I have been up to my eyeballs in special care for Bruno this last week. He had his big heartworm treatment: a shot on Tuesday and then another on Wednesday. I thought that I would catch up with the horses while the little guy spent those days at the vet under observation, but Bruno had other plans. No sooner had I returned home on that first day when the call came to come get him. Bruno was distressed, even with sedation. The vet concluded that keeping him calm overrode the safety of having him under medical observation, so home he came.
I was so worried about him! He was sore and restless and wanted proximity. If I wasn’t in view, he cried in distress. My two days of freedom became two days of intense togetherness in a very small radius.
Now, I don’t mind that this is what he needed. I love that he wanted me and that I was of comfort to him. No, I am telling you this because I understand that it played a part in what happened next. In a few days, when he was feeling better, I figured he could handle a little down time in his crate while I dashed down to the barn for morning chores. He was in his crate while we were together, no issue. What could go wrong?
I heard the barking first. It didn’t register right off because it was muffled by the sounds of the horses and activity down at the barn. It wasn’t so much barking as the high-pitched keening of a dog in deep distress which caused me to bolt back up to the house to find Bruno with his jaws locked around the bars of his cage, all wild-eyed and fierce. I soothed him and rocked him in my arms, apologizing. Then I saw the damage he had done: three metal bars pulled from their welding and bent perpendicular and I sobbed.
First, I want to be a good wife to that saint of a man, Gordy, but right after that, I want to be a good partner and caretaker to my animal tribe. Being a good friend and family member is up there as well, but day-to-day, it’s my husband, the dogs, horses, and donkeys that dominate my waking attention and give measure to my sense of contribution in this world. So, let me tell you, when I screw up — as I did — it gives me the most horrible feelings of unworthiness. Bruno was not ready to be apart. I should have done a test drive, should have checked sooner. Better to risk taking him down to the barn with me than do what I did. A huge mistake.
Lesson learned, the tough way. The crate is out in the garage. Bruno is with me — tied nearby wherever I am.
He comes to the barn with me whenever I go down.
This weekend Gordy and Kim took turns being with him so I could do horsey stuff. Also, my acupuncturist let me bring him with me to my session which was very kind. This morning, I went to the grocery store and left all the dogs alone locked in the house for the first time. It went okay. I was a wreck. Still, we’ve made it through one week and every day gets better. Keep Bruno in your good thoughts. In addition to heartworm treatment, he has to put up with me.
Then, I tried to kill Auggie. That is actually what the on-call vet said to me Saturday night when he heard what happened — “so, you’re trying to kill your pony.”
Thanks, I needed that.
The weather was back and forth on Saturday and when we left to run errands, I let the horses have access to the barn in case the rain became too much for them. They were in the pasture grazing when we came home and periodic looks down their way during the afternoon showed more of the same. But I didn’t go down and feed right away. I dawdled in the sewing room, working on a new quilt project, talking with Kim, enjoying myself. I glanced out the window as I finally went to change into chore clothes to see the barn door open and Auggie in the feed area.
Auggie is a draft-type pony. It is not good for a horse, and especially a pony like Auggie, to have a sudden overload of grain. Bad things happen, things that could kill a horse. I ran to the barn like my hair was on fire. Auggie is a clever little boy, but I think I may not have fully secured the gate that keeps the feed area separate. When dinner time came and dinner didn’t happen, Auggie took matters into his own mouth, prying open the barn doors, pushing aside the gate and chewing the cover off the grain bin. When I got there, he was licking the last of the dust off the bottom. There had to have been at least ten pound of grain remaining in that bin, all of which were now in that little pony’s stomach!
Those horrible feelings again — I am the worst horse-mom in the Universe. How could I let this happen? I know that Auggie is clever; I should have upped my game in securing things. Why didn’t I go feed when I was supposed to, when they were looking for it? Terrible mistakes.
We were lucky. There was a back-up vet already in the area and she was at the farm in 20 minutes. She spent nearly three hours refluxing Mr. Auggie, methodically pumping water in and siphoning his stomach contents back out through a tube passed up his nose into his stomach.
None of that was pleasant. He was a trooper, but also absolutely unrepentant for his opportunistic deeds, sometimes smacking his lips at the smell of the grain slurry that passed out into the bucket below.
For the next three days, Auggie was on full watch, with twice daily doses of anti-inflammatories and frequent feet icings.
Now, the risk of colic or laminitis (which injures their feet) is over and Auggie is giddy with all of the attention he has been receiving. I spent the day on Sunday rearranging the barn. The grain now has a home behind closed doors, under a metal barrier in the tack room. Lessons learned.
No one died. That’s the important thing. I made mistakes, but no one died. Bad things can and do happen though and I am very humbled by thoughts of those alternative scenarios. Please know that I am always seeking to do better, to be better. For them.
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