Why? Just… why?

I am not into “cat think” yet, unlike people in the cat litter marketing video I’ve watched about ten times.

I try. Take today for instance. I imagined I had run around outside chasing things, getting tired, perhaps tasting raw frog or feathers. Then I came inside and took a nap in a really warm room for hours, perhaps a little mouth breathing. I wake up and I imagine I’m getting really thirsty.

Why would I walk past this

And do this instead?

Why? Why?

Watching and Waiting: Part 1

Watching and waiting for Matthew…

The worst thing about this hurricane, so far, has been making the decisions about where to go, whether to evacuate, where is the safest place if we stay? The decisions develop and change with time as there is always something new to consider. Second guessing is a constant temptation.

Tuesday:  I arrived a bit before noon and met Dr. Julia on her rounds. She had the dog with her so I had to share the passenger seat with a black lab.  We made a stop at the office and at the stable to drop off the dog. It seems that a lot of people don’t think about updating the vaccinations and Coggins on their horses until they have to consider evacuating them out of state. She has numerous emergency visits just to do health certificates.

Nearly all of Julia’s belongings are stored in a large metal storage unit. She goes down a couple times a week to look for something she needs and today she needs canned goods. We are more than a little upset to find out that a leak we reported two weeks ago is still leaking. I drive up to the office to let them know and return with their solution – a 50 gallon garbage can to collect the water.

We stop at Moe’s to buy dinner for ourselves and a friend and then return to the stable where nervous horse girls are painting phone numbers on their horse’s sides.  Our friend Doug eats burritos with us and says he’s not worried about the hurricane.  He seems to be very confident.

Wednesday night: After riding around seeing clients for most of the day, Dr. Julia started thinking about and questioning her employer as to her obligation to answer emergency calls during hurricane weather. After all, as she reasoned, she isn’t a government employee, doesn’t have fancy lights and sirens on her vehicle, might encounter impassable roads, might not be able to find fuel after the first tank, and doesn’t even have health or life insurance. She cancelled her Thursday appointments and will be talking people through their emergencies if they can reach her by phone. No one has complained. Evidently people have better things to do right now.

The husband has been texting us often, as he thinks of things we should be doing. He has suggested several places for us to evacuate to, and for some reason that I can’t fathom, is worried about us getting our laundry done.

I made a trip to the gas station to fill up the tank and find out why my tire pressure monitor was misbehaving. It was busy there. The Publix next door was doing good business too – every cash register was manned, the bottled water was gone, as was the bread.

Thursday:  We slept pretty good Wednesday night, knowing we had until sometime Friday to figure out what to do. We are in a small apartment in a stable, next to the feed room. Across the aisle from us are several stalls with horses. The barn cats are guarding the door. Inside the one room abode, Julia houses herself, her dog and two cats.  The barn is about fifty years old and has weathered one hurricane pretty well. It is open on each end which allows the wind to go through unimpeded. It has a metal roof and as far as anyone knows, there is only one leak above the apartment which is covered with a tarp weighted down with huge chunks of log. To me, the place feels pretty sturdy. There aren’t any big trees around to fall on it. I would consider riding out the storm here, even though the tarp will probably blow off and we might have some leaks. We have buckets.

Julia has joined a gym close to the barn partly for exercise, and definitely so that she can have a place to shower. That is her first mission for the day. We split up and I go to the post office for her and to Sam’s Club. I need to buy Half n Half because we can’t stand the thought of several days in storm confinement without cream for our coffee.

Another trip to the storage room, and there is good news. A repair has been made and the roof is no longer leaking in that spot. The bad news is that Julia discovers a new leak and we try to figure out how to move her bookcase to safety. We have come for hurricane supplies – a transistor radio and batteries, candles, toilet paper and vodka.

Today we spend quite a bit of time watching tv.  We check in on the hurricane but most of the time we   watch HGTV, Flip or Flop. We are both a little short on rest and can hardly stay awake.  The hurricane has not reached us yet but it has been raining almost constantly, sometimes very hard, with wind. I check on the horses who are standing, soaked in rain, grazing as if nothing is happening.   We have decided that it’s best to leave the horses loose in the pasture as a herd.  I finally go out to help feed them and have to wade through a sea of rainwater. Their feed turns into mash in the trough.

