March 10, 2019

Stitching Amy

It was a bloody gash.

We have a dog. A yellow lab. Her name is Amy. We got her almost exactly one year ago. I made a YouTube film when we got her from the pound (click HERE to watch).  

Amy is more Marlene's dog than mine. She loves Marlene, which is understandable. I feel the same way towards Marlene. :-)

Unfortunately, Amy does not bark. We wondered if maybe she didn't know how to bark. But a couple weeks after her arrival, I got her to bark. I'm the only person who, thus far, can get her to bark.

When we're outdoors in the yard, I give her "the look" and I walk towards her, slow like. She stays at a distance, fully alert. Then I lunge at her. That gets her excited enough to start barking.  At first she thoought I was serious. But now she knows its a game. And she plays along.

Amy is a good dog for Marlene because she needs to be walked, and Marlene needs the exercise. So, they walk together almost every day. On a good day they'll walk two miles. If it's really cold and snowy, they don't go so far. On some days Marlene will walk a mile down our country road and a mile back and not a single vehicle goes by. We like it that way.

A couple weeks ago Marlene called me during her walk. She said Amy cut her leg somehow. She came running out of the woods by the road and was bleeding. I grabbed a roll of gauze and got there fast. I wrapped up Amy's leg and we put her in the car.

The cut was bad enough that it really needed to be stitched. But it was a Sunday morning and getting a vet to do it would be expensive. I'm pretty sure it would have cost hundreds of dollars.

So we decided to stitch the cut ourselves. It's really not that hard to do, and Marlene has done it before... on me.

Before we started having children Marlene worked for a doctor in Moravia. She worked for him several years, and assisted with various medical procedures, including stitches. A lot of people thought she was a nurse, but she wasn't, at least not a formally trained one.

One Sunday morning way back then I was doing some woodworking and cut my hand pretty good with a knife. Marlene went to the office and got sutures and some sort of pain killer. She stitched me back together like a pro.

That was, however, nearly 40 years ago, and though Marlene felt confident (even eager) about stitching Amy, she couldn't quite remember how to tie off the knot.

The picture at the top of this post shows Marlene, hemostat in hand, making a stitch. The operating table is an enameled kitchen table in our mud room. I lifted Amy onto it and reassured her that everything was going to be fine while Marlene tended to the wound. Amy was the perfect patient.

Marlene put three stitches in the cut. Here is a finished view...

The stitches are out now. The wound is almost totally healed over. Amy is back to running through the woods on her morning walks.


It was twenty years ago that I bought a selection of sutures to have on hand... just in case. I had been thinking I should have them, and Y2K was on the way, so that was the incentive to actually get them. 

Besides that, I was a Boy Scout and "Be Prepared" is the Boy Scout motto. It's a fine motto. It has pretty much been the motto of rural Americans for more than 200 years. It just makes sense.


You can buy sutures on Amazon or Ebay. They aren't that expensive. The ones pictured above are the ones I have left. They are not all the same. I don't know what the best "general purpose" suture needle and thread would be for a prepared homestead. Can someone who knows more about this give a recommendation?

For how-to suture instructions... YouTube, of course.


I have a friend named Dave. He once told me that when he was a kid, and he got a bad cut, his father would sew it back together. He did it with all the kids in the family. His father was a carpenter. Dave told me they couldn't afford to go to a doctor.

I asked Dave where he got the sutures. He said his father just used a regular needle and thread.  You have to be really skookum to give and take stitches like that!

But, the point is, it can be done.


I'm wondering if anyone reading this might have a story of giving or taking amateur stitches?


  1. Hi Herrick,

    I don't know much about stitches, except what it is like to get them. I did have a friend who was a med student doing an internship take them out. He did great.
    A note about Labs, they are hunting dogs that are bred to be silent. My cousin had bought a Black Lab puppy to be used as a hunting dog, but he also lived in the city and wanted her to bark when people came to the door. So every night coming home from work, as he was going up the stairs to the apartment, he would start barking. Then bark outside the door to get her to join in. It was funny but it worked.

    I hope Amy got a special treat for being a good patient. I did when I got my stitches.

    Nick L.

  2. About a year ago, while clearing some small, 6-12 inch diameter trees in our back pasture, I foolishly lost track of the bar of my chainsaw while I was pushing over a small tree I had just cut. The chain caught me on the lower thigh about four inches above my knee cap. Needless to say, my jeans didn't offer much protection ( I should have probably been wearing protective chaps), and I ended up with a nasty gash about 2 1/2 inches long and 3/4 - 1 inch deep. After getting home and cleaning the wound, I found some old sutures still in a sealed package. With my wife holding a light over the wound while I was sitting on the edge of the bathtub, I managed to get five sutures in and closed it up without an anesthetic. However, with a tsnugbandage around the leg and an old pain pill from my last root canal, I was able to finish my work for the day. That definitely wasn't my first time putting sutures in, but it was the first time I ever had to work on myself!

