Cooper is in a dark place

You know Cooper? The dog I live with now and then?

He went swimming in Vancouver with his real humans ten days ago and sliced open a paw, and had to get stitches and a bandage. I took him to the vet hospital for the second bandage change this afternoon and they told me there was a “buildup of oil” because of the confinement of the bandage, so he has to be on zero activity for two weeks and he has to wear the cone. I wanted to rip my own head off on getting that news.

So we came home, and I picked up the dreaded plastic cone where it was sitting waiting, and tried to put it on him but he leaped backward (naturally). Since the fastening mechanism looks like a medieval torture device and is very hard to manipulate, I was stymied, and besides I didn’t want to put a huge rigid plastic basket around his head. He wasn’t licking the paw, and he was sleepy from the walk we’d been on before going to the hospital, so I put it off…And belatedly thought to look for advice online (duh) and learned that there are soft cones. Soft cones! Well why the hell would anybody use those plastic horrors then?

I phoned the vets to ask if that was ok, and they said oh yes, it’s what they use on their dog, so the dog and I got in his car (perhaps to be considered too much activity, but I wasn’t going to leave him alone on top of the other miseries) and went to the local vet pet store. Did they have soft cones? They did indeed. I practically cried when I saw it. Soft. A dog can sleep in a thing like that. It will pillow its little face.

So we went home, and I had gathered my wits and made a better plan: I got out a stinky dried salmon treat and went outside with him and it – and then had to put it back in the treat jar and go get a cloth to wipe the ropes of treat-drool off his jaws before putting the collar directly into their path. By the time I got the treat out again and went back outside he’d licked the drool off and was all tidy. I put the treat down where he knew it was there, and told him to sit, and put the collar on. The other thing about the soft collar is that it has velcro straps instead of a medieval torture device that you have to thread through slots. Just a tiny bit easier to work with.

It was a bitter moment. Disillusionment enters his life for the first time – and a rift is created between us. He’s known me since he was this:

I got him to eat that first day. And now – this. How could I?

Well, I sat down on the bottom stair (after putting the fragile antique jar that sits there in a cupboard lest he blindly bash into it) and called him over and cuddled his ears and he leaned into me and wagged his tail.

Then he sat hunched over for half an hour without moving, looking as if he were in shock. Then he went to sleep.

I now think it may actually be tranquilizing him a little. It’s opaque and black, which is crap for navigation, obviously, but maybe it’s calming, like horse blinders. Since he has to be inactive for two weeks, that’s the best thing he can be.

I’m a worrier. Can’t help it.


  1. 'Tis Himself says

    Putting a cone, even a soft one, on a cat requires three people. Even though it was July we were all wearing leather jackets and gloves.

  2. Stacy says

    It’s amazing and poignant how quickly our little critter friends forgive and forget the occasional pain and indignity we put them through (for their own good, but they don’t know that.)

    Glad Cooper doesn’t have to wear The Cone of Shame.

  3. phil zombi says

    This too shall pass. I have been fortunate in that neither of my crazy hounds has needed the cone. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery.

  4. Blueaussi says

    Whew! For a minute, with that title…

    Poor Coop! It must be a pretty nasty cut to take this long to heal. I don’t understand the “build up of oil”, it doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever heard as a diagnosis, but the important thing is that the poor boy will be ok.

  5. jenniferphillips says

    “buildup of oil” is indeed mystifying, but IANAV, so I’m sure it’s a thing.
    Poor Cooper! He’s lucky to have you and your ingenious soft-cone-attaching ways. :)
    Heal Coop, heal.

  6. Claire Ramsey says

    Two weeks. . . that is 14 years in Dog Time, poor darling Cooper. So clever of you to find a soft and dark cone of tranquility. You’re still a member of his pack! Don’t worry! (Also he was a totally darling puppy!)

  7. Stevarious says

    And belatedly thought to look for advice online (duh) and learned that there are soft cones. Soft cones! Well why the hell would anybody use those plastic horrors then?

    Well obviously they can’t charge you a premium for the better product unless there’s an awful product to compare it to. Marketing 101 right there.

    I mean, the things as complicated as a $10 neck brace, but at a ‘vet store’ you probably paid, what, $40? $50? More?

  8. Mark Mitchell says

    The schnauzer uses the Plastic Cone of Shame (PCOS) as a weapon. But he hates the very expensive plush black one we bought in NYC thinking, in our innocence, that he’d appreciate it.

