While most of my latest riding and horse adventures are with Ike, his older brother Cigar still likes to keep me on my toes. Ike is sugar and spice and everything nice. Cigar is piss and vinegar and, even at the age of 20, has enough chutzpah to give the most hardened New Yorker a run for their money. But it is some yet-to-be-identified microorganisms that are currently challenging his hardy constitution.
It all started last Thursday with an early morning call about Cigar’s leg looking like an overstuffed leg of lamb with a fever of 103 degrees. Our vet is out on medical leave, so we called Ms. C’s vet who kindly agreed to take on the case. She arrived at the farm before I did and had already administered some banamine to give Cigar some relief from the pain. Unfortunately the diagnosis was lymphangitis. From what I have been able to tell, it is a difficult condition to treat, it can take weeks to resolve, and the prognosis in many cases is guarded.
The past week has been a blur of twice daily trips to the barn, cold hosing, sore cleaning, pill grinding, syringes and needles, and praying. I have had to face my fear of needles and put on my ass-kicking boots to give daily shots of antibiotics (33 mLs of liquid split into 3 doses in 3 spots). I had to remove sutures and a catheter that Cigar objected to having in his neck. I have had to control my gag reflex as I cleaned the nasty looking sores on his leg. Worst of all, I have had to face my worst fear of saying the final goodbye.
It is anguishing to have to look down that rabbit hole. You worry that you are too hasty. You worry that you will wait too long and your friend will suffer. You wonder what last ditch drug or procedure can save your horse. Your eyes leak until there are no more tears to fall. Where will be his final resting place?
On Wednesday, we were worried about Cigar’s leg and hoof. The entire coronet band was engaged in an epic battle with the microbes.
There were real concerns that the hoof was separating from the leg. Dr. E consulted with Dr. C and they recommended x-rays for the hoof and leg. I agreed since it would confirm or assuage our fears. While Dr. E went to retrieve the x-ray equipment, Cigar peacefully grazed. It was gut wrenching to realize that these could be his last hours. At least he would never know the anguishing pain.
Dr. E returned with the equipment with Dr. C right behind her to help and give a second opinion. Cigar tried his best to be cooperative for most of the images, but he did drag me out of the barn at one point, and I like to think that it was his way of telling me that he was not yet ready to cry, “Uncle!” Thankfully the x-rays confirmed no separation or other mitigating issues.
Yesterday, Cigar tried to kick Ms. C with the infected leg and then gave a valiant attempt to trot away from us to avoid the bute paste in his mouth. He then wouldn’t keep his head and neck still for his antibiotic injections. (Can’t say that I blame him since his neck has been a pin cushion for 8 straight days…) For those who don’t know Cigar that well, all of these are very normal behaviors for him. Cooperation is not his strong suit. “No” is his go to position.
The return of his headstrong personality gives me hope. This is the time of year to give thanks and feel blessed for the people and animals in our life. I am eternally grateful that my old man will be with us for the foreseeable future.