    A couple of quick notes for those who might want to be prepared for a similar situation. Sutures are readily available online. As long as they are sealed they should be good for most uses, particularly for pets or livestock, even though they may be "expired" - and yes, most do have expiration dates on them. Sutures are described by the type of material the actual "string" is made of, the thickness of that "string", and the size, type of point, and shape of the needle that comes attached to the "string". If you are looking for a good, all around suture to have on hand, most simple human wounds can easily be closed with Ethilon or Prolene, which are name brands for a nylon and a polypropylene suture, respectively. Size is notated by number with 0-0 being very large and higher numbers, such as 6-0 or 7-0 being much smaller. Standard size for most trunk or extremity wounds is 3-0 or 4-0. For the face, generally a 5-0 or 6-0 would be best. (Unfortunately, for my own little accident all I had was 0-0, which is just a tad smaller than trot line string). I now keep an assortment of 3-0 through 6-0 sizes at the house. Needle shape, size, and point is not nearly as critical for home suturing as the material type and size. Just keep in mind that a curved needle, which is by far the most common, is much easier to use. You would need a pair of hemostats or needle drivers (special medical pliers with a smooth gripping surface used to hold and maneuver needles) to adequately handle the needle. One final note, if your doctor or dentist ever prescribes a pain medication for you after a procedure, it might be helpful to lock away any remaining pills, just in case you might have to "doctor" yourself in one of these situations - especially if you have no anesthetic in the house.

    PS: By the way, it's always good to have a doctor check it out. My own wound actually started to develop an infection, and I had to be treated with antibiotics for a few days. After that, it healed up nicely.

  3. I have many times used steri strips, ones I bought or ones I have made from tape to pull a cut together. Works quite well, especially on children who might not be as thrilled about stitches. It is wise to have some medical supplies on hand.

  4. Good job on Amy! Hope she heals well. We have Alpacas and a few years back my husband thought maybe we should try to shear them ourselves. I was NOT onboard with this. We had professional clippers kept on hand if we ever had an emergency where we couldn't get a professional shearer out in the spring time as these little guys get heat stress and can die from it. We had help too for this event. I did shear the first two which I did a great job I thought, but my husband got a little too impatient because he thought I was moving too slow and decided he should take over. Well less than half way through with his first one he sliced open the skin on the one Alpaca's side and it must of been five inches long. Our help kind of freaked out as well as he did. Of course they look to me to fix it, but I told them I wasn't going to deal with it...which I could of..but we were calling the vet in. Just sliced that fleece-skin really well, though it did not actually get into the flesh below nor bleed. Those clippers are EXTREMELY sharp and can take the end of your finger off. Trust me! Not a tool to take lightly. So we called the vet for an emergency call and out he came shortly. He and I cleaned up the wound and he brought in a small skin stapler and we brought the skin together, stapled the sides together and it was just about perfect. Ten days later I took the little stapler removal tool and took those out and you would have almost never known he was cut. Worked beautifully. Asked the vet where I could get one and he said to check online. Amazon does have the kit and they are inexpensive. This probably isn't for every situation, but I believe it is a good thing for your emergency kit. Needless to say, my husband decided it wasn't a good thing doing the shearing and to stick with using professional shearers. Thank goodness! Hope Amy heals quickly. Look in the livestock catalogs for the needles, sutures, tools, and of course the prepping cleaning solution to use before working on a wound. You can get better pricing by far through the catalogs.

  5. Super Glue works too. Only use it to hold the skin together, Don't go down into the meat with it.

  6. Elizabeth L. Johnson said, Well, Herrick, you certainly hit on a subject dear to people's hearts! Anyway, now I have learned why a lab doesn't bark. Our last one was not a barker, and was so considerate, he wouldn't go to the bathroom in our yard, but out in the forest! He was quite a lover! I've heard domestic animals are scientifically called nephish = with a soul = they develop relationships. Bless Amy's heart! Our household has surgical instruments for the apocolypse, shall we say. My husband has done such things when he was a house parent at a boys ranch on Lake Tenkiller, Oklahoma. Takes some kind of bravery, courage, and guts to do that. He's even been given by our general physician, hypodermics for himself to use, especially when we're on vacation and away from the doctor office. Yuck. Well, I'm off to Portland to do a girl-thing with our daughters and granddaughter to see Cirque du Soleil tomorrow night, AND get to visit with our newest grandchild, Kynnerly, nearly 3 mths old. Congratulations on your new one; beautiful photos, by the way! Expecting my billboard plastic any day now. So excited not to have to weed a bunch like I used to! Thanks for the superb Mini-bed Garden report and all the many tips!

  7. The best general purpose stitch and easiest to tie is silk. It doesn't absorb and will need to be manually removed.


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