Friday, June 17, 2011

Update on Zorro-- A Visit with the Vet

I didn't get much sleep last night. I spent most of it tossing and turning, worrying about Zorro, and trying to figure out how to get him to the vet.

At 11:00pm, I tiptoed into the mudroom for one last check on him. The bits of dry food I'd placed on his bed earlier were still there. Clearly, he wasn't feeling well. The "normal" Zorro never leaves a scrap of food behind. He barely stirs as I stroke and brush his hair and search for any injuries I might have missed. When I reach his left hind leg, it feels as though bubbles are popping underneath my fingers. It feels like rice-crispies. I start palpating his leg and searching for a cuts, scratches or swellings in that area. I find what I think may be another puncture wound, but Zorro starts growling and squirming in his bed, so I decide to leave him alone for the night.

Friday June 17th

I turn off my alarm and drag my weary self out from under the duvet. I head straight for the mudroom. I don't think Zorro's injuries were life threatening, but I'm a worrier and I'm a bit afraid of what I might find on the other side of the door. Thankfully, when I open it, he's there, curled up in his bed, his rib cage rising and falling with every breath. The kibbles are gone and his water dish is empty. He purrs as I stroke his fur. Unfortunately, his leg still has that rice-crispies feel.

I leave Zorro and rush through my barn chores. By 7:30 I'm showered and ready to head to work. But first, I plan to stop at the vet's office and drop off the patient. They told me on the phone last night that I'd have to be there with Zorro for them to examine him, but of course I can't be, because I work. Surely though, if I show up with him, they'll take him and care for him-- for a fee of course. If they won't, then I figure I'll bring him to work with me, and take him to the Truro clinic on my lunch break. It's not a great plan, but if I don't get him antibiotics today, then I'll likely have to pay for an emergency call on the weekend, or wait until Monday.

I open the door to the cat-carrier and Zorro obligingly limps inside, where he curls up contentedly until the truck starts moving. Then he yowls at top volume for the entire 25 minute drive. Finally we arrive at the vet's, just as they're opening for the day. I gently maneuver the loaded cat-carrier through the front doors, then I announce that I don't have an appointment, but I do have an injured cat, and a dilemma.

The woman behind the desk (Kelly, I believe), recognizes me (sadly, I come here a lot). She has me sign a form, then tells me to go ahead and leave him, they'll make sure he is taken care of, and they'll call me with any questions or instructions.


I call the vet to see whether Zorro is ok. He is, and they've given him a long-acting antibiotic so I won't have to force daily doses of medicine down his throat.


Kelly rings up my bill as another girl brings Zorro out to me. They tell me he was pretty easy to work with. I'm not surprised. He never once tried to scratch or bite me last night, despite my poking and prodding. The vet rounds the corner and I ask whether she found the source of the "rice-crispies" on Zorro's hind leg. She gives me a blank look. "His hind leg? I must have missed that." The younger assistant pipes up: "no, we didn't find anything, but remember, he was the cat that didn't like us to touch his hind legs" (now to me, this would be a cue that there might be something wrong with his hind legs, but that's just me). "Well," says the vet, "bring him back here, lets take another quick look." Then she looks at me "this is why we like owners to be here when the animals are examined." Point taken.

A few minutes later, and I'm holding Zorro's cat carrier again. They found puncture wounds on each of his hind legs. They tell me the antibiotics should take care of them. It's time to take him home.

Zorro still spends much of his time in bed, but he has done some mudroom exploring, and he definitely has his appetite back. So, hopefully after a few more days inside, he'll be fine. I just worry that this all might happen again. Before leaving the vet's office, I asked whether there was anything I could do to deter the Tom cat from picking anymore fights. Kelly said no, but she told me that if I'm sure he's a stray, I can bring him in and they'll euthanize him for me. I just don't think that I can bring myself to do that though.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Vet-Bill" lives up to his Nickname

We'd only had Zorro for a month or so when Dave nick-named him "Vet-Bill". That was mostly because of the heart-stopping way he'd dash and weave between the horses' hooves. It seems our lovable barn cat will live up to that name, though in this case the horses can't be blamed.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It's 8:00pm and I'm just getting home from work. Dave's away on his annual golf trip with the guys, so the horses have yet to be fed. Jaava whinnies from her paddock as I lower myself from the cab of the truck. But, before I head to the barn, I run into the house to get changed and let out the dog. Looking back, I should have known then that something was wrong.

