Home for the Holidays

It will be a different kind of Christmas this year … no desert … no Logan. The four of us spent the past two Christmases in and around Quartzsite, Arizona—exploring the desert, lying in the sun, lounging by the Little Red Fireplace. This year we’ll be here in Alberta, and just three of us, unless you count the horses and cats who bring our number up to ten.

Christmas Day last year at Dome Rock BLM (Logan in his favourite spot).

Logan was always the ringleader when it came to opening gifts, being a greater lover of toys than I am. Last year it was a little candy cane squeaky thing. Silly, but he loved it. No matter his age, he never lost the enjoyment of something that squeaked or grunted or otherwise made a sound between his teeth. I inherited a whole basket of the goofy things. I hope T and Nollind give me a bone for Christmas this year. I prefer quiet deliciousness to noisy tastelessness.

Logan with his Christmas toy.

We’ve been out walking in our winter wonderland every day since the snow came. T started out in boots when the snow cover was light, moved up to snowshoes after a dump, and now she’s back to just boots with all the Chinook melting that’s happened this past week or so. For me, it’s four paws all the time, although I wished I had some doggie snowshoes on those deep-snow days. On the plus side, I’m looking svelte, fitting up my near-ten-year-old body for the winter adventures to come.

I keep up just fine on the hard pack.

And by winter adventures I mean Canadian winter adventures, the kind with snow and sunshine and, yes, sometimes cold. T and Nollind had been planning to take us south in early December, then mid-December, then just after Christmas, and then early January, but they’ve decided we’re staying home entirely this year. Sounds like there are a few reasons why, not the least of which is the old horse, Nevada. He’s had some health issues since the end of summer and T wants to be here to care for him on a daily basis. She thinks he needs her right now, and she might be right. I see the way he looks at her every afternoon when she goes out to give him his extra feed and supplements, like she’s just saved his life yet again.

Home on the range

Logan almost kept us home last year but Nollind built him a ten-foot ramp and we were off to the south. Maybe he could do the same for Nevada? Instead of the Fang trailer behind Sid we could haul a horse trailer.

The ramp that made it all possible last winter.

But, since I don’t think that will happen, I’m settling in for a Canadian winter—putting energy into growing an extra layer of fur. I’ll be fine. I actually like snow, as you might remember from my I Love Snow post this spring. And, as much as I miss Logan, there are more frequent adventures and long walks in my days as a solo, easy-travelling dog. Life is good.

Making my version of a snow angel.

I’ve heard talk around the house that we might even head out for some winter camping to places like the Cypress Hills and Kananaskis. In our first trip south in 2011, we spent some time camping in the snow in Utah and northern Arizona. Playing in the snow during the day and tucking into a warm trailer at night? Sign me up!

Snow at Bryce Canyon in 2011

From my home to yours, or wherever you may be this holiday season, wishing you and your furry (and non-furry) family a very Merry Christmas!

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Spot’s Close Call

I’m back! Bet you thought you wouldn’t hear from me for another six months. This is my third blog post which should move me from guest to regular, don’t you think? Although I do still have to rely on Chico to post for me. As I mentioned in my first post: hooves + keyboard = disaster.

Anyway, I’d promised a couple of stories in my past posts, one about my role as herd accountant and the other about Nevada’s brush with death. Since Nevada’s story is more timely, and I can talk about me anytime—I do love to talk about me—I’ve decided to make this week’s post about my good friend Nevada, aka Big Spot, aka Spotticus, aka just Spot. He’ll also answer to “Oh great one.”

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Me and my bud on a trip to Smithers, BC in 2010.

Nevada is 27. A few of you might be thinking, “Wow! That’s old.” But it’s not really, for a horse. Our average lifespan is 25-30 years, far beyond what you can expect from a dog or a cat. At 27 coming 28 in the spring, Nevada lands smack in the middle of the end-of-the-trail range and, back in August, we all thought he’d arrived.

