Weds 25th August: Kiss of the cobra

All of the events of the day were overshadowed by the drama of the afternoon.  As luck would have it, I had arranged to meet up with pup Terry’s adopter at Whiskers’n’Paws at two o’clock, wanting to have the rest of the day free to do other things like taking photos of the baby puppies and doing my monthly accounts.  So I was already on the sampan and approaching the bay where I live when I got a call from a helper to say that she thought one of the big dogs was dying.

I found Ottilie in a really bad way, and she certainly seemed very close to death.  Her tongue was lolling out of her mouth, she was salivating and  sporadically fitting, and there was no response when I spoke to her.  Although I didn’t think she’d last long enough to get any treatment, I called a sampan to take her to the nearest clinic in Aberdeen.  I was pretty sure Ottilie had been bitten by a snake.

On the morning walk we had just got into the woods when I saw a very large snake.  It looked very much like a harmless rat snake, and was much too big to be a cobra I thought.  King Cobras are big snakes, but to my knowledge I’ve never seen one, although Chinese cobras are common.  I see snakes almost every day so it wasn’t anything extraordinary, and my only concern was that it got away before the dogs spotted it.  No such luck, and the snake was soon surrounded, and the last I saw the main snake expert, Holly, had the hapless reptile in her mouth and was shaking it.  I walked quickly on, hoping that the dogs would follow me rather than hang around and further torment the snake, and so they did.

When I got back from the walk I was told that the cobra was dead, and my landlord (owner of Derek the cocker spaniel) had buried it.  I was still sure it was a rat snake because of its size, but soon forgot about the whole incident as I got ready to take Terry over to meet his new family.

On the sampan taking Ottilie to Aberdeen, I sat holding her head as she lay on the trolley that had been used as a dog ambulance.  Every movement of the boat seemed agonising for her, and I could see her heart beating rapidly as she lay panting, still semi-conscious but not seeming to hear me as I talked to her. 

I had alerted the clinic of my imminent arrival, and as there was nobody else waiting anyway we went straight in to see the vet.  I won’t go into detail, but I came very close to losing my temper as I urged him to give the antivenin instead of talking about X-rays and heart disease.  I knew that Ottilie had been bitten by a cobra as I had seen the snake  and it had been positively identified as a cobra by my landlord. I didn’t realise at the time that it was lucky that the clinic even had the cobra antivenin, as not all do.  Finally the serum was given, and I was told to wait to see if there would be any reaction such as analphylactic shock.

By the time the clinic closed at 7pm, Ottilie’s condition had improved to the extent that she flicked the end of her tail when I called her name, but she wasn’t out of the woods yet.  She would need a second vial of the antivenin, which the clinic didn’t have, and she would also need overnight care.  Rather than take her to Mongkok, I decided to go to a twenty-four hour hospital on the island, even though I knew it would be expensive (SPCA, my usual choice, don’t have the snake serum).

Carrying Ottilie to the taxi and then from the taxi to the other clinic was no mean feat, as she’s not a small dog and she likes her food.  I’m guessing it was her weight that had kept her alive so far, as a smaller dog would surely have been dead by then.   I helped settle Ottilie into her cage after all the necessary medications had been given, but had no answer to the question about whether or not she was “cage shy” as she’d never been in a cage before. I knew she wouldn’t be too happy about it as she wasn’t a dog that likes to sleep in a crate, but in the condition she was in she wasn’t going to argue.

I kept my phone by my bedside during the night, but didn’t get any calls to say that Ottilie was in trouble, and by this morning she was standing and anxious to leave her “prison cell”.  There may yet be complications, but for now the crisis is over.

I have lived on Lamma for twenty two years and have seen every kind of snake, venomous or not, but this is the first time one has bitten.  And I can’t say that I blame the poor thing as it was only defending itself, and vainly as it turned out.

As a postscript, I dug up the snake so I could confirm its “breed”, and it is definitely a King Cobra.


7 Responses to “Weds 25th August: Kiss of the cobra”

  1. Rachael Says:

    Wow…..hope Ottilie makes it OK!

  2. Kathryn Says:

    So relieved to read she is okay, hope she makes a speedy recovery.

  3. Angie Says:

    I bet all your friends are waiting for you at home.
    Live and die another day.

  4. madelaine gomez Says:

    My eyes were glued to the screen, scrolling down anxiously to see if Ottilie made it and it was a relief to see that she did. Whew! Hope to God there won’t be any complications later.

  5. Steve C Says:

    Glad that Ottilie made it. Here is some background reading on snakes in HK if anyone is interested –

  6. julie Says:

    Could you list which vets have the anti venin as I’m on Lantau and worry about this alot as I live in a snake area.


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