February 27, 2009

The New Cat in the House

Petfinder.com is a dangerous place. If you spend even a short amount of time there you are sure to find something you always wanted. I've found two cats there, first was 2 years ago: Cecil. I had been surfing there looking for a special face only a few weeks after my Ollie had to be euthanized due to a rare heart condition called Dialated Cardiomyopathy. Cecil turned out to be an awesome cat as well as a Bengal. I didn't know that when I was looking, I was after a certain face and some stripes... gotta have stripes!

So here I am 2 years later and I ended up on Petfinder again. Cecil is a busy cat and he wants so badly to be super friends with Squeak. While she will play with him, she refuses to let him sleep with her or groom her. She'd also really like for him to leave her alone more often too. He's just way too busy for her taste even though they are the same age. I had sort of been keeping my eyes peeled for another homeless Bengal so I could be sure that I would get a cat with Cecil's desired energy level. I didn't find any near enough to me to rehome and while I just LOVE the Bengals, I really couldn't justify buying a cat. There are so many "cat-off-the-street" cats that need homes far more than purebreds who find homes fairly easily, so I started browsing cats at the local shelter on Petfinder instead.

It's true I was contemplating a new cat but I wasn't looking real diligently. I went to Petfinder only 3 times over the course of 6 weeks and the third time I found "the face" and it had stripes too! Bonus that it was tiny as well and was at the local shelter. The next morning we had about six inches of snow but that didn't stop me from being the first one at the shelter to get my cat! I made it there about 10 minutes before it opened and sat in the car hoping that he would still be there. They opened, he was there! I stuck my finger in the cage and he bit me! Not maliciously, but tasting. I called him a brat and proceeded to fill out the paperwork to make him mine.

So, home we went, a new nameless kitten and I, me-owling all the way. I made an appointment at the vet to have him tested for Feline Leukemia, he passed with flying colors and also got his Leukemia vaccination. Now he can be turned loose with the clan. Cecil was immediately impressed and curious, Squeak; not so much. She told me under no circumstances did she need a new friend. Cecil was all over the little kitty. After a few days Squeak did lighten up and Ivan revealed to me his name. Ivan also revealed to me his desire to have some "pink stuff", antibiotics for that sneeze that every kitty cannot escape the shelter with. He got what he needed and is very happy now. He shared his sneeze with Squeak as well, but she got over it on her own.

Ivan has no fear. He is bold and will has yet to learn to be afraid of the front door opening. I have caught him trying to follow me or the dog out a few times. I'll have to work on that some more. So far, trying to push him aside with my foot is not impressing him. The first day he claimed "his" cat boat by the window and that night "his" spot on the bed. (I tried to have him sleep in his own room for his safety that first night but he seems to have figured out he can fit under the door... even with a rug jammed under it!) He has also tried to climb up my leg but to his (only slight) dismay, that action has been consistently received with loud yowls and an extreme cat "loosening" dance combined with a reflexive backhand swipe. I've started to carry around a water sprayer. Gotta nip that in the bud NOW! Dang kittens!

Ivan and Cecil LOVE each other. I had no idea that Cecil's greatest desire on earth was to become a Mother Hen. He plays with Ivan, gently tortures Ivan, follows Ivan, shares toys with Ivan, grooms Ivan and sometimes naps with Ivan. He even seemed to take on the role of showing Ivan the ropes (aka the cat fountain). When he tires of Ivan, he just pins him down. Ivan often leaps onto Cecil's head and back from nowhere and Cecil tolerates him. Often I will see Squeak watching from a safe distance. Occasionally she moves for a closer view. Overall she has been much more tolerant of Ivan than she was of Cecil when he invaded her house. Cecil hasn't completely stopped interacting with Squeak, but she is definitely getting in a lot more of that valuable nap time now. To see some video clips of Ivan and Cecil roughing each other up, click here. I've gotten a few comments from friends and family members about the number of cats I now have. So be it... I guess I'm now well on my way to becoming the crazy cat lady. (I say you're OK 'til you pass four!)

February 25, 2009

Ozzie's Story

The night of Rocky's death, Robin learned of another foal that had lost his dam. The foal was a Paint who had lost it's mother to severe founder a week before. He had been hanging on with some bottle feeding and force feeding via a nose tube but it wasn't looking good. The foal's owner was at wits end because the baby had rejected nursing from a bottle after a day or two, was not interested in drinking anything from a bucket and feeding via a nose tube was too expensive since it has to be done by a veterinarian and it really couldn't be done often enough to sustain him. Ozzie was going to be his last chance at a normal life.

The next day we put Ozzie in the trailer and hauled her an hour away to a small place to meet the orphaned foal and see if she could possibly be of any service to the waning baby. The owners had a second mare and foal but that mare would have nothing to do with the orphaned foal. Upon our arrival, the owner took the foal from the pasture where he was trying to gum the grass to smaller quarters for our acceptance test. The foal just walked quietly beside the man with it's head down. There was no spring to his step at all. It was so sad to see him just living but with no purpose or joy of life.

At first sniff, Ozzie was keenly interested in the little fellow and we all cheered inside, but then she pinned her ears back hard and tried to take a bite. Our spirits fell. Robin decided to force the issue with her... because we had an advantage. Ozzie has a blind side. Long ago she had lost an eye and it was so painfully obvious that this foal was not going to get far if we couldn't make this work somehow for him. Poor Ozzie had been not dripping, but squirting milk all over herself since the loss of her foal. She needed him as much as he needed her.

