Meet Junior!

Two weeks ago, my blog took on a very somber tone when I described BJ’s bout with colic.  At the end of the blog, I listed the ages of our farm animals and stated that, with aging pets, loss is an inevitable reality. 

Mere days after I wrote that blog, Danny and I said goodbye to Sherlock, our gray tabby, in our vet’s office.

We knew his health had been failing, and the day before we took him in, I saw evidence that his condition was deteriorating very rapidly.  Plus, I suspected that he was possibly in pain.  We waited a day to see if he would recover, and when he did not, we took him to our vet to euthanize.  We know we did the right thing, and we will miss him, but we will treasure our amazing memories of Sherlock, our “Tom Hanks” cat.

Danny and I both agreed that we needed another cat.  The perfect opportunity arose when two of our granddaughters, cousins to each other, visited our farm recently.  I first took them shopping at Orscheln (my favorite store!) where I bought them each a pair of boots (one can hardly visit a farm without proper boots!), then it was on to the Humane Society to shop for a new cat.

Unfortunately, there were far too many from which to choose.  As much as I wanted another cat, nothing would have pleased me more than to have them tell me, “Oh, so sorry! All of our cats have already been adopted!”  That wasn’t the case.

I told the girls that I didn’t want a newly-weaned kitten.  Instead, I wanted a youthful cat, but one old enough and smart enough to protect itself against wild animals should it wander into our pastures.

As we strolled down the aisle, looking into each cage, both girls were immediately intrigued by the same cat – a butterscotch yellow tabby with white socks.  He was keenly aware of us, and appeared quite playful as he stuck his paw through the cage door.

“I want this one!” they both exclaimed.

I too, thought he was not only very pretty, but his personality seemed quite friendly and playful. 

“Let me see what his name is,” I told them as I flipped over the card on his cage.

“Sherlock?!! Are you kidding me?!” I exclaimed.

There was another woman in the room with her daughter, also looking at the cats.  She stared at me with obvious confusion at my reaction to his name.

I quickly explained.  “We just recently lost a cat.  His name was Sherlock.”  She smiled and nodded in understanding.

I turned to my granddaughters.  “Girls, I think it was meant to be.”

When Danny met him, he too fell in love with our newest family member, but hesitated at calling him “Sherlock”.  I agreed.  Somehow, we both felt that our other Sherlock, the one we buried, deserved that identity.  Yet fathers and sons were given the same name all the time.  How did they avoid confusion?

“Let’s call him Junior!” I told Danny.

So, what kind of a cat will Junior be?  This much I know:  he is playful,

loves people, and the dogs, but is cautious around the horses.  (That’s a good thing.  I don’t want him stomped on.)

He has also shied away from Simba.  (Who doesn’t?!)

As far as being a mouser, the jury is still out.  He caught this mouse, played with it awhile…

…and then let it go.

Sigh.

(We met Sherlock Sr. in the May chapter of my third book, The Return to the Family Farm)

Next Week: Hay there!

No Humor Today

If you’ve been reading my blog regularly – thank you.  If the reason you read it is because you enjoy my sense of humor – thank you again.  It is to you faithful readers, that I wish to apologize in advance.  For there is no humor in today’s blog.  There was simply none for me to find.

I could have lost BJ last week.  BJ, my youngest horse, my corral clown, my hat-stealer.  That BJ.

There is no single word that strikes fear in the heart of any horse owner more quickly than the word “colic”.  To most people, that word conjures up images of crying infants and sleepy, distraught parents.  To far too many horse owners, it means death.

When I was eighteen, my family lost a yearling to colic.  Arapahoe was born to our mare Strawberry, who we had raised from a foal.  Arapahoe was a member of our farm family, and we were all heartbroken.

Eleven years ago, Danny and I lost Pokey to colic.  Pokey was a sweet-tempered pony loved by everyone who knew her.  I still treasure the crayon-drawn sympathy cards sent by some of the young children who mourned her loss with me.

So, you see, my knowledge of colic is personal, and my fears are not unwarranted.

