Thursday, March 04, 2010

Last summer one of my husband’s mares had a colt that suffered from something called dummy foal syndrome. Baby Titan also had severely contracted tendons which prevented him from rising on his own. That was the beginning of an extremely difficult couple of weeks. After his legs were splinted, he had to be medicated and hosted up on his feet every three hours to eat. As you probably know, this kind of duty generally falls on the maternal side of the family. So I tottered out to the barn on a painfully disturbing schedule, sometimes sleeping in the barn, sometimes leaving my outer garments in the stall because the mare had trouble distinguishing between me and her baby.

To prevent this story from becoming more macabre than necessary, I’ll just say we lost Titan after 12 days of round the clock care. It took me considerably longer than that to recover. In fact, I never quite forgave myself. He had been such a fighter, full of new-life bravado and wobbly eagerness. And I had failed him.

So a few months later, when I heard of a filly with contracted tendons, I knew it would be best if I kept my fragile little heart well out of the situation. Nevertheless, I was told that the owners, who had been nursing the filly for 2 months, were giving up the fight, and intended to shoot her on the following day. So despite much advice to the contrary, a friend and I went to meet baby.
We were extremely pragmatic about the entire situation. After traipsing through the half frozen muck on the way to the broken barn, we documented her condition.

Later we emailed pictures to an equine veterinarian who believed baby could be saved with the proper treatment and enough dedication. But in a rare show of practicality, Colleen and I decided we had neither the funds nor the emotional energy to undertake a project of this magnitude; she was probably already stunted from lack of nutrition, she dragged her left fore when she stumbled about, and her feet were malformed from her ungainly stance. But she was a chestnut like Baby Titan, and she was full of that same new-life bravado I still ached over.

So on the following day, we found ourselves back in the pickup truck, pulling the trailer north. With a Good Samaritan helping with finances, we were soon tranquilizing little Trinity, separating her from her mother, and hoisting her into the gooseneck. We laid her down on a bed of straw, where Colleen cradled her on her lap while I jostled and bounced them toward the waiting veterinarian team. Once there, she was sedated, thoroughly examined and carefully splinted.

After that came weeks of uncertainty, of removing bandages only to see her little legs curl under again. Of administering the kind of drugs that had eventually attributed to Titan’s death. Of worrying and walking and coaxing and hand feeding. Colleen and her son, Grant, came each night to clean her stall and lift our little patient’s spirits. I did morning chores, letting her limp around after me as I fed the other animals. The splints came off repeatedly, and repeatedly her legs crumbled, but eventually the doctors felt she was making progress, that now she needed to strengthen on her own. So her tiny, little misshapen hooves were trimmed and fitted with silicone shoes. She was confined once again, but was gradually allowed more and more time outside.

This is Baby Trinity after the splints were removed, the meds stopped, and the loneliness abated. Here she is, quite literally, feeling her oats. Shortly after these pictures were taken, she left my barn to explode into her new life. She now lives with Colleen, her pop-bellied pony, and her two handsome Arabians.

I still cry when I think of Titan, and the idea of ever raising another foal makes my stomach clench. But the experience taught me enough to nurture Trinity back to health. And maybe that’s what life experience is all about.

So what about you? Give us your pet stories…kittens you’ve found in the snow, ugly dogs you’ve brought home from the pound. It’s one o’clock in the morning and I’m in the mood for a good cry.


Cindy Gerard said...

OMG, Lois. I'm all teary eyed here. What a touching story. You are amazing and such a tender- hearted soul. What a great success story of love and commitment beating all the odds. Bravo!! Trinity is beautiful.
I've been nursing stray animals all my life - bringing home baby birds and little squirrels and stray cats.
There's just something about their sweet little spirits that call to me

lois greiman said...

I remember lots of baby birds from my childhood. More recently, my daughter and I have nursed pigeons back to health. We had one named Zeke that would follow us around the barn on foot until he perfected flight. Drove our retrievers crazy. :)

Helen Brenna said...

Oh, Lois. You did have me crying. Those pictures of Trinity are beautiful. What an amazing thing you and Colleen did!

The birds we tried to save when I was a kid invariably died. As an adult, there have been all kinds of minor savings, but nothing like what you've done! Just so glad this story had a happy ending!

Playground Monitor said...

I don't have any pet stories to tell, but I'll tell you about my first-born child -- after I wipe away the tears brought on by your touching story about Titan and Trinity.

My son was born 6 weeks early and had minor problems that corrected quickly. Of course, at first I didn't know how minor they were. All I knew is my baby might have to stay in the NICU for 6 weeks. I'm almost ashamed to say that I was afraid to bond with him for fear he would die. And if I didn't bond and love him, it wouldn't hurt so bad if he did. Right? I say "almost ashamed" because I learned later that's a very normal reaction when you have a baby whose health is in jeopardy. And if some other woman reads this and it helps her feel better about her feelings, then I'm glad I said it.