We are getting offers of shelter. The people who own the stable have invited us over.  Their house is surrounded by huge trees. In fact, the last time I visited during a storm, a big limb fell off one of their trees and trapped our vehicle in their back field. We also have an offer from a friend who has a nice new house, right on the marsh of the river. He’s in zone A for evacuation. HE SHOULD BE LEAVING so what’s with that?! Dr. Julia doesn’t want to leave her own animals, even though she knows the priorities of the situation.  The husband is still texting us that we should leave. He is reminding me of a Cat 1 storm that devastated a nearby town years ago, and this is a Cat 3 scheduled to go right over us.  We consider again and pray about it, knowing that it still seems best to stay where we are. We ask God to change our minds if he needs us to do something different. And we ask for peace for our family and ourselves.

Before we turn in for the night, we pull our vehicles into the barn and load some things in them. In the morning we’ll head over to Cliff and Monica’s to spend the day and night during the worst part of the storm.  We fall asleep watching the weather report.

My Daughter’s Horse and I

A visual sequence that brings good times and a great horse to mind…

Ghost want to go for a ride? No? This looks like a belt and I think I need it to be tight. Don’t be holding your breath now…
Yeah, I’m on. Nice horsey, you knew that was going to happen so don’t act all surprised. Nice horsey, let’s go.
Round and round the track we go – you lift your feet so pretty and I haven’t fallen off. We’re good.
We are so cool, and I am still firmly in the saddle. Let’s keep it that way, thanks.
You are so pretty and white. I am red and blue. We look so red, white and blue together. I make you look good, don’t I? Smile for the camera please.
Good ride Ghost. Now let’s get back to the barn before something bad happens…
Whaaa!!! Getting off is supposed to be the easy part! Gimme my shirt back!
That was embarrassing. I’m outta here. Don’t pretend you’re sad.

I really do have fun riding and am not quite as fall phobic as I make myself out to be. And Ghost was always a good horse. RIP 5-11-2016

Weekend on Call: episode 1

I have a talented daughter who is an equine veterinarian.  Although I am a registered nurse for people, she occasionally allows me to ride on calls with her as she treats animals. We have adventures. I call myself VetMa. (OK,  it’s a bit dramatic. So what?)

It was Thursday evening, the first of the long weekend on call.  It was getting dark. As often happens two emergency calls came in at the same time, but this time the triage decision was easy.  The horse with the eye laceration would have to wait, because the one with the heel bulb laceration would not.  The heel bulb is the area directly above the hoof of the horse and in this case, the owners reported fairly heavy bleeding. An artery had likely been severed.

The horse was standing in the driveway surrounded by a small crowd of people.  A blood soaked wrap was around it’s left front hoof and ankle.  It became apparent that there was no lighted barn in which to care for the horse, not even a floodlight over the drive so cars were pointed with headlights shining on the horse.

Almost all work done on large animals that involves pain, requires some degree of sedation and although this patient was standing fairly quietly, he would definitely need something for the treatment ahead.  Just like people, animals respond differently to sedatives. The doc estimated the animal’s weight and gave a starting dose before cleaning the wound. As it began to take effect, the bandage was removed.

Lacerations in this area are always going to be contaminated and prone to infection. This one was in the fleshy area in the back of the bulb and there were arteries involved.  Just cleaning and examining the area was difficult – a tranquilized horse has trouble standing on three legs so holding it’s leg up in a convenient position proved impossible. Our doc decided to let the horse stand on all four while she worked. That meant working in an unexplainable position close to the ground, nearly under the horse, in the dark with flashlights to guide the way.

The perfect conditions and position for suturing, not.

The area around the laceration was blocked with local anesthetic and scrubbed clean. As the horse shifted its weight the laceration would open and close, each time making the small arterial bleeders spurt blood. It was difficult to see where to tie them off, but little by little the laceration was closed and the bleeding stopped.

While the tranquilizer was still in effect, the doc wrapped the ankle in batting and layers of gauze. A fiberglass cast was applied like a small boot to protect the area and allow the horse to stand and move while the cut healed. As the crowd dispersed, the doc gave instructions for care and dispensed antibiotics (and stretched her aching back).

All fixed up with a small boot cast.

It was back in the truck and on to the next call.  Fortunately, the horse with the eye laceration was at an equine event where they had found another vet who was a participant. He was willing to stitch up the laceration so we went home, hoping for a quiet night.

What is it with girls and horses?

