A few weeks ago, I came home from work on a Friday night. There was nothing extraordinary about this Friday night. I wasn't especially late nor unexpectedly early. I came in the door to my regular welcome home: Jan, in his upstairs office called down "Hello" and Bella, from her perch in the kitchen came bounding into the bedroom to greet me.
Bella and I did our routine little 'snuggle snuggle kiss kiss' and all seemed well. Although in retrospect, Bella did seem just a tad more excited to see me than usual.
I'm not 100% sure of exactly what happened next but I ended up with my hand petting her neck and she screamed in pain. And then she lunged at me.
Oddly, Bella often seems to 'know' it's me even when she flips out and the very second her mouth connected with my hand, she stopped herself. By this time I was standing (I am not as dumb as I look after all) but I did not raise my voice or my hand. She was obviously hurt or scared and reacting to protect herself. She immediately went into a very submissive posture and was trying to cuddle as she cowered next to me.
|Posing with her "Peace and Paws Rescue" calendar.|
I wanted to check her out to see what the heck I had done to hurt her so I quickly grabbed her muzzle and put it on while yelling up to Jan to stay upstairs.
Bella has been trained to accept a muzzle for safety purposes but she's not crazy about it. Still, if there was any possibility my checking her out would lead to her mouth on my skin, she was going to get checked out wearing her muzzle.
And indeed, when I gently ran my hand over her neck, she screamed in pain again and had another little flip out, although not one involving teeth. And again, immediately she was back near me, submissively cowering at my feet.
As an aside, there are no words I could ever find to describe how unspeakably heart-breaking and devastating it is to see her in these moments. There just aren't.
I have never, ever in our history hit Bella. And yet, I have hurt her on two other occasions in the past. Under these exact same circumstances: coming home from work, a happy, excited, little greeting turns into Bella howling in pain at the most inoffensive touch. The really strange thing is it has been while I was touching different parts of her body each time - once on her "croup" (the top of her butt area near the tail) and the other time on her hind right thigh/flank.
They all think I'm nuts
I have tried to recount these situations to vets we have seen in the past about various ailments but they have looked at me like I was losing my mind. I don't know what it is and I don't know what to do about it. I can say that I'm glad, at this time, it has only happened to me and that Bella recognizes me enough to restrain her bite. I do not want to think of what would happen were someone else other than me to trigger her trouble spot.
In fact, I don't even know if it's even possible for someone else to trigger it. This has only happened when she's been interacting with me and all 3 times after I've come home from work. Is there something in her anatomy that gets "tweaked" when she gets so excited? Is she pulling a muscle or pinching a nerve? Is a vertebra slipping out of place? I don't even know what the possibilities could be.
Then again, is this part of what has been happening between her and Jan? While I don't believe there has been any of the "screaming in agony" as part of their altercations, could it be something we have missed?
I do believe there is a component to Bella's issues with Jan that stems from her fear of being hurt rather than any actually pain endured. And yet, in the situation that has happened with me it feels clear that I did in fact hurt her even though I have no idea how or why. And even though I may have actually hurt her, still she moderates her reaction.
Oh Bella, it's a good thing you're cute.
Bella is a complicated girl and I spend an awful lot of time trying to figure her out. But at this point, the vets don't seem to have any answers and I don't honestly know what to do about an issue that has manifest itself only 3 times in the last 5+ years. If anyone has ever experienced a similar situation or has any insight at all into what is going on here, I welcome all counsel.