A Geelong pet owner is heartbroken after saying goodbye to her one-year-old French bulldog, Knox, last Sunday.
The 31-year-old woman, who wishes only to be known as Jessie, said she had no idea of the danger that lurked along the back fence of her Bell Post Hill home until it was too late.
She took her Frenchie for a backyard toilet break about 10am last Saturday, just moments before a tiger snake — which had been concealed behind a piece of corrugated iron attached to the fence — fell to the ground in front of them.
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Knox bolted towards it and, within seconds, their household was woken by a “horrific scream”.
“Jessie came running in and said, ‘Knox has been bitten by a snake’,” Jessie’s sister-in-law and housemate Jasmine Lawrence, 27, who was sleeping inside at the time, told 7NEWS.com.au.
“They’d had a bit of a tussle, and Knox had bitten the snake and the snake had bitten Knox at the same time.”
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Jessie and Lawrence were at the vet within 10 minutes, aware of the tiger snake’s deadly and fast-acting venom, but by that time Knox was already shaking and vomiting.
In the hours after the vet administered three vials of costly anti-venom, Knox continued to deteriorate — suffering a seizure that required him to be transferred to the vet’s emergency department.
“They told us he needed a ventilator, and that without one he would die,” Lawrence said.
Setting up and running a ventilator for 24 hours would cost them $10,000 — but Knox wasn’t breathing, and they needed to decide immediately.
Knox was bitten by a tiger snake in his Bell Post Hill backyard on Saturday morning. Credit: GoFundMe
It wasn’t the first time a costly bill has stood between Knox and his health.
“Only in September, Knox had swallowed a little bit of a squeaky toy. We took him to the vet, and that (incurred) a $7500 vet bill.”
They chose once again “to give him a chance” but said that making that rushed decision “was horrible”.
“We were in shock, and really didn’t know what to think,” Lawrence said.
By this point, Jessie “was bawling her eyes out” and Lawrence had taken the reins, financially.
“(Jessie) just kept saying she didn’t want to let him go, so I said I will work it out,” Lawrence said.
She drained her savings account, began borrowing money from loved ones, and started a GoFundMe for Knox.
Knox survived the night on the ventilator, and was then moved to an oxygen tank — an economically unsustainable solution.
They had already spent more than $13,500 on treatment so far, and the ongoing use of the oxygen tank would cost another $6000 per day.
After that, there would be intensive care at $1500 per day for several weeks, not including medication.
“That was the minimum cost,” Lawrence said. “When you add it all up, we were looking at between $80,000 to $100,000.”
Lawrence made the hard decision to let Knox go, after Jessie was incapacitated by news of her pet’s brain damage and the unaffordable price of keeping him alive. Credit: GoFundMe
Knox had also sustained significant brain damage, which ultimately helped inform the heartbreaking decision to let him go.
“He wasn’t able to see properly, he wasn’t able to stand, he wasn’t able to lift his head,” Lawrence said.
“I could just see that he was not the dog that we had. He was not the healthy, happy, cuddly little boy that he was.
“It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make on behalf of someone else because (Jessie) had no words.”
Lawrence said the $4200 donated on the GoFundMe would be used to pay back money borrowed from friends and family.
Advice for pet owners ahead of summer
As Jessie and Lawrence rushed to the vet Lawrence’s partner stayed behind and called a snake catcher — who told him incidents like this were far too common “especially now that it’s (nearly) summer,” Lawrence said.
“Just in our region alone, over the long weekend, (the snake catcher responded to) 30 snake bite attacks on dogs.”
The snake catcher gave them advice to prevent any further incidents.
“He said, in future — and I wish I knew this sooner — just monitor your dogs really closely and, when it’s warmer, take them to an area to go to the toilet that’s really, really open, so you can see everything,” Lawrence said.
“It’s crazy that it’s happened in the backyard. He wasn’t in a park, unleashed, but (the snake catcher) said that happens a lot as well, that dogs off the leash at a park will go and sniff a garden bed and a snake will bite them.
“He said you just have to remain really, really vigilant.
“The snake just reacted with its instincts as well, so you can’t be mad at the snake — it’s just horrible and really unfortunate.”
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