Continued from Married with Horses: Rash Decisions
Ah, another beautiful day in the country. Don’t get me wrong: There’s plenty going on here. In fact, the farm’s as crazy as ever.
Our Border Collie/Afghan mix celebrated her 15th birthday by forgetting how to sleep and by losing what little remained of her hearing. Now we don’t know if she has forgotten her own name or just can’t hear us when we call her. She hasn’t had to wear diapers lately, but we have a new issue. Kit has a new nocturnal routine that mixes manic barking and howling with sprinting about the house. This has necessitated her sleeping in the tack room some nights.
Of course, we tried all the canine-friendly, slumber-inducing medications to calm her down. Nothing worked–in fact, valium only made her more manic. (That was a fun night!) So on the tack room floor we lay out several fleece coolers and saddle pads beside a bucket of water, and she happily lays down. This routine will work until winter comes. Then we’ll have to get creative or find some better earplugs. I hope I’m half as lively as Kit when I’m 105 years old.
Our indoor, chubby tuxedo cat, Jack, has been busy perfecting his flopping. He’s convinced that a properly executed flop/meow combination will result in a 30 percent rise in his cuteness and a 15 percent increase in tuna-flavored treats awarded for said cuteness. Jack’s been tracking his success and popularity with constant flopping and public polling. I respect his determination, but I told him I wouldn’t vote for him if he kept calling us at dinner time.
Our barn cats, Macy and Sascha, have constant headaches, or so they tell me. A group of catbirds have settled in a nearby grove. Their calls and cries can be heard up and down the road as they take turns pecking the heads of area cats.
Our outdoor sentry dog, Hazel, has begun her latest beautification project. She is taking time off from eating manure to ramp up her campaign to reduce the neighborhood’s glut of unsightly road kill. She’s very dedicated to her cause, but I had to tell her she was grossing everybody out. Then Hazel informed me how much dog food we could save. I handed her a bib and a fork.
After checking in with our feline and canine children, I walked cautiously to the barn. I took great care not to cross paths with any poisonous snakes or biting or stinging insects. After being stung by bees and wasps, I had spent the better part of the previous day in an antihistamine-induced hibernation with the hopes of waking less puffy and sore. The effort was mildly successful, though I was still splotchy, itchy and lumpy. Concerned about future attacks, I was seriously considering getting a suit of armor or chain-mail to wear around the farm.
Wielding a can of insect spray from the tack room, I examined our horse trailer for flying menaces before pulling the truck around for a hook-up. I kept an eye out as I lowered the gooseneck and plugged in the trailer. At least the discomfort from my stings was mitigated by the fact we were going to pick up Mandy from the state university’s vet hospital. The operation to remove her injured eye had gone smoothly and the doctor remarked how calm and sweet Mandy was during her entire stay. In fact, she said, several of the students were going to miss her. Unfortunately, there was no discount for well-behaved patients.
We couldn’t dilly-dally while picking Mandy up: Dr. Bob was scheduled to visit with his ultrasound machine to see if Kimberly and I were still on our way to grandparenthood. Naturally we wanted Mandy to be pregnant, but more importantly we wanted her to be home. After several days of facing Mandy’s empty stall, we needed the family back together.
Picking up Mandy was wonderfully uneventful. In her own quiet way she was thrilled to see us–no pun intended. Her eye socket was swollen enough that it looked like she merely had her eye closed. We were told the lid would sink in as the swelling went down and that in no time she’d adjust to using only one eye. We signed some paperwork and spoke briefly with the doctor. A few minutes later we had her loaded and were on our way.
Vander and Ellie flipped out when we arrived home and pulled in beside the barn. Ellie screamed while Vander ran in circles and whinnied. Mandy nonchalantly greeted them when we led her into a smaller pasture beside the one Vander and Ellie were in. Mandy stood silently as Vander and Ellie nuzzled her and rubbed their faces on her over the fence. The doctor had recommended turning Mandy out alone for a few weeks until she was fully used to the change in her eyesight. If Mandy minded the separation, I was unable to tell. She just put her head down in the grass and started eating.
Kimberly and I felt pretty good, just standing and watching Mandy graze. That is, until Dr. Bob drove up. Hmmm… That didn’t come out right. We’re always happy to see Dr. Bob. What I mean is his arrival reminded us that Mandy could have lost the foal to the stress of her injury or to any of the subsequent events and procedures.
I felt sick. As I watched Dr. Bob unpack his equipment my mind replayed all the eye-related events of the preceding days. Then I was several weeks back in time, remembering the anxiety I felt before we first found out that Mandy was “in a family way.” It was like we had almost started over again with the pregnancy anxiety, but we’d added the guilt from our letting her get hurt. Geez, Louise! I knew if Dr. Bob didn’t hurry up and tell us whether Mandy was still pregnant I was going to do something masculine, like fall down right there in the barn aisle.
The moment was tense and with a lot of squinting. Dr. Bob moved the wand around and squinted at the monitor. Then Kimberly squinted at the monitor. I was holding Mandy’s lead line. Mandy squinted (with one eye) at me. I squinted at Dr. Bob and Kimberly. Just when I couldn’t take it anymore Dr Bob stopped squinting and turned to Kimberly.
“See that flicker?” he asked Kimberly. “That’s the heart.”
Again, but for entirely different reasons, I almost fell down. I don’t think Mandy would’ve cared or moved. Holy Cow! I felt so relieved I forgot about my stings. I could barely keep from yelling with joy right in Mandy’s face, but I thought that even a sweet horse like her would consider that rude. So I just petted her and sort of did some small, celebratory jumping jacks. We were so happy, so happy, so happy. It was ridiculous how happy we were. I was stupid with joy. As you can tell, I don’t even know how to describe it.
I suspect Mandy knew she was pregnant the whole time, though she, too, seemed pretty excited by the good news. Well, at least I think she was excited. I mean, Mandy didn’t actually move, but she blinked more than usual. I’m sure–just to be polite–she contained herself until after Dr. Bob had left and Kimberly and I went inside.
In the house, Kit barked, howled and ran in circles while Jack flopped and meowed. I had to admit, his flops were getting cuter. I glanced out the front window. Macy and Sascha sat on the front porch. They looked like they felt better–like maybe they’d gotten rid of their headaches. I thought I saw Hazel walk by, carrying a catbird and nodding a thanks to the two cats.
I stepped away from the window. It had been a great day so far, and I’ve learned with some things in the country, it’s just better not to ask questions.
Jeremy Law and his wife, Kimberly, live on a small farm in North Carolina.