  9. RowanVT says

    As a vet tech, please be aware that MANY dogs are perfectly capable of working around the soft collars to lick and chew at whatever you’re trying to prevent them from licking and chewing. They can learn how to fold/squish it and voila! Now you get to pay for sedation and re-suturing.

    And a build up… of oil? Did they mean serum?

  10. Timon for Tea says

    “You’re good people, Ophelia. Cooper knows this.”

    Although the first part of that is undoubtedly true, sadly the second part isn’t. Dogs are entirely about hierarchy, Cooper will ‘love’ Ophelia just so long as he assumes that she is dominant to him in his immediate social order and regardless of how good or wicked she might be, even towards him (within reason). Doing unpleasant things to him like putting on the cone will reinforce the dominance, not lessen it, so it will strengthen their relationship just as much as giving treats would (again within reason of course, systematic abuse is a different thing altogether). I have from time to time been involved in using dogs for medical research purposes, which can lead to significantly more discomfort and distress than wearing a cone, and I can assure you that the dogs do not lose even a teeny bit of respect or affection in consequence, quite the reverse.

    I realise that thinking like this isn’t always comforting, but it can be. We don’t necessarily do honour to our animals by insisting that they are just incapacitated versions of us.

  11. jhendrix says

    Just went through both of my dogs (Pitbull, Golden Retriever) sequentially needing to wear “the cone” for different problems.

    I had no idea there were soft ones they could use instead! It is terrible having to watch them go through the days with that thing on, since it’s obvious how much they hate it.

    I hope he heals enough to take it off soon, good luck!

  12. Dave says

    The fact that dogs give uncritical affection and submission makes it more, rather than less, important that we care about how we treat them, else at the end of that road lies torturing them for fun.

  13. says

    @ 6 & 7 – yes, a very nasty cut, apparently (I didn’t see it and don’t want to remind him of his paw by looking for it now); a huge slice through the pad.

    “And a build up… of oil? Did they mean serum?”

    I guess so. Maybe they consider “serum” too technical for a civilian. :b

  14. Tom says

    We always use the soft cones; mainly because they are kinder but also Erdos basically ignores the fact he has a cone on and runs round the house like a maniac with a battering ram and no peripheral vision.

    I still have the scars from high speed armoured vizsla impacts!

  15. StevoR says


    Give Cooper some pats from me.

    Been there as far as dogs with cones or “buckets” as we call ’em here in South Oz go. Co-incidentally one of my brothers had really a great “wonder-dog” called Cooper once too.

    Hope Cooper and you both recover and get over this soonest.

  16. rowanvt says

    have from time to time been involved in using dogs for medical research purposes, which can lead to significantly more discomfort and distress than wearing a cone, and I can assure you that the dogs do not lose even a teeny bit of respect or affection in consequence, quite the reverse.

    Not so. What you are seeing is an increase in appeasement gestures that amount to “please don’t hurt me again! I’m harmless, I’m harmless, you don’t have to hurt me anymore.”

    I have a dog that was emotionally neglected as a puppy. She is terrified of the vast majority of humanity. If I show anger towards her, she’ll spend a large part of the rest of the day doing appeasement gestures, NOT being her happy-go-lucky doggy self.

    There’s also a recent stray that a client found, a corgi-chi mix, who was dumped on the street after having puppies. I didn’t do anything to her medically, but did spend time loving on her and taking her picture for a rescue organisation. The next day, she was subdued around the people who had dealt with her, but with me she was bouncy-happy-rubmytummy-letmelickyourchin. Submissive behaviour, but happy. Not appeasement.

  17. Blueaussi says

    @#13 “Dogs are entirely about hierarchy, Cooper will ‘love’ Ophelia just so long as he assumes that she is dominant to him in his immediate social order and regardless of how good or wicked she might be, even towards him (within reason). ”

    That is massively wrong. Dominance Theory has been debunked over and over and over again. So has Cesar Millan.

    I posted about this to Butterflies and Wheels once before, but I had links to sources that debunk that foolishness, and it never appeared in the comments. This time I’ll explode the link and see if it goes through. This site has a whole list of good links on the subject.

    http colon // dogsintraining dot livejournal dot com /541715 dot html

  18. says

    That one link has a lot of links, so follow it if you’re interested.

    This was an issue when I was an elephant keeper, too. In practice it was a good deal like dog management: some rules and enforcement, but a lot more play and affection.

