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2-year-old dog dies from rattlesnake bite

As warmer months approach, more snakes are out in Central Texas. That means more danger for pet owners.

AUSTIN, Texas — Rattlesnakes are out in Central Texas, and just one bite from them can be fatal. That was sadly the case for Terry Flaherty’s 2-year-old dog, Maisy, who died last week. 

"Maisy went running out to go get the squirrels, just like she did every day. And probably within 5 seconds when she ran out, we heard this big yelp,” Flaherty said.

Maisy had been bit in the eye by a rattlesnake. After rushing to the emergency vet to receive three dog-doses of antivenom and one human dose of antivenom, the 15-pound schnoodle didn't make it.

"You're devastated with the initial bite,” Flaherty said. “And then you get like some excitement because you think, 'Oh, she's going to pull through.' And then she died five minutes after we left her."

It was a devastating loss to Flaherty and the community at The Watering Bowl in South Austin.

"This was Maisy's favorite place on Earth,” Flaherty said.

Leslie Paetschow, owner of The Watering Bowl, put together a memorial for Maisy. More than 70 people attended.

"This was a truly special turnout,” Paetschow said. “Terry has been here for – he's been coming here for so long and almost every single day we're just used to seeing Terry and Maisy.”

In honor of Maisy, The Watering Bowl is partnering with The Canine Center in Austin to give rattlesnake avoidance classes to train dogs to stay away from snakes. But just as important as it is to teach dogs, there are many tips that pet owners should know.

Texas rattlesnakes have strong venom, and Austin snake wrangler Harry Downing said time is of the essence when trying to treat a bite.

“There's an expression: ‘time equals tissue,’” Downing said. “So, the longer you wait to get treatment for the bite, the more soft tissue you're going to lose."

That's why it's crucial to know where the emergency vet is and whether they give doses of antivenom.

"I think we all know where our closest emergency room is for humans. Do it for your pets, too,” Flaherty said. “Know it, memorize it and drive it because, you know, I know it's hard when you're panicking."

After knowing how to get to the emergency vet, it also helps to have someone like Downing to come and remove the snake.

"If you see a snake in your yard, keep an eye on it and call somebody,” Downing said. “If it's moving through your yard, let it go, watch it, go make sure it gets out."

He also said it's a good idea to take a picture of the snake to show the vet because there are some snakes that disguise as rattlesnakes.

“There are a lot of not venomous snakes that look like rattlesnakes,” Downing said.  “So if you get a picture of the snake and it turns out not to be a rattlesnake, you can save yourself a lot of trouble and a lot of money.”

Flaherty sadly had to learn all these tips over this past week. But there's been a new joy in the midst of his grief. He and his wife just got a new 8-week-old puppy.

"It's amazing how much room you can find in your heart, even with it being broken,” Flaherty said. “There's nothing better than sitting there with a dog and in your lap, petting the doggy. It's just we will never live without another dog, that's for sure."

Their new puppy, Winnie, is keeping Maisy’s spirit alive but bringing new energy back into the Flaherty household.

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