Of Nope Ropes and Danger Noodles

*I absolutely HATE blogger right now, it's randomly aligning my text weird and I can't fix it, it's just not working. Pictures are annoying af, I'm not a happy blogger right now so please forgive my formatting issues. 

I'm going to be dramatic here, and I won't apologize for it. For all of your Carolinians where this is a normal thing to happen to you and your dogs, I commend you for keeping your cool because I was many things Friday night and cool was not one of them. 

To preface this story, as of this morning Zuzu is acting much more herself, barking at people on the stairs of our building like normal and was much more animated on our walk earlier. She has a hematoma on the side of her face that is still clearly painful when I check on it, but I've lowered her pain med dosage and she seems to be handling it well. 

Friday, I got out of work a little early to run an errand before the store closed and then headed straight to the barn to enjoy my start to the weekend. I played with my friend's mare, Hannah, before grabbing Goose to ride with Alyson. At the barn, Zuzu's favorite thing to do is hunt lizards and frogs, so it really wasn't surprising to me that she was poking around the front of the tack room doing her thing, though usually she's staring up the trees to get to the lizards or by the feed shed. Still, it was nothing out of the ordinary so I let her go about her business while I tacked up. 

Walking by her to grab my bridle, I saw Zu run backwards quickly and swipe at her face. I checked her out quick, worried about red ants (she always gets into red ants, ugh) but saw nothing on her, no swelling, and she seemed find. I pulled on my helmet, went to finish tacking up and bridle, and didn't think any more of it. Until Alyson and I were pulling our horses' halters off and I noticed Zu just standing there, glaze-eyed and panting... weirdly. She was holding her face weird, I can't really describe it but she just wasn't right. 

Alyson and I checked on her, decided she might be overheating, and took her over to the hose thinking I'd cool her down. I checked her out and since she was panting weird I checked her mouth which was bone dry, gums normal color but sticky to the touch. My mind went to her sniffing around and running backwards and somehow I knew what had happened, but didn't say it out loud. Alyson kept the dogs by her and I slowly poked around and moved a few things in front of the tack room. Almost giving up when I didn't see anything, as a last resort I moved the puppy pen over a little and there it fucking was. Staring in disbelief because I realized my worst nightmare had just come true, I started yelling at Alyson to confirm that it's a small Copperhead I'm staring at, and obviously it was. 

It was much smaller than it appears in this picture, it can't have been a full adult yet but was not a baby either.
It was much smaller than it appears in this picture, it can't have been a full adult yet but was not a tiny baby either.

When I moved to NC and started hiking, many people warned me to look out for snakes. In NC/SC, there are really only two venomous snakes to look out for, Copperheads (most common) and Timber Rattlesnakes which are much more rare, at least where I am. I've come across a few on trail, always pretty far away, and last year Amanda and I almost walked our horses right over one but luckily she saw it in time. I have a very healthy respect and appreciation for snakes, but I watched a lot of Animal Planet as a kid and whatever show followed snake bite victims and "GET THE ANTIVENIN STAT!", that's what plays through my head every time. 

So as my world stopped as my brain put together what had just happened to Zu, my heart temporarily stopped beating and a panic attack ensued. Barking orders like a madwoman, Alyson got Abby on the phone and started pulling tack off our horses as I got my vet on the phone. It's now 5pm, roughly 15 minutes after Zu got bit, and in my panic I didn't know how much time I had to get her to the vet. My vet is in the middle of Charlotte, an hour away with traffic, did I have that much time? Thankfully the tech on the phone was amazing, got a vet for me who instructed me to take Zu to Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Matthews, NC, about 20 minutes from the farm, and told me to call them on the way. 

Thank goodness for good barn friends. Alyson and I threw our tack back in the tack room, tossed the horses outside, and got the dogs to the car in record time. Abby had already called the barn owner who was going to get an exterminator out to spray for snakes and control any mice issue we may have (apparently spraying for snake repellent is a thing? who knew) and I had texted the barn group to warn everyone, a few ladies were ready to be on the hunt to kill it. Again, I really like snakes actually and have a healthy respect and appreciation for even the Nopiest of Ropes, however there is no room on a farm with this many people, dogs, and horses to have a Copperhead at large. When I had gone back to try to find it and get it myself, I couldn't find it and figured it wasn't going to help anyone if I also got bit, so left it. 