  19. Timon for Tea says

    Blueaussie, I wasn’t talking about training theories, but about what makes a dog happy and healthy. And that is fundamentally about hierarchy. Of course the basic well being needs of food, exercise, and other behaviours have to be expressed too, and abuse will lead to trauma, but really the dog does not care if Ophelia is a good kind person or not, so long as she is clearly dominant, feeds hims and does not excessively abuse him, he will be content. The pack is what counts for dogs. Thinking otherwise iis an anthropomorphosising mistake. Dogs don’t love you.

  20. Paul says

    Hi ophelia

    My cat was also condemned to a cone recently, and was highly distressed by the whole prospect. What I did (and I don’t know if this will work for your dog) was this:

    1. Place a pad of foam-like bandage over the cut – this is particularly important if they are going to walk on the cut. Ideally there should be an adhesive side, facing outwards.
    2. Wrap the pad and paw with normal bandage. Not too much, just once or twice to hold the pad in place. The adhesive of the pad ought to provide some fixture.
    3. Get adhesive tape suitable for use on pets and use it to fix the top of the bandage to the fur. If you get a pet suitable adhesive tape then it will come off with water. This ensures the pad/bandage will not fall off when the run about.
    4. Wrap the whole thing in this stuff:

    It is self-adhesive, and my cat took one sniff and this repelled him from trying to lick or sabotage it. It’s pretty smelly stuff to cats and dogs, and they can’t bring themselves to lick it.

    Now you might be wondering how to put all this on your dog (or cat). What I did was wrap him gently in a towel and place him on some cushions – the trick was to ensure the towel was tight enough to stop him running off while I attached the bandage, but not so tight it was uncomfortable.

    He didn’t like having a bandage, but he liked it a lot better than the cone! And his paw healed up really well.

    Hope this helps

  21. Blueaussi says

    Timon for Tea:

    Your information is years out of date.

    Dogs are NOT pack animals. Follow the link and read the articles, there are scientific papers on the interactions of feral and of human socialized dogs, and they do not form packs, much less hierarchies.

    Dogs respond best to benevolent leadership, not some wrongheaded and aggressive notion of dominance.

    C’mon, update your information. Be a better human for your dog.

  22. h. hanson says

    I have a dog that can shred any cone while wearing it. I’ve come home to find her wearing a necklace of shreds. So I finally resorted to a racing greyhound muzzle with a stool guard. The dog can still pant and drink and mine actually seemed more comfortable in it than the cone. The cone frustrated her as she would run into things while wearing it. Just a thought in case the cone thing does not work for Cooper.

  23. One Way Monkey says

    Poor Coop!

    When I was about 16 my then best friend had a lab-cross. He was a dog we’d rescued, and he was love and hugs on legs, but about as intelligent as pizza.

    We took him for a walk on one of those perfect summery days, the kind that seems to last forever, and we stayed out for about eight hours. Unfortunately, the wrongheaded dunderdog had invented a game. He ran as fast as he could for about a hundred metres, then instead of slowing to a stop, he used his paw-pads as brake pads.

    Well, dry grass+a dog capable of subverting his instincts=trouble.

    He’d found some boys to play with, and worn himself out, so he’d been dozing on our picnic blanket. It was getting dark and we were hungry, so we were going to go back for dinner. Blunderpup was crying, and seemed barely able to walk. Closer inspection of his paws showed that he’d managed to friction burn his pads down to bloody lumps.

    We had to carry all 50lbs of him home for two miles. Not easy for two teenage girls to do, when the dog in question is long, wiggly, and denser than dark matter.

    Eventually we got back, carried him up to our third floor bedroom, and cleaned him up. The vet we saw the next morning said “Wow, was he running on a belt sander? He’s not a very bright lad this one, is he?”.

    Then came the judgement – boxing glove-type bandaging for three weeks, almost total foot rest, and the Dreaded Cone.

    In total, we had to spend a month carrying the fat lump up and down the stairs of a three storey house so he could relieve himself, making shame-infused bus journeys to the PDSA clinic to have his dressings changed, and trying to distract him so he didn’t go mad with boredom. We eventually hit on the genius idea of attaching a hanging budgie-mirror to the top of the cone, as he was obsessed with reflective objects. I think he missed Mirror Mutt when the shame multiplier was removed.

    I still miss that silly guy, even after ten years.

    Healing and hugs to Cooper!

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