It started off with him walking a little slower than usual and losing some weight, but when a guy is 27, it wasn’t a surprise to any of us—humans or horses—that he was slowing down. T started taking him into the barn for a little extra feed and some supplements and he seemed to perk up. He just needed a little old-guy support.

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Enjoying his extra groceries.

Then T and N headed north for a family reunion/birthday party in the last part of August. They were barely out the driveway and I started to notice a shift in Spot, the slowness returning, and he wasn’t grazing the typical 18 hours/day. By the Monday following T & N’s Friday departure, I knew he wasn’t right, and luckily for Nevada, the horse sitter did too. She called T and then the vet. Our old herd boss was colicking.

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My herd boss for all but the first year and a half of my sixteen years.

If you’re not a horse person, the type of colic you might be familiar with is in human infants and it causes discomfort and crying. Colic in horses also causes discomfort, is often easily resolved, but can be deadly, particularly in an old horse. It all depends on the cause. I never had a chance to meet him, but T’s Anglo-Arab, Echo, died at 24 from colic that was likely caused by some kind of intestinal tumours.

So, anyway, our favourite equine vet from Animal Care Centre, Dr Rand, arrived, examined Nevada, and treated him for impaction colic (in this case, impaction means pretty much what you might imagine.) Nevada stayed in the paddock by the barn over the next few days, to be monitored and fed, and by Friday morning was really starting to seem more himself. And then, early that evening, he crashed…

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One part of colic examination. I haven’t had the pleasure.

The on-call emergency vet was called, but this time Spot wasn’t colicking, in fact the young vet wasn’t sure what was happening. Anemia, she said, and extreme weakness, possibly from internal bleeding, likely from some kind of strangulating lipoma (which is just as horrific as it sounds) or mass. None of it sounded like something he could recover from, the vet was concerned about the safety of anyone handling him and, from what I could gather from the farm end of the phone call to T and N, a decision was made. All the rest of us could do was stand at the fence line and watch.

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The whole herd.

And then Nevada’s guardian angel stepped in, his saviour. Despite the direness of his condition, the potential for it to get even more dire overnight, the vet’s concerns about safety, and a lack of experience with horses, horse-sitter Spring agreed to monitor him for the evening, see what the morning brought, and administer any necessary medications.

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Looking better than he felt, but I can see the tension in his face.

The morning brought a tired but comfortable Spot who was beginning to pick at his food. A daily dose of Banamine (a powerful anti-inflammatory for horses) and some good old-fashioned TLC did the trick and got him through the next three days until T and N were home Monday night. You should have seen the hug the old guy got from T. Good thing he was stronger by then or she might have knocked him over.

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Starting to feel better.

Tuesday morning Nevada was pacing the fence line of his paddock when the rest of us were turned out on the morning pasture. T opened the gate and he trotted out to meet us. I tried to maintain the alpha position I’d established during his week of absence but it didn’t last long. He had me back in my 2IC (that’s second in command if you’re wondering) position before lunch, and you know, under the circumstances, I didn’t mind.

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Always reminding me who’s boss.

Tuesday was Spot’s first day without Banamine and that night we all held our breath. Would the pain return? Was some strangulating mass just waiting for the medicine to stop so that it could rear its ugly head again? He went into his paddock for the night, T dewormed him, put him on a natural anti-inflammatory, gave him magnesium to get everything to relax, some probiotic to make sure the digestive system was healthy, and we all hoped for the best. He was still there in the morning and, with the exception of one mild colicky episode about a week later, he’s seemed his old self ever since. Actually, a little better than his old self; the supplements have made him more limber and a little more spry. Stoic old Appy, no one even knew he was hurting.

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Spot leads us to the alfalfa patch at the very back of the property. Feeling fine.

It’s been two and a half months since the day we thought we were going to say goodbye to our benevolent leader. I’d say we’re out of the woods but, since we live on the prairie, I suppose that’s a given.

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Still the ‘three’ amigos.