Alyson was my hero of the night and kindly convinced me to let her drive us (I was in a STATE, let me tell you) and we met Abby on the way to the vet so she could take Franny. Poor Potato was not a happy camper with her Zu not well and me acting like a raving lunatic. She ended up going to hang out with her buddy Luke at Kalyn and Andy's and was feeling a lot better by the time I saw her later that night. 

The drive to the vet went pretty quickly, I was still a mess but I called on the way, gave them all my info, and we pulled into a numbered parking spot and I let them know where we were and that we'd arrived. Alyson and I donned our masks and waited (impatiently but with understanding because vets are my heroes and if they weren't worried about a copperhead bite like I was, that was probably a good thing) for the tech to come take away Zu. By this time, the right side of her face was swelling a lot, and underneath her neck as well as the edema drained down. Prior to this we couldn't be sure where she'd been bitten, but we had correctly guessed her face. When the tech came out Alyson did most of the talking while I figured out how to sign my name on the piece of paper, which in my state was more difficult than it should have been, and Alyson figured out with her that it would likely be several hours before we heard anything. They'd get her in there and comfortable on some pain meds, and as long as she was stable they'd handle their worse emergencies first and circle back to Zu as soon as they could. This both terrified me and made me feel slightly better, especially because the tech was acting like this was totally routine, informed us that she was their third copperhead victim that day alone, and that as a kid her Jack Russel had been bitten 10+ times in one summer and lived to a ripe old age all the same.

You can see her little chipmunk cheek starting here, as well as the edema already in her neck. She honestly looks stoned, glazed expression, not fully "there" and I was so worried

Right at the bottom of her right jowl is where she got tagged and now has a hematoma

Alyson figured out a plan for us to get something to eat, wait for the vet to call, and go from there. Within two hours I had my first call from the vet. Zuzu was stable and much happier on pain meds, they were going to do blood work and call me back within an hour with a plan for her. Roughly an hour later, they called and told me they needed to keep her overnight. I only slightly lost my mind when I got off the phone. 

The way copperhead venom affects dogs is by affecting the clotting factors of their blood, so the vet told me. It's an extremely painful bite, and while rarely fatal, it can make their blood "sludgy" and sometimes requires fluids and medication to manage. While Zu wasn't tagged with that much venom, her blood had turned a bit sludgy so they needed to run IVs on her that night and would call me first thing Saturday morning. 

I was a wreck. At this point I had so many people telling me she'd be fine, and I was so grateful for that. People were calling Abby with stories of how their dogs had been bitten and were just fine, and to tell me she was going to be okay. I had so much support - Annie had found and killed the snake (RIP Danger Noodle), friends were offering support with Fran if I needed it, Alyson was my personal chauffeur so I could panic and not have to drive, and I just had so much help and am incredibly grateful for these amazing people. But I don't handle my own crises well - give me anyone else's dog or horse problems, and I'm fine. Gaping flesh wound? No problem, let me get the vet on the phone and assist in closing it up. Choke, colic, lameness? I got this and can help with a clear head. Of course I worry no matter what animal isn't feeling well, but I'm good under pressure, as long as it's not my animal. 

Goose choking? I'm convinced he's dying. My dog being hurt or bitten by a fucking snake? NOPE my sanity exits stage left and leaves me a certifiable crazy person. 

I got my car and drove myself to pick up Franny, hanging with Kalyn and Andy for awhile. Friday night I might have gotten five minutes of sleep total. Every time I closed my eyes I had images of Zuzu alone at the vet's and it was just horrible. So Fran and I stayed up all night worrying, and I pounced on my phone at 6am on the dot when the vet called. Zuzu was fine and I could pick her up closer to 8. Her blood levels weren't perfect yet but they were tracking well and she'd be on heavy pain meds for a bit. I have to watch for signs of necrotic tissue or any sign of infection, but that's highly unlikely. I'm taking her temperature daily anyway and checking the bite site three times a day. 

Zuzu came home just a little after 8. I saw the moment she recognized my car and DRAGGED the poor tech towards it, before I was even outside the vehicle. She looked a little "off" still, but was so happy to see me. She jumped right in the car and took a nap like the Goodest Girl she is. The tech gave me all her discharge papers, I called and paid the balance over the phone, and Zuzu came home to her Potato who was super happy to see her. Poor Fan was not herself Friday either, that's the first night in over a year that she spent away from Zuzu. The three of us slept all day Saturday, watching movies on the couch and going for short walks when Zuzu woke up and wanted to. 

Jumped in the car and went right to sleep while I spoke to the tech. Also apologies all my pictures suck, I need a new phone case because this one blurs my camera. 

