From last week:
I’m not just a writer, today, but a very worried Mommy. My twenty-something year old Arabian horse, White Cloud, has been colicky since yesterday afternoon.
Us horse owners shudder at the spectre of colic. Statistically known to kill one out of every four horses, this sneaky malady is infamous as the leading cause of death in equines.
It was colic that took my twenty-one year old Arabian horse, Takoda, in the summer of 2007.
Often, colic can strike out of nowhere; even something as innocuous as a change in the weather can cause the symptoms of colic — pawing, nipping at the stomach or sides, restlessness and sweating, constipation, diarrhea, refusal of food and drink, rolling, or rolling violently, in the worst cases — according to wise, leathery cowboys and scientific studies, even. Outside the window, I watch the new winds blow madly. (I’d rate them a ten on the obnoxious meter. If only there were a remote for that.)
Since Cloud is fed only the best hay and is floated and wormed like clockwork, I’m left even more concerned by his gastrointestinal distress.
I await a return call from our vet. As I wait, my mind and heart race. Forget the scary query in-box — I can’t help but remember Takoda’s last night on earth, my beautiful old Arab lying on the ground with his head in my lap, his usually fresh, green breath turned dark and forboding.
There was nothing the vet could do for him except end his misery.
I stayed up with Cloudy two nights straight. It was like a throwback to the night he arrived here at Morning Star Ranch, colicky then, too, and overloaded with worms from the feedlot, where he waited to be shipped to slaughter.
The morning I first saw colic symptoms in Cloud, I’d separated him from the herd and immediately called the vet. Settled in his own corral, I could more accurately monitor his water intake and manure, which happened to be explosive diarrhea. Like a horsier version of Nancy Drew, I gathered clues to clue in the vet, who made an emergency visit to the ranch after hearing the symptoms over the phone.
(This is why, if you own horses, it’s vital to have a medical emergency fund.)
After the vet checked his vitals, Cloud was sedated; a long, clear tube was threaded down one nostril to his stomach, delivering water, psyllium and some red stuff straight into his gut. A few hours later, we administered two tubes of Biosponge (like a miracle for equine digestive issues). We also had blood drawn; it’s something I like to do yearly, especially with elderly horses.
Tonight, (or today, since it’s after 4 in the morning), Cloud is doing much better. The diarrhea is gone; the green mounds of manure he’s yielding are actually beautiful, indicative of the normal functioning of a healthy body. I hold myself back from getting my camera.
As a horse owner, I read manure like tea leaves.
Last night, I even bargained with the Universe, Kubler-Ross style. I said, Universe, you can take away all the agent requests I’ve received, and if Destiny has scheduled me to win the lottery, you can have that, too — as long as you pull White Cloud through this ordeal.
There’s nothing worse than when one of your babies is sick or hurting.
There’s an old saying. “If there’s trouble, a horse will find it.”
Cloud is doing GREAT. Since his colicky bout, our draft horse, Mr. Bean, came down with a more mild case of colic. Cloudy’s tests came back showing the presence of creosote, a compound found in our Mesquite trees.
I’ve had the poisonous plants handbook for this area ever since we put up the horse facilities, and we’re diligent about keeping the desert trimmed back from the fenceline. The only scenarios I can think of for the poisoning are:
A) Mesquite tree branches blown into the corral due to the crazy winds, which the two horses chewed.
B) Neighborhood kids feeding the horses clippings or twigs without us knowing it.
Such are the times I wish I could shrink the horses into Breyer models and set my horsey gentlemen on the knick-knack shelf overnight, while I’m sleeping.
When all is said and done, I do try to remain realistic. I have a soft spot for the older geldings headed to slaughter, and often, due to a history of neglect, or the neglect horses experience on the feedlot, (horses destined for human consumption can’t be wormed or treated, as the chemicals taint the meat), they’re also not the most likely candidates to live to be thirty years or older (a horse’s general lifespan).
I remind myself that when it’s Cloudy’s turn to gallop across the Rainbow Bridge, he’ll do so as a valued, cherished being. Many of his kind aren’t as fortunate.
Of course, the time is never right to say goodbye to the animals we love. Or at least, I haven’t come close to mastering this ability. It’s quite a dichotomy — everything contains its opposite, and for life, that’s death. We can’t have the love and joy we receive from our four-legged family members without one day facing that dreaded goodbye.
As a writer and in a spiritual sense, you might say I’m fascinated with death. All writers, including the greats, have a handful of themes that run through their work. Mine is death. It’s another dichotomy when you consider the fact that:
A) I’m the opposite of dark.
B) Having fun with or exploring the death theme in my writing is night-and-day different from facing it in real life.
Every evening, after I bleach-mop the sanctuary room before bringing the dogs in for the night, I put down layers of newspaper in the corner in case anyone can’t hold it. And in the Universe’s strange way, often I end up stopping in my tracks because the sheet in front of me happens to be the Obituaries. I’m jolted by the faces of children and teenagers, regularly present, but even more so, I’m jolted by the view of life’s great fragility.
There’s some luck in it: those newspaper pages make it impossible to forget how lucky I am for another day, another sun, even another fake-out air-nip from a grumpy old horse. I’ve been thrilled this week to have Cloudy pin his ears at me and snake his neck per usual; good old Mr. Grumpy-Pants, back to his old, ornery self.
There’s also a gift: appreciate what you have right now — it’s all you have for certain, if even that.
But, enough lessons already.
Cloud and Peanut, saved from slaughter.
(P.S. Thank you, Universe! I did mean what I said last week, and Cloud is still doing great. But, if you could see it clear, can I keep the agents, too? I’d be much obliged.)
Wearing: NaNoWriMo 2008 WINNER t shirt
Listening to: Praise You, by Fatboy Slim
Mood: Happy, pure and simple.
Photos by Emily Murdoch (except for the one I’m in, of course).