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Posts Tagged ‘Rescues and Shelters’

The Start

I was holding her close, cradling her head in my arms when she died. As I write this, it was thirty days, three hours and thirty-six minutes ago. April 23rd we would have celebrated fifty-three years of marriage. I’m coping, sort of.

“Well,” she said, pulling the nasal tube flowing oxygen out of her nostrils, “pretty soon you’ll be able to get a dog.” That happened the week before she passed.

Bear, our last German shepherd died six years ago, we didn’t get another dog.  That is the only period in my life that I can remember, being dog less. Rosalie developed balance problems and we were worried that she would trip or fall over a dog, thus dog less. She knew I missed having a dog and her statement out-of-the-blue was an example of her dark sense of humor. I told her to stop talking nonsense.

The last six months all my prayers were that the end would be fast and with as little pain and discomfort as possible. The diagnosis was stage four-lung cancer. It came on January 4, 2012. The oncologist told us the average statistics were survival for three to six months. We practiced positive thinking and prayer and with her typical quiet determination, Rosalie made it to six months, then eight, then ten and counting. She tired easily but appeared normal to all but me, and our two sons. She needed supplemental oxygen in mid-December and on Dec. 27 the oncologist suggested home hospice care. The hospice people showed up and enrolled her on Jan. 2. She died two days later.

Charlize, pronounced Charley, is a rescue dog, another German shepherd, about three years old. She’s been with me since January 15. We are two injured beings who need each other. The first two days she was apprehensive and distraught but every day since we have bonded more and she is calming. I keep her with me all the time. She is housebroken and vehicle broken (yeah), and fetches a tennis ball like a retriever, good exercise for her and saves my gimpy ankle. On February 1 Charlize and I will embark on an extended road trip. We will meet new friends, both people and dogs, and should have some interesting tales to tell. You can follow our adventures here.

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I was on a ranch in the Badlands of North Dakota to castrate fourteen wild stallions rounded up by a rancher friend, John, and two of his neighbors, brothers who were professional rodeo cowboys. They roped each of the wild horses from horseback, around the neck and hind legs then stretched them out. My friend John pulled them down to the ground by their tail then grabbed their head pulling it to his chest to control the animal while astride its neck. The brother on horseback who had roped the hind legs kept tension on them also controlling the patient.

 

I dismounted from the top rail of the corral with two buckets, one with instruments in water and disinfectant, the other with syringes and medications. The first testicle came off cleanly, although the horse grunted and struggled when I applied the emasculator. As I made the second cut the animal the cowboys had dubbed Pig-eye went berserk throwing John off his neck and almost got away from Ed who backed his horse up pulling Pig-eye through the dirt and dust by the hind legs. Ed’s brother quickly backed his horse to put back tension in the rope around Pig-eye’s neck.

 

When John went airborne, I retreated towards the fence, both buckets in hand. After everyone got back in position, I returned to the fray. I got the second testicle dissected and placed the emasculator. As I clamped down Pig-eye again came off the ground but that time I kept my hold on the emasculator as it tore off the spermatic cord and I joined John sitting on our butts in the dirt. After the brothers regained control John and I rejoined the action, John bit down on the Pig-eye’s ear while holding the horse’s head up against his chest. I leaned over to get a look. Blood was spurting out of the wound, forming a red pudding in the powdered dirt.

 

“#@$%^&,” I exclaimed! “He’s bleeding like a stuck pig. Hold onto him, I have to go fishing for that artery.”

I found one of the hemostats in the bucket, leaned over, opened up the wound with my left hand, and reached in as far as I could. After three tries, I found the cord, pulled it out far enough to see what I was doing and clamped it with the hemostat. The bleeding stopped. While hunting for the second hemostat in the bucket, now full of dirty, bloody water, I cut my thumb on the scalpel blade. I finally isolated the spermatic artery and clamped it.

 

John nodded that he understood the danger I was in leaning over the horse’s back and bit down harder on Pig-eye’s ear and blood from the ear oozed out of the corners of John’s mouth.

 

I shook my head, reached into my shirt pocket with my left hand and extracted a packet of catgut. Ripping the packet open with my teeth, I tied a tight ligature around the artery and removed the hemostats. Pig-eye struggled but there were only a few drops of blood. I rinsed off my hands, filled the syringe and administered the antibiotics.

 

They released him and Pig-eye jumped to his feet, kicking out with both hind hooves. Blood dripped from the injured ear, now hanging at a ninety-degree angle from his head. Only a few drops of blood fell from his scrotum.

 

Remembering these events after fifty years I marvel at the apparent cruelty and disregard for the animals we displayed, but we had limited options. Local anesthetics were of no use in these wild animals. The tranquilizers and sedatives available then had little or no effect on excited animals. We had succinylcholine chloride, a muscle-paralyzing agent that immobilized a horse but could also cause paralysis of the respiratory muscles and left the animal conscious and able to perceive pain. Finally, we had a combination of chloral hydrate, pentobarbital and magnesium chloride, called Equithesin. It had to be infused, to effect intravenously, an almost impossible task in an excited wild animal, and it left the animals anesthetized and immobilized for a couple of hours or more lying in a thick layer of dirt and manure.

 

Despite the romanticized tales of feral horses running free, these horses lead a difficult life. There are few natural predators of wild horses and the number of animals tends to multiply quickly resulting in overgrazing and the threat of starvation. Half of the foals are males so competition and fighting amongst the adult males accounts for a high rate of injuries that go untreated. The mustangs are subject to bad weather, drought, starvation, high parasite loads and injury. Compare this to a life of good care provided by humans who want to keep the animals healthy and working productively, or just functioning as pets.

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