We pinned Ozzie up against a fence and brought the foal to her blind side and kept a tight hold of the mare's head. We got the foal up beside her and pointed his nose to the right place. Once he got a whiff, he latched on immediately and started suckling! He was scared of Ozzie and every time she moved or kicked he flinched and pulled away but he would immediately go right back to it the first chance he got. He was starving. He suckled for about 20 minutes.

After a bit Robin let Ozzie start to smell him up close, she said he stinks! She also lifted up her leg some more in aggression but didn't try too hard to kick him. We let her leave him for about 15 minutes and then tried to socialize them again with still mixed results. Most everything i have read says that a potential nurse mare will either accept the foal fairly fast or it will be a total lost cause. Because of her blind side, it was quite easy to let him norse while someone held her. Robin decided to leave Ozzie there with the owners, who if nothing else, could at least go out and hold the mare for the foal every couple of hours. This was an acceptable compromise to this baby potentially dying of starvation or leading a poor quality life due to poor nutrition as a foal.

I was never able to make it back up to the place to see how they got along, but I had reports that after a couple of weeks Ozzie did fully accept the foal and spent the rest of the spring and summer raising him on a full green pasture. It was the best possible ending to the sad stories of Ozzie and Rocky.

February 10, 2009

Rocky's Story

I made almost daily trips up to Robin's place to photograph Ozzie. My goal was to photograph before, during and after of her giving birth to her foal. The trip took about 2o minutes each way and I visited 2-3 times before she popped out Rocky. Ozzie is an Irish Thoroughbred and was in foal to a Irish Draught Stallion. Ozzie was a dream to photograph. She was good looking and gave textbook examples for all the stages a mare goes through shortly before foaling. Only thing is Ozzie put on such a good show that they all lasted for days... such a tease! I don't think I could have asked for a better example of "waxing" or softening of the muscles.

Ozzie was a sneaky mare. She gave birth to Rocky in the wee hours of the morning in between Robin's crawling out of bed to check on her, which happened hourly. Robin did get to see Rocky stand up and suckle for the first time and was satisfied that he got his colostrum, the very important first milk. I got a call in the morning announcing the birth of Rocky. I was bummed I missed his birth but gladly went up in the afternoon for baby pics. I got some super cute images of Rocky but noticed that during my hour of hanging with him that he was developing diarrhea and it was tinted with blood. I notified Robin and suggested she call a veterinarian promptly. I had seen several other foals at another clinic I frequent that had diarrhea with varying results, many not good.

The vet came out promptly and gave Rocky some medication for a bacterial infection and diarrhea relief. He came out several times over the next two days to attend to Rocky but with no improvement. Finally Robin sent a plea out to another vet who worked out of a clinic and he had her bring the mare and foal into the clinic.

Rocky was a fighter. The second vet decided that there was a possibility that the foal was allergic to Ozzie's milk so they switched to Foal-Lac. Rocky drank and drank both the Foal-Lac and water from a bucket, a huge boon. Many foals need to be bottle fed or won't eat/drink anything at all. With him willing to drink from a bucket it made keeping his hydration and nutrients all that much easier. Also a good sign that he was not giving up the fight. In addition, Rocky was also on I.V. fluids. The vet also allowed Robin to spend nights in the stall with Rocky so she could keep giving him his Foal-Lac and water around the clock. Rocky was also acting colicky on occasion so the vet would leave her with a dose of pain killer to administer into the I.V. drip if he got painful in the middle of the night.

Three more days go by with this arrangement. Robin spent every night with that foal and then would go home to sleep while the vet clinic had regular personnel tending to Rocky. I stopped by twice to keep Robin company at night and chat and see what progress had been made, if any. Turns out, not much. The third night Robin stayed at the clinic I stopped by again for a while and Rocky was obviously not doing well at all. I took a few images of him and the stall arrangement. He was alternating between no activity and short moments of thrashing, which we assumed was due to colic spasms. She told me the vet would be returning soon, and she asked me what she should do. I told her it wasn't looking good for Rocky and that maybe it was time for her to let him go but that I could not make the final decision for her.

While we sat there, waiting for the vet's return, she administered one of the pain killer into the I.V. because the spasms were getting more frequent. The vet came back to the clinic within the hour and I stayed with Rocky as Robin went out to talk to him about the probability of this foal recovering. Both the vet and Robin came to the conclusion, quite quickly, that it was time to let him go. They had done their best. Robin wanted to have a necropsy done on Rocky so she would know what his killer was for sure. Everyone, by this time, was sure Rocky had Clostridium. Clostridia-associated Enterocolitis.

I asked Robin and the vet if I could photograph the euthanizing and necropsy of Rocky. Both were more than willing to allow me. The image I took of the vet euthanizing Rocky is one of the most haunting images I've ever taken. It is a such a sad moment to let a cherished animal go but at the same time it is one of the greatest acts of kindness one could ever grant to another being. To end suffering and pain in an irreversible situation. There is absolutely no doubt after the necropsy that it was the highest form of compassion that Robin could have ever done for that colt.

Rocky had been suffering from the ulceration of the hind gut due to the bacterial infection. There was no level of treatment that would have saved him at that point. The intestinal ulcers had perforated and trying to fight it any longer would have been cruel. He was going to die a painful and toxic death regardless of treatment or painkillers. The vet sent many samples to to a lab for conformation for the diagnosis. You can see the images of Rocky's necropsy here. Graphic Warning: it IS a necropsy.