Muscade greets me with her usual exuberance, and once I throw on some already-dirty clothes, she follows me happily out to the barn. Lilly meets us halfway, meowing with her gravely, lounge-singer voice. I find it odd that she seems so relaxed, so willing to be out in the open. Usually she's on a constant look-out for Zorro and his relentless, though generally harmless attacks. But still, it's not until I'm in the feedroom, scooping out the cat food that it dawns on me that something must really be wrong.

I have the lid off the cat-food container and Zorro's not here. I rattle the food. He's still not here. Zorro has never, ever missed a meal. And now that I think about it, he's always, ALWAYS outside to greet us when we pull into the driveway. It's a reasonably nice evening, and I'm about an hour later than usual, so I think that perhaps he's out hunting--though I'm definitely starting to feel anxious.

Moments later, I open the door to the tackroom (where Lilly eats), and I'm relieved to see him standing in the back corner. My relief doesn't last long though. Instead of making a dash for Lilly's food, he creeps cautiously out of the room. He's clearly limping. His ear is partially flopped over, and there's a tiny hole in it. Across his back, there are many loose clumps of fur. The white of his tuxedo is matted with blood. He drags himself to the feedroom, and instead of leaping with his usual agile exuberance onto the washing machine (which doubles as his food station), he sits at the base of it, looks pitifully at me, and meows mournfully. I gingerly pick him up and gently place him on top of the machine. I fill his dish. Normally, he shoves his nose greedily into the bowl and licks it clean in seconds. Not tonight. Tonight he eats slowly, one piece of dry food at a time.

I leave Zorro momentarily to tend to the stomping, whinnying horses. I hurl grain into their feed tubs, then I pick up my beloved barn cat and whisk him into the house. I lock him in the mudroom to keep him away from Ruffles. I can't clean him up yet, I have a few more barn chores to do first, but I do call the vet. A young-sounding girl (with a voice I don't recognize) answers the phone. I tell her about Zorro. I tell her I'd like to bring him in the morning, and ask whether I should give him some pain killers (metacam) which I have on hand. She covers the receiver and has a muffled conversation with someone else in the office. She comes back on the line to tell me that I shouldn't give him metacam because it will limit what the vets can do in the morning. She also tells me I can have an appointment first thing at 9:00am if I like.

Unfortunately, I have to be at work in Truro (30 minutes from the vet clinic) at 8:45am. I ask whether I can just drop Zorro off (though I'd much prefer to be there with him). She covers the receiver and I once again catch snippets of muffled conversation. When her voice returns with clarity, she tells me that I have to be with the cat when he's examined. "But I have to work" I say. She tells me I can have an appointment at 2:45 in the afternoon if that's any better-- it's not, I work until 4pm. She tells me I can bring him into the emergency after-hours clinic tonight. I thank her politely and tell her I'll clean him up myself.

9:30 pm

I've finished my barn chores and eaten some supper. All the while, Zorro has been curled up in his bed in the mud room. It's finally time to take a closer look at his wounds. I place a dish of water in his bed, beside his head. He takes one sniff then laps up about a 1/4 cup without ever getting to his feet. I set the dish aside so he doesn't get sick from drinking too much. As he lies there, I brush his dull, ratty-looking coat. He tentatively begins to purr. There's a clump of dirt matted into his back. Judging by the smell, I'd say it's vomit. I put down the brush and dip some gauze into a warm prepodyne solution. I sponge the bloodied hair on the right side of his chest until finally I find the wounds: a deep puncture and a less worrisome laceration. Zorro's purr turns into a menacing growl, but he doesn't actually make any attempt to stop me as I cut away the hair closest to the wounds. I curse Tomlin, as the wandering, homeless tom cat is my prime suspect in this attack. He and Zorro have been sparring almost daily lately and their encounters have been getting more and more violent, despite my frequent attempts to frighten Tomlin away

After I'm done with Zorro, he drinks more water, then begins licking his wounds. He's definitely going to need antibiotics. So, one way or another, I'm going to have to find a way to get him to the vet tomorrow.

