Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Good Morning, Class of '64
Scene from To Kill a Mockingbird when Atticus Finch Shoots the Mad Dog
Mad Dog in To Kill a Mockingbird
Atticus Finch Takes Aim at the Mad Dog in To Kill a Mockingbird
One to three months is usually the time period
between contracting rabies and the start of
symptoms, but it can vary from less than one
week to more than one year. This depends on
the distance the virus must travel to reach the
central nervous system. Fever and tingling at
the site of exposure may be early symptoms.
Violent movements, uncontrolled excitement,
and fear of water or an inability to move parts
of the body and confusion followed by loss
of consciousness could follow these symptoms.
Once symptoms appear it nearly always results
in death.

: an acute virus disease of the nervous system
of warm-blooded animals that is caused by a
(species Rabies virus of the genus Lyssavirus)
transmitted in infected saliva usually through
the bite of a rabid animal and that is characterized 
typically by increased salivation, abnormal behavior,
and eventual paralysis anddeath when untreated—
called also hydrophobia
Middle Ages Rabid Dog

One thing I very much fear is rabies. There are several reasons for that.
Mason had to take the rabies shots before I was born, a very painful process. A pet squirrel bit him. I heard a lot about that. 

There were several rabies epidemics in our area while I was growing up. On at least two occasions, we lost 5 or 6 sheep. Since sheep was our only cash crop, and we only had about 30 - 35 ewes, that was about a 20% loss in our gross income for 2 years each time it happened. My uncle lost a horse and some hogs. Other neighbors suffered similar losses.

Those were scary times. Dad and Mason took a shotgun with them to feed the sheep. At the first sign of the illness, they shot the sheep and burned the body on a pile of chestnut fence rails. I carried a baseball bat size club with me to meet the school bus. The disease was carried primarily by foxes. The state Department of Conservation even had special seminars on trapping foxes.

A few years later, on June 20, 1963, West Virginia’s Centennial Anniversary, I was attacked by a rabid fox. When we went to milk that morning, we saw an unusually large, unusually dark gray fox in the pasture. We got the guns and shot at it several times without result. Its behavior was very peculiar. Seeing a fox in the open in daylight is itself peculiar. After being shot at, it trotted along a tree line, in the open pasture, for quite a distance. A fox will normally dart into the tree line immediately. It didn’t appear to be a bit wild.

Three or four hours later, I heard our boar hog making a lot of noise. When I checked on him, I saw a very large, unusually dark gray fox in the pen with him - I am convinced that it was the same fox. Coming back in mid-day, and coming much closer to the house is very much unlike a fox. 

I ran and got a gun, a .25-20 Winchester lever-action rifle. When I got back, the fox was disappearing in the woods. He was running parallel to the edge of the woods, about 30 - 40 feet from the edge. I ran down the tree line hoping he would stop and look back, and I would be able to get a shot. After running about 30 feet, I glanced behind me. Mom had yelled, but I cannot remember hearing her. The fox had come back at least 60 feet, crossed a rail fence, and attacked me from behind. When I first saw him, he was about 6 or 7 feet from me, charging at full speed. I didn’t even have time to get the rifle to my shoulder - just shot from the hip. I immediately followed it with a deliberately aimed shot. The first was enough; it hit the fox about an inch above his left eye. The second was centered in his head. By bending over, I could touch the fox with the gun barrel from where I shot.
I guess that it’s no wonder that I fear rabies.
To Kill A Mockingbird
Atticus shoots a mad dog

To Kill A Mocking Bird Audio Book
Chapter 10
To Kill a Mockingbird Chapter 10 Summary
In Chapter 10 of To Kill a Mockingbird,
Atticus Finch shoots the rabid dog.

Rabies in the United States
The Center for Disease Control reports that before 1960 most rabies cases were hosted by domestic animals, but today rabies is mostly seen in wild carnivores and bats. Human deaths from rabies has declined from over a 100 a year at the turn of the twentieth century to one or two by the 1990's. Death from rabies usually occurs because people are not aware of their infection and do not seek medical attention.
US Rabies Map - 2008

from the Humane Society
Key facts
  • Rabies travels from the brain to the salivary glands during the final stage of the disease—this is when an animal can spread the disease, most commonly through a bite. 
  • Rabies can’t go through unbroken skin. People can get rabies only via a bite from a rabid animal or possibly through scratches, abrasions, open wounds, or mucous membranes in contact with saliva or brain tissue from a rabid animal.
  •  The rabies virus is short-lived when exposed to open air—it can only survive in saliva and dies when the animal’s saliva dries up.
  • If you handle a pet who has been in a fight with a potentially rabid animal, take precautions such as wearing gloves to keep any still-fresh saliva from getting into an open wound.
 Louis Pasteur Facts 
 Pasteur studied the immune system and vaccination through research on chicken cholera and other diseases. He helped produce the first vaccine for rabies, saving the life of a young boy in 1885 who became the first person to receive such treatment. - Atticus Finch Shoots the Mad Dog

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