What is it with girls and horses? There is an affinity there that becomes so obvious from a veterinarian’s perspective, especially when the veterinarian is also a female.  I’ve been riding around in the vetmobile for a few days and it always gives me some unique character studies to write about, some experiences with blood and manure, and a lot of hours sitting in the truck. But, girls and horses first…

Today we made a call for some routine immunizations and dental work. There were three horses, two women and a toddler.  It was the mom and her baby girl that were most interesting to watch.  If there was such a thing as a stereotype horsegirl, this gal would win the title for sure. Cute little thing (the mom), slender, tight jeans with bling on the pockets, western boots, big smile and horse, horse, horse in her talk.  Both ladies took in horses as rescue projects, whether they could afford it or not.

Mom was evidently teaching her little girl to be at ease around big animals and at the same time trying not to let her walk under the horses or get near their feet. She was more than busy running after the child and keeping her away from the dental tools, the antiseptic bucket, the vet truck and the yard gate while still keeping her fairly happy. Was she frazzled, upset with the child or feeling sorry for herself? No. She was relaxed, calm and equally loving her mother role and her horse girl role.

All these horse girls talk about rain rot, cleaning sheaths, varying consistencies of manure, multiple kinds of horse feed, supplements and medicines like it was second nature and the most interesting stuff in the world. They love to watch Dr. Julia work and to ask her questions. And more than once this week I’ve heard something like “this old horse has been with me for __ number of years so I’m going to take good care of him now”. And they say it when they’re looking at a pretty hefty bill for meds and services.

Dr. Julia and an associate vet performed surgery in the field one day. There were two procedures needing to be done and only a short window of time in which to do them before the anesthetic wore off. One doc took the castration and the other, the hernia repair. It’s interesting how you get a horse to lie down on the ground with his feet in the air.

Yes, they have to be pretty sleepy to lie in such an undignified posture.

The two vets both went to the next client as well. This horse had an interesting procedure done. It was blind from glaucoma in one eye. In cases like this, pressure continues to increase in the eye and it can become painful, and even rupture. It is better to remove the eye, and that’s what they did. Not fun to watch, lots of blood, no pictures. You’re welcome.

Two days worth of clients.  All the horses were owned and attended to by women. That is not to say that men aren’t involved, but they seem more content to provide the finances, build the barns and fences and then let the women actually touch the horses.  So what is it with women and horses? Didn’t it used to be the cowboy that was in love with his horse?

As usual, visiting Dr. Julia gives me time with Tess the dog and her sidekick cat-with-no-name.  Every morning when I let Tess out, she sits for a moment on the top step and surveys her yard.  The cat comes and joins her.  I didn’t catch it in the photo but I often see them both staring out with their backs turned toward the door, like two old friends on the porch. It’s beautiful.

Old friends meet in the morning…

A Simple Way to Effectively Ruin Your Vet’s Schedule

One of this days
One of this days “added” patients, up and about after surgery.

Having spent a few days with Jacksonville Equine veterinarian Dr. Dietz, I noticed a trend in her business. It goes something like this:

“Hey doc, while you’re here would you mind doing a Coggins on my horse. I just live next door. It will only take a minute…”

Well, as long as you’re here go ahead and float my horse’s teeth if it needs to be done…”

“As long as we knew you were coming, my sister brought her horses over too. Could you vaccinate them as well…”

“Hey, as long as you’re here, do you have time to castrate a goat, or maybe all three of them?”

Several days with only a few known appointments have turned out to be considerably longer days than expected. Some days this is good. Others, not so much. It can be a scheduling nightmare. However, Dr. J is getting good at upselling her services and rarely turns anyone down. Because farms are often far apart it is much easier to do more work in one location and apologize to the next client for being a bit late, than to come back later. The “while you’re here” conversation usually means a savings of time for her and is welcomed.

My unusual experience on this trip was the procedure on the three goats. I’m not going into details here but in general, she is good with the knife and it didn’t take very long at all. One was awake and walking around by the time we left, the other two were still sleeping off the anesthesia. Goats snore.

No, not dead - just sleeping it off, and snoring.
No, not dead – just sleeping it off, and snoring.

The five days I spent in Jacksonville were sunny and beautifully temperate which is different from our usual rainy weekends there. The farms we visited were green grassed and clean. Our own horses were looking sleek and shiny and their pasture was dry, not a sea of mud. I could imagine it being a good place for Dr. J to live and practice.