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Holly is one tough old bitch. Seriously. If I live to be as old and tough as her, it will be a great, great accomplishment. Nothing can stop her: not tacks, not rocks

…not scorpions.

After a day that felt too good to be true, we had a real wild morning. Let me begin by saying that Costa Rica has a high standard of living, but many houses don’t have screens and/or have lots of crevices where creepy crawlers can enter. Our bungalow is the opposite: the screens fit tightly, seams are sealed, holes are covered. But, we’re close to la selva, the jungle.

As we were getting ready to take Holly for her morning walk, I stepped out of the front screen-door to spray on my ritual bug repellent. Two seconds later, I hear Chris ask, “What happened? What’s wrong?”

I look in to see Holly hobbling around, her right hind leg tucked as close to her body as possible. She’s not making any sound, but she’s clearly anxious and won’t stop hobbling. I open the screen door to enter and see, just on the inside of the house, a huge-ass scorpion.

With all the crazy medical emergencies we’ve had with her, you’d think we’d be able to keep cooler heads. But as soon as we saw the scorpion indoors, we totally freaked out. First, we trapped it under a tupperware. Then, we looked around for the best weapon. Ah, that shoe will work. Where’s Holly? Is she alive?! She still has to pee!

I should mention that it’s barely 7am at this point, but now we are awake. Is it poisonous? Is the poison working its way through her little body right now? We grab Holly and the tupperware with the dead scorpion and run down to the house of the couple who owns the bungalows and ring their doorbell. No answer. We try again, but still nothing. I tell Chris to wait and see if the couple comes to the door, while I run back up to the house to call the vet on Skype. No answer. I try again, while Googling “dog stung by scorpion” and speed-reading the first couple results. Still no answer, so I note the vet’s address, grab a wad of cash, and head back down the hill.

I come back to find Chris carrying Holly since she can’t stand, and he’s talking to Jose, the groundskeeper. Chris says, “Jose says it’s not poisonous,” which is a real relief. But Holly still won’t let us touch her leg to inspect it. Out of options, we bring her back to the house to give her 5mg of Claritin and ice her leg.

While Chris prepares the ice pack, Holly is looking around for her food which we take as a good sign. She eats it all, but of course has trouble because she’s bouncing around on three legs. Meanwhile, I snap the above photo and email it to the vet, explaining that we tried calling and want to bring her in just to make sure everything is OK. I get an email back in 10 minutes saying not to worry — it’s not poisonous, and she’ll be in at 9am.

So we Google, we read, and we wait. Most of what we read is about people whose dogs are bit by scorpions in Arizona. Things we learned:

  • The bigger the scorpion, the less dangerous it is.
  • Most species of scorpions are not fatal. The most common fatal one is the bark scorpion, which is found in both North and Central America. It’s small.
  • The first thing to do after your animal is stung is to try to capture/kill the scorpion, if you can do it safely, so the appropriate treatment can be identified.
  • If possible, try to wash the sting site with soap and water. If you think it was a dangerous scorpion, try creating a tourniquet to keep the venom from spreading quickly. Also, keep the animal immobilized since moving around gets the blood flowing. Then, get them to the vet.
  • Scorpion stings are supposed to be like really, really bad bee stings. They hurt a lot at first, then gradually get better, but may feel bad for another day or so. Another common side effect is a sore, scratchy throat. (We were relieved to read this, because Holly had started coughing.)
  • Scorpions are nocturnal and like to hide in shadowy places, so shake out those shoes before you put them on.
  • Scorpions are gross and scary prehistoric creatures that I never want to see again.

By 8:45, Holly has been napping and we’re ready to take her to the vet, except that it’s already like 90 degrees and super humid and a 20-25 minute walk. Fortunately, the bungalow owners have no problem dropping us off and feel awful that this happened. They feel bad for Holly, are confused because they worked hard to keep the bungalows sealed off, and are worried because their 3-year-old likes walking around outside with no shoes.

When we arrive, there’s one other person waiting — a friend of the owner, it turns out, who found an abandoned dog and wants to take it in. He’s bringing it to the vet for its shots. After a quick chat, he graciously tells us to go ahead. We tell our host that he doesn’t need to wait and we’ll make the walk back, and he says he’s going to run a couple errands and swing back by — no problem.

The vet is very kind and apologizes she didn’t answer; she was dealing with an emergency — a puppy that ate a frog. (Naughty puppy!) She checks out Holly’s leg but can’t find any remnants of a stinger. Then, she tells us she’s been stung a couple times by the same kind. She said the biggest thing is the pain in the beginning, and the sore throat. But for dogs and humans, that’s it. She gives Holly a painkiller injection, then gives us some combination painkillers and antihistamines for the next two days. Total cost: US$25.

The owner is kindly waiting for us when we get back, and he’s relieved to hear that everything’s fine. He and his wife are very friendly, and we believe them when they say this is really, really rare, although we’re a little on edge every time we think we spot movement in the house.

When we get back, Holly is already able to put a little more weight on her leg and goes to play with her toys. I have a nice little cry, apologizing because she never asked to come here and doesn’t deserve to be in pain and Chris comforts us both. But Holly doesn’t need it, because she’s already almost back to her old self. Because she’s a tough old bitch.



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