It was nothing that Candy Sappington ever expected to happen, and something that sends a chill up her spine whenever she thinks about it.
Sappington was walking down the front steps of her house in Lake Wales earlier this week, when her normally calm dog Maisy lunged past her and was bitten by a six-foot diamond back rattle snake. Sappington is convinced Maisy pushed her out of the way to protect her.
"It's hard to think she took the punch for me," Sappington said.
The snake also bit the family's two other American Bulldogs, Maisy's pups, Tundra and Chubbs.
"I had to act fast," Sappington's 16-year-old son Philip said. "I went upstairs and and got my gun and killed 'em."
To save the dog's lives, the family began looking for antivenin, which counteracts snake venom. Few smaller veterinary practices stock it because of the cost -- about $700 per vial.
The Sappingtons were lucky enough to find it at a well-established emergency clinic, Veterinary Health Care Associates.
Chubbs died because he didn't get the antivenin in time. Maisy and Tundra at recuperating slowly at the Winter Haven practice in intensive care.
Even with the antivenin, they are swollen and in pain.
Maisy was in the worst shape because she took the most direct hit, on her ear.
"We're got her on hydromorphone, which is actually a form of morphine," said Dr. Loren Nations.
The bill could be staggering by the time the dogs are back on their feet -- possibly thousands of dollars. Along with the cost of antivenin, they are getting plasma, and treatment in a hyperbaric chamber to speed the healing process.
This is snake season when they are more active. So experts are giving this advice to all pet owners: since it is so hard to find antivenin in an emergency, find out which veterinary clinic stocks it in your area now -- just in case you ever need it.