As it turned out, we learned soon after his birth that he was a fighter. The NICU staff let me tend to lots of his care when I was at the hospital and we spent lots of time in the rocking chair together. A week after his birth we brought all four-and-a-half pounds of him home. He continued to fight, grew up to be a wonderful man who's a terrific husband and father with a baby girl of his own.

But I know all about those feelings of failure, worrying about what I'd done wrong to cause him to arrive early (nothing -- he just came early). Worrying if he'd have life-long problems (he's fit as a fiddle). Worrying if he'd have any developmental delays (a few initially but he caught up quickly and was on target for weight and height at a year and walked at 13 months). He's smart too -- he's a talented architect and I believe with all my heart he'll make a great impact on the world one day.

My other son was born on his due date with great Apgar scores. Then a few hours later he got sick. Apparently he breathed coming through the birth canal and developed aspiration pneumonia. Having already experienced the NICU, I was much calmer and knew he'd be okay. We bonded just fine too.

He just finished his master's degree in PE and wants to be a college track coach. Despite starting off with respiratory problems, he was tested in high school and found to have lung capacity at a level close to what Olympic caliber runners have. :-) He has a few state high school and college conference championships under his belt.

Can you tell I'm proud of my sons?

And grandbaby was just asked to be on a swim team -- and she's only 3 1/2 years old!


KylieBrant said...

Ohhhh, is there anything as heart wrenching as doing round the clock care for an animal who doesn't make it? My brother used to bring home strays. I still remember my mom getting up on the hour to feed baby bunnies from an eye dropper every hour, only to lose them one by one.

Hugs on your foal, Lois!

Kathleen O said...

OMG this story had me reaching for the kleenex box... Horses next to dogs are one of my fav animals and this story broke my heart.. But what a happy ending for this fighter.
my aunt and uncle had a french poodle named toby. It was my cousins dog actually and when she died at age 16, Toby would go around the house searching for Colleen and slept on her bed everynight. When their first granddaughter came along, Toby just loved her and one day when Marisa was about two, she came upstairs to her grandmother and said that Toby was sleeping and wouldn't wake up. It was devistatig for all of us as we loved that dog, and espeically my aunt, uncle and cousin, as they felt like they had lost Colleen all over again.. Makes my heart ache just to think about it..
Sorry got to go now and blow my nose and dry my tears.

lois greiman said...

Marilyn, thanks for sharing your story. And thank God for happy endings.

Sarah Grimm said...

Wow, that's quite a story and a fantastic ending. Me, I've tried to nurse an orphaned field mouse last fall, only to have it die the day after it was doing so well I just knew it was going to survive.

And just last spring I had to send my dear Tilly to the rainbow bridge. She was the ugliest, scrawniest shih tzu mix when I found her at the pound. Obviously abused in her previous home, she was terrified of people. And did I mention how ugly she was with her stained fur and extremely bad haircut?
Well, I took her home, cleaned her up and gave her a proper haircut. Through time and patience, she learned to love all humans and grew into a beautiful little dog. I miss her every day.

lois greiman said...

Kathleen, there's nothing sadder than a mourning animal. It hits us at a very basic level.

Lori said...

Wow, you did a wonderful thing. Both times. Losing animals is like losing a family member.

My story is a happy one. It won't make you cry, but it will likely make you laugh. I may have even told it over here before... We were the proud owners of 1 cat. I'd owned him since I was 16. Well, at age 4, he had FUS and had to undergo a plumbing change. Apparently, not all that uncommon.

One day, we found an abandoned kitten in the gutter outside our LA apt. She literally fit into the palm of my hubby's hand, and had a cute little brown nose. So we named her Peanut. She was too young to have been weaned, so we hand fed her through a syringe until she got a little bigger. Peanut, having been abandoned, decided that cat #1 was her mommy. So she rooted around until she found a nipple. Which obviously produced nothing, since #1 was a boy. But #1 let her suckle til the cows came home, and even bathed her constantly, just like a good momma cat. #1 was definitely Peanut's mommy.

Peanut wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, either. She never learned how to retract her claws. We'd frequently come home to find her hanging by 1 leg from the drapes. She even pulled the Christmas Vacation, and stuck a claw into the tree light. Yup, she got zapped. All the while, #1 would wait by the door and lead us to wherever Peanut got herself trapped that day. Just like a good little mommy.

All went well until Peanut went into heat the first (and only) time. #1 suddenly remembered he was a boy cat, not a mommy cat. Only problem was that he'd had his plumbing changed, and had the external anatomy of a girl. So Peanut would look over her shoulder as #1 tried (unsuccessfully) to mount her, and had such a look on her face. It was a "You can't give me milk as my mom, and you can't satisfy me as a woman. What good are you?" look.

Both those cats are now gone, having lived very long and happy lives. But we still remember those poor mixed up creatures with the most love. I don't think any other animal, including the ones we have now, will ever take their place or be as entertaining.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Beautiful, Lois. You are the closest human being I know to St Francis. No kidding.

