake had bitten her right on the tongue, so the poison went straight into her system. Her tongue was so big and swollen that it had to be pulled out of her mouth and set to the side. It looked like a piece of puffy liver.

As several of us sat around the table, talking and pumping, whispering to Lala and telling her to keep fighting, we talked about how this could have been prevented. The only way would have been to keep her from her favorite activity: running through the bush at high speeds, checking every plant and tree, and chasing whatever moved.

To protect her, she would have had to be on a leash the whole time, confined to a life that was careful but dull. Being bit by a snake is one of the risks dogs always have--not just in Africa, but everywhere. Back in North Carolina, my vet often has a dog in her office that has stuck its nose too close to a copperhead or cottonmouth. People often live in fear of what might happen, but dogs shouldn't have to. We can't make the choice for them--especially in a place where they can run free.

At 8:00, the volunteers started in shifts of 2 people for 2 hours each, pumping and watching her. Then the medicine started to work, and at midnight she started to breathe on her own, so the vet, Desmond, gratefully took the tube out. She started to regain consciousness--a slow process.

I didn't sleep much. This morning I ran over to the clinic first thing, found her still on an IV and lying down on her side, but conscious and breathing. When I said her name and petted her, she wagged her tail. Now it's just a matter of time--recovery is slow, but there should be no side effects.

It's wonderful that everyone came together to save the life of this one dog. People here will do anything because they believe that the lives of animals are valuable. All the time, energy, money for medicine, and belief of the people here made it happen.

This morning I whispered to her that she is welcome to sleep in my bed as soon as she is able.


  1. I cried reading this post. I'll light a candle for Lala....

  2. I teared up, too. So glad she is doing better; my fingers are crossed she's completely back to herself very soon!

  3. Your report is so special and wonderful ... and also me, I had tears in my eyes... Cornelia