Unlike dogs, cats and humans, horses cannot vomit.  When a dog or cat has an upset stomach, they can vomit and relieve their own discomfort.  Since a horse cannot do that, the offending substance must pass through the entire intestinal tract in order to bring relief.  If there is gaseous build-up along the way, or if the intestine becomes blocked, the situation can become very serious, very quickly.  When a horse is experiencing colic, they have a tendency to roll and twist their bodies on the ground, trying to relieve their pain.  Unfortunately, this can lead to the intestines twisting and closing off the offending material.  When that happens, gas continues to build, creating more pain. If caught soon enough, emergency surgery can save the horse.  If not, it inevitably leads to death. 

It is imperative that a horse experiencing colic not be allowed to roll.

It was right about noon.  I was washing my hands at the kitchen sink when I glanced out the window and saw all three of my horses grazing.  Suddenly, BJ lifted his head and began trotting circles around the other two.  At first, I thought he saw something – maybe a deer – that excited him.  But the others kept grazing.  Then he began running more erratically, kicking out behind him with his hind legs.  Although his behavior was quite unusual, I still thought he was just being playful.  It was only after I saw him turn his head and bite at his own sides, that I understood.  He was in pain.

I immediately went outside and watched him more closely from the pasture fence.  I had not called to him, but when he saw me, he immediately came running toward me.  It was a very cool day, but as he ran past me, I could see that he had broken out in a sweat.

Suddenly he stopped, dropped to his front knees, and began to roll onto his side.

“No BJ!” I yelled as I shimmied through the rails of the pasture fence.  As I ran towards him, waving my arms and yelling, “Get up! Get up!” he lifted his head off the ground to look at me.  He got back up onto his feet as I approached him.  I had no rope, nothing but my hands, but I hoped he would follow me to the barn.  He did.  I truly believe he knew I was trying to help him.

As we hurriedly walked together to the barn, I pulled out my cell phone and called my vet’s office.  When the receptionist heard that BJ had colic, she understood the emergency and promised that a vet would leave immediately.  It’s about a twenty-five-minute drive to our farm.

I put a halter and lead rope on BJ and we began to walk.  Walk to help relieve symptoms, walk to keep his blood flowing and intestines working, walk to keep him from rolling. 

By this time, both BB and Zip had responded to BJ’s predicament, and both came running to the barn as well.  BB walked beside us, and periodically nickered softly to BJ.  She did not interfere, but she also did not leave our sides.  I truly believe that she, too, knew that I was trying to help BJ.  Zip stood a distance away, but watched every move we made, also nickering periodically.

I could tell that BJ was in intense pain.  He was sweating more profusely and his eyes were wide with terror.  Several times, he attempted to drop to his knees, and I knew he wanted to roll.  Somehow, I managed to keep him on his feet and walking.  Several times, he bit at his sides, as if the monster attacking him and causing such pain could be crushed by rolling, or scared away by biting.

Twelve minutes had passed since my first phone call to the vet.  I called again. 

“Has he left yet?” I asked. 

“Yes,” she reassured me.  “He should be there very soon.”  We kept walking.

About fifteen minutes later, I saw the vet’s pickup truck turn onto our farm’s driveway.  I had walked BJ, with BB walking beside us, for the entire thirty minutes.

The vet gave BJ two shots, one to relax him, and one to aid his digestion.  The effect was almost immediate.  He stopped biting his sides.  His sweating lessened.  His eyes looked more normal.  His muscles relaxed.

And then he pooped.

The vet stayed about twenty minutes longer, just to be sure that he would not relapse, but the crisis was over.  At least it was for BJ.

For me, the repercussions lasted a bit longer.  What if I hadn’t looked out the kitchen window when I did?  What if I had gone to town to get groceries?  What if…?

The reality is, when you open your heart to love, you also open it to the pain of loss.  The two are inseparable.  With three horses aged 20, 17 and 10, two dogs aged nine, two cats aged twelve, and two rabbits aged seven, there will be losses.  And it will be painful.

But I would rather live a life filled with love and loss, than no love at all.

(There is a photo of Arapahoe with Strawberry in the July – The Filly chapter of my first book, A Year on the Family Farm andI talk about Pokey in the February chapter of my third book, The Return to the Family Farm.)

Next Week:  Be Careful What You Wish For