I was just telling the girls about the one and only dog I ever had who was truly mine. I named him Prince, and he was a mutt who looked like a very small collie. We lived on Guam at the time. Prince followed me everywhere. Because of him I learned to whistle. But when it came time to transfer (Daddy was in the AF) I couldn't take Prince. I don't know what my parents did with him. They said they found him a home. A friend (another 10-yr-old) told me they probably took him to the pound and that he would then be fed to the sharks. Mama assured me that they would never do such a thing, but I had nightmares. I can still see that image in my head when I think about it.

lois greiman said...

Lori, great story, thanks. It's hard not to love the frail ones the most.

Sarah, I've tried saving mice, too. No luck so far, but I'm sure there will be more.

Paula R said...

Hi Lois, that was a very moving blog. I had tears in my eyes. To work so hard to save a life, and then face defeat. But, being given a second chance is one of the most precious things. And you were successful. I have no tales such as yours, and I hope that I never have to go through what you did. It would kill me.

Peace and love,
Paula R.

lois greiman said...

You're right, Paula, I guess this was all about second chances. I hadn't really seen that clearly until you said it.

Christie Ridgway said...

I'm so glad Trinity is doing well, Lois. My heart was breaking over your loss of Titan. ::sniff::

We've lost our share of animals but they've lived long lives...except for our birds. We have an aviary in the backyard and after many unfortunate losses it is now empty. I did try raising a baby cockatiel (it's mother kicked it from the nest) but I didn't succeed. I still feel so bad about it.

Paula R said...

That's the only way I could look at it, Lois. Glad I was able to "open" your eyes to that possibility.

Peace and love,
Paula R.

jacabur1 said...

Lois having loved horses from the time I could toddle until my last one passed from old age and injuries almost 10 years ago the story of the valiant fight you and Titan both waged has me still bawling as I type this comment! I too am glad you got your 2nd chance and it worked out with Trinity, you were blessed to share time with both of these babies!!!!
Of all the animals that have been in our family from childhood pets to the ones I myself have had the one thing that happened to me personally involved a stray bird when I was around 12 or 13 years old. I lived in a big old wood frame home that had the tallest Pecan tree in our neighborhood and at the base of the tree the rain had hollowed out a v-shaped hole at the roots. One day I was playing outside and came upon a baby Mockingbird that had fallen on the ground with the entire nest. I placed the nest in the hollow at the foot of the tree and miracles do happen, the Mama bird found it fed it and raised it until it grew wings and flew off. I remember my amazement today still that no stray cat, dog, skunk or other carnivore came along and ate the little bird. This also happened years before the Fire Ant infestations that we later had which would have swarmed anything living and eaten it. I know living in Texas that there are "whoppers and tall tales" but I am not telling one of them and wish I would have had a video camera to record something so spectacularly unbelievable!!!!
Jackie B Central Texas

Betina Krahn said...

Lois, what a big heart ou have. I'm so happy for you and your lovely Trinity. She looks like she's having a ball! And thanks to you she'll have a full, rich life. I hope that knowledge makes up for. . . anything in your life that seems less than spectacular. Kathy's right. You're St. Francis reincarnated!

lois greiman said...

You guys are really sweet, but I didn't do that much for Trinity. Mostly worry and feed. I was lucky to get a chance to spend time with her and reaalllly lucky to have people to help me.

Martha Lawson said...

What an amazing woman you are!! This is one of the most touching stories I've ever heard. Loved the pictures and so glad he's doing well.

lois greiman said...

Martha, so sweet of you. Thank you. But it really wasn't amazing. Just a second chance, as Paula said.

alba said...

You had me just bawling when I read this earlier.
I waited until now to post my story.
We Had Cats mother & daughter close to 19 year The Daughter love to bring me gifts mostly mice and mawled to death poor things.
One day she carried a baby rabbit to our porch I heard it screaming never knew they Screamed .
I took the rabbit in called the local vet she looked her over told us what to do we kept her for a year believe it or not but Lubby ( the rabbit) thought she was a cat used the litter box ate with the cats slept in the cat basket sadly she did pass on .
Strange thing for a week our cats kept looking all over the house for Lubby they would cry at all hour....
Have a good one Ann.

catslady said...

Such touching stories. I too am an animal lover and have had many pets and I also take care of ferals. I've tried saving mice and bunnies with no luck. We did save an outside bird after my husband cut a bush in half not knowing a nest was there.

But saddest of all is not saving all the ferals. I did nurse a kitten that the mother left for me after they were both covered in motor oil. He is now a healthy 13. But I can't find homes and take them all in and his brother at 7 months old was hit by a car coming for breakfast. I saved his sister though that caught pneumonia. Last winter a kitten showed up at my door (I have fixed all the females outside that I care for) and I blame myself for not realizing sooner that it was sick and even the vet couldn't save it. I just recently lost a female feral that was 15 because of the freakish cold weather. I have her sister who is also ailing. I have more stories but like you, I never get over the ones that don't make it. I always feel I should have done something differently. I get too attached but I wouldn't change it for the world.

Anonymous said...

We know how you feel about your little one. The same thing happened to one of our mares. He never did stand. I remember milking the mare and feeding our little colt. Followed much the same Vet care as yours.