It feels like a triumph, this past Valentine’s day when neither Bruce nor I cared to celebrate. A day later, neither one of us has given the other our cards. They are buried in a Walgreen’s and a Woodman’s bag. I scroll through Facebook and see how women post the beautiful flowers and gifts their husbands have given them. I have envied them, but not this year. Receiving gifts is my love language as well, so I get it. I have missed not getting presents–souvenirs of the love between Bruce and I. But not this year.
We both woke up at 3:30, the dead of night 3:30, wondering whether we should check on Tessie. She’d not eaten or drunk water for a day and a half. I’d spent the day, not knowing what to do. My vet reported that her blood work showed she was headed in the right direction, albeit slowly. The CK at 3,000 was probably from a painful needle stick. We’d see if it was high during the next blood test. She was hopeful, trying to convince me my horse was not dying. But out there in the pasture, Tessie didn’t look so good. She was just standing looking. Her nose was not dropped to the grass. When Tessie’s nose is not buried in grass, she is a very sick horse.
I’d worked myself into a lather of studying these high blood values on the internet. I posted on Facebook. It seemed that high AST and CK were markers for PSSM/EPSM–a disease that draft horses can get, where a horse is not metabolizing glucose in their muscles. The biopsy for diagnosing that disease looked ugly and painful where the vet digs a plug of muscle out of the hindquarters. I also wondered if Tessie had fatty liver, which can be brought on by a horse not eating.
By Tuesday I flew into a panic. Tessie wasn’t colicking, but she wasn’t eating either. She wouldn’t even take a hay cube or kibble from my hand. I called Kendall Road and Dr. Easm suggested I give her 10 ccs of Banamine for a few days until the Baytril could get here and kick in. She thought Tessie’s liver was causing her pain. She finished one antibiotic and the second one wasn’t working effectively. I gave her the Banamine and waited. Tessie cocked her hind leg. Morgen stood head to neck with her, offering whatever comfort another horse can lend.
On Messenger Philippa quietly tried to tell me not to panic. She said the liver can regenerate. She knows because her horse had hepatitis. She said that the Omeprazole stopped Tessie’s stomach acid production and when I decreased the dose to half a tube the acid in her stomach probably increased to compensate. She said it can make your food feel like it’s just sitting in your gut.
I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if I should take Tessie to Kendall Road or let her stay here. Should I jump ship and take her to Madison? But Madison is a hard drive. Dr. Sink said she couldn’t do anything more than to check her over. Kendall Road could monitor her. I was grateful to these vets who understood that there is only so much money and who were willing to advise by phone. I went to bed to weep, to pray, to ask God what should I do? Bruce opened the door and sat on the bed and stroked my shoulder. I was terrified of my indecision. I felt like I was floating on warm water and it was dark and I didn’t know where the shore was. If I were like this with my horse, how ever would I respond if Bruce became ill?
When I went out for my last barn check I wept again. I laid my hands on Tessie’s shaved flank and whispered to God if he could heal her. (Something I didn’t do with Onyx, though my hands itched to try, there in the silent exam room. If Smudgie is Onyx come back, and he may well be, he has held this against me.) I handed Tessie a hay cube. She took it from my hand. I handed her another one. She took it and crunched down. Morgen put her head over the gate and begged for one. I stepped to her, held my hand out, and felt her lips brush my hand. I walked back to Tessie and I fed her two handfuls, one by one. She ate with hunger. There’s something about feeding a horse by hand, their lips taking your offering, and hope returning with the sound of her eating
I woke up at 3:30 and wondered if I should dress, walk to the barn and check on her. But then I’d flick on the light and watch both mares blink, break their sleep and peace. She ate the night before in what seemed like a fever breaking, a corner turned. She heard me calling her back with my hand opened, the hay cube offered. At 5:30 Bruce got dressed to check on her. He said she took hay from his hand and that there was poop in her stall. (A horse that poops is a healthy horse.) He said she’d drunk a little water.
All day while I enjoyed scrolling past people’s gifts for Valentine’s I thought about Bruce’s getting up and checking on her, his love for this horse and for me. I thought about all the buckets he hauled up from the basement because I don’t like climbing those stairs with water in my hands. And I thought about how he will walk out to me in the barn in the last barn check to make sure everything is all right.
The Baytril arrived mid morning and we dosed Tessie right away. It came in a suspension so there was no glob of antibiotic paste sitting in her belly. I could squirt it into her mouth and be done with it. I chased it with applesauce because of the taste and because I had read it can irritate her mouth. Steadily her appetite and thirst have come back. Her stall has gotten dirtier. These are good things. We’ll know more after her next blood test.