You can really see the edema in her neck here. It's gone down a lot since Saturday morning.

Sunday she was feeling more herself, but the pain and meds still made her sleepy so I super cleaned my house and tried to keep Franny from initiating Bite Club with Zuzu's poor face. This morning, we went on a longer walk since Zu seemed up to it, and though she's still on some pain meds I lowered her dosage just a little and she seems to be fine. Not fully herself but much closer, and if things track well we may head out to the barn for a short outing this evening. Moreso if my panicked brain can handle the nerves of thinking there's a snake around every corner. 

Sunday morning puffy right cheek still but happier doggo

Plz can I has the peanut butters even if it's hiding pills? 

I'm writing this out more for my own sanity, it's pretty therapeutic to write it down and hopefully this keeps it from playing on loop in my brain. I'm so lucky to have such incredibly supportive people surrounding me - I love living down here, but it really is just me and the dogs sometimes, all my family is at least a full day's drive away aside from a few wonderful people in Hendersonville. In the middle of a pandemic, with my dog facing a terrifying bite, my barn family came through and I'm so grateful. 

For anyone who hikes regularly or takes their dog to the barn, a few things I've learned: 

  • Copperhead bites are RARELY fatal in dogs. Rattlesnake bites require more immediate attention
  • Always have Benadryl on hand for bee stings, insect bites, or snake bites. It helps control swelling in both dogs and humans
  • Dex can also be injected in the event of a snake bite to a dog
  • Keep piles of stuff out of the picture - everything should have a place neatly put away. Piles of stuff create perfect hiding spots for critters we don't want around
  • I highly recommend drinking a Margarita the size of your face in the aftermath of stressful events, it really does help
Lastly, be nice to your vets, people. Emergencies bring out the worst in people, but vets are always doing their best. While my stress levels skyrocketed when I learned she wouldn't be treated right away, I trusted them that they weren't going to let her suffer if it ended up that she wasn't stable, and that if they weren't worried I shouldn't be either. They are saving the lives of other peoples' beloved pets before they could get around to treating Zuzu's non-life threatening snake bite, and I can live with that and say thank you when I get to pick her up the next day. Too many vets are treated like shit, like they're not enough. How dare anyone make them think they're anything less than miracle workers when they save our best friends every single day. So be nice to your vets. Say thank you and be kind and tell them how much you appreciate them. And your techs for that matter - these heroes are busting their asses running animals from cars to clinics and everywhere in between, even in the middle of a rainstorm. You all are rockstars, and I'm sorry if anyone makes you feel like anything less. 


  1. I am SO SO SO glad she's okay! When I saw your FB post my heart stopped. My grandparent's dog was also bitten in the face by a copperhead when I was a kid, and he also survived, but I'm sure it was an equally traumatic event for them as for you -- it happened out in the middle of nowhere and they had to rush him to the vet. I can keep my cool in just about any emergency other than one with my pets, then I'm an absolute and total wreck, ugh. I'm a pretty live and let live person, and I actually really LIKE snakes, but venomous ones anywhere near me or my critters is a NOPE NOPE NOPE. I am so glad that you were attentive enough and caught it so fast that Zu recovered so well. Also huge hugs to your friends and vet staff!

    1. I'm so glad I'm not the only one who absolutely loses their mind when it's my own animal lol. We're horse people, supposed to be tough and capable... UNLESS it's our own animals haha. I've now heard a lot of stories of friends' dogs being bit, I'm so glad that the copperheads turned out to not be as dangerous but like can we not go through this again? I've checked off Danger Noodle Bite from my 2020 bingo card, I think I'm done now! <3

  2. UGH you poor things. I am so sorry you had to experience all of this stress! I'm relieved to know Zu is okay. You also taught me lots about copperhead bites in dogs that I didn't previously know! I know rattler bites are nasty, but didn't realize copperheads weren't nearly as awful.

    And that's sad about snake having to die, but in that environment you're right. It just wasn't safe for anyone. Survival of the fittest, and that poor fella chose poorly re: place to live.

    1. I'm so glad she's okay, she was bringing me toys like a lunatic last night so I think she's almost back to normal! I've learned more than I ever wanted to about copperheads but it's definitely helpful information to those of us who love the outdoors!

      In a perfect world I never want the snake to die, I really love them and have a very healthy respect for their place in this world, even the venomous ones. But unfortunately there was not going to be any safe way to relocate this one and like you said, we just can't have them around. I see lots of black snakes and am always happy they're there though.


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