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When Jacquelin and Lance Throneberry moved to Australia last year on a two-year business assignment, the couple feared their Jack Russell terriers might have violent encounters with some of the region’s poisonous snakes and cane toads. Until recently, carnivorous lizards did not top their list of pet health concerns.
“I took the dogs for a hike one morning and they ran ahead of me to investigate something,” said Jacquelin Throneberry of Denver, Colo. “Before I know it, I see Jack in the distance running down the hill violently shaking what looked like a big lizard. I first thought, ‘Oh no, he’s probably killed that poor lizard,’ but it soon sounded like he was fighting with it. As I got closer, I saw the lizard running up a tree alive and well. Jack was sitting further down the hill panting from exhaustion with his legs covered in blood. He was just a bunch of cuts all over—bites and claw marks.”
The lacerations on Jack’s front and hind legs required multiple stitches, several staples and treatment with a series of antibiotics. While her 10-year-old Jack Russell terrier recovered at the clinic, Throneberry, still unfamiliar with some of the local fauna, went online to identify the animal that had injured Jack. The reptile matched pictures and descriptions of goannas, large predatory lizards native to Australia.
“He’s healed up completely,” said Throneberry. “He’s a lucky dog. It could have been much worse. He gets himself in trouble because of his strong prey drive and lack of fear. When he was a puppy, he broke a leg jumping off a balcony to get a squirrel. He’s hunted snakes and has chased a variety of wildlife in Colorado including deer and a coyote. He tries to go after the geckos and water dragons here, so I think that was the context he had for attacking the goanna. Obviously, he bit off more than he could chew.”