Monday, June 13, 2011

"Ponying" the Pony

My goal is to ride all three horses at least three times a week. Ideally, I'd like to ride them all four times a week, but between my work schedule and the nasty weather we've been having, that just seems a bit unrealistic.

The one who suffers most from my lack of time is Jaava. I ride Murray to keep the "old guy's" lungs opened up and his arthritis at bay. I ride Maggie to keep her quiet and workable for Dave. Then, if I have time, I ride Jaava. I really enjoy riding her, but I'm a bit big for her stubby pony legs, so I don't like to work her too hard under-saddle (at least that's my excuse). However, when I saw her waddle in from the pasture the other day, I realized she needs more exercise. I vowed to either lunge or ride her every day...even if it's just for 20 minutes.

Saturday June 11, 2011

It's a warm, sunny, Saturday evening. I worked all day, and am now putting the rest of my energy to use riding Maggie. I didn't lunge Jaava this morning, and it will probably be almost dark by the time I get Maggie put away. I start to feel guilty. It was just yesterday that I vowed to give "the pony" more exercise.

As Maggie and I serpentine around the ring at a trot, my mind drifts, and I try to think of ways to make more time for Jaava. Then, I get an idea.

I yell up to Dave who's puttering about in his workshop. I ask him to catch Jaava in the pasture, and bring her down to the riding ring. It's almost supper time and Jaava thinks she's coming in for her evening meal. She seems a little bewildered though when Dave turns her down the hill toward Maggie and me.

Dave leads Jaava up to where Maggie and I are standing in the centre of the ring. Maggie nickers softly and turns her head to nuzzle the pony's nose. Jaava gives a short sniff in response, then turns her head to look up at me. She's likely trying to figure out what's going on. I reach down and take the leadline from Dave's hand. I hold it in my right hand, along with my right rein, and I nudge Maggie with my legs. She moves forward obligingly and I hope the pony will follow. The lead line tightens and Jaava startles a bit as she's tugged forward alongside of Maggie.

We walk like this for a minute or so, then I tell Maggie to "whoa". Both she and Jaava instantly come to a halt. I'd forgotten how well Jaava listens to voice commands. I prepare for us to walk forward again, but this time I say "walk on" out loud so Jaava will know what to expect and won't be unwittingly dragged forward like she was the first time.

We do a few more walk-halt transitions together, along with some turns and circles. The "girls" seem to be getting the hang of this side-by-side routine, so I figure it's time to step it up a notch. I cluck my tongue and say "t-rot" in the same sing-songy voice I use when I'm lunging them. Jaava's hesitant, and likely a bit confused, but after a lag of a second or two (during which time Maggie picks up a trot), her pony legs propel her into the faster gait as well. She has to move at a pretty good clip to keep up with Maggie, even though she's on the inside. This will give her a workout.

After a few minutes, we've mastered this one-rider pas-de-deux, and are managing some nice walk/ trot and even trot/ halt transitions. Maggie seems thrilled to have a companion with her in the ring. Jaava, however, turns her ears sideways and slightly back, and seems thoroughly humiliated at having to trundle along in Maggie's dusty wake. I think it will be awhile before we're ready to do canter work together, but at least I'm able to spend 15-20 minutes exercising two horses at once.

Oddly enough, the one who seems most disturbed by this new training routine is Murray. With both girls in the ring, he has no one to boss around. He whinnies frantically, and, alone in his pasture, he abandons the grass and trots back and forth along the fence line that overlooks the riding ring. I'm not too worried about his behaviour though. When I think about, I guess it's good. This way I'm actually exercising all three of them at once.