Thursday, December 8, 2011

Darkest Night (1st installment)

The message on the answering machine said that Drifter wasn’t acting right.  He was kicking and biting at his belly.  Did Janice want the vet called?

She called the stable right away.  “Rolling Hills Farm,” the owner’s voice said.
“Sally?  It’s Janice.  What’s going on?”

“Oh, Janice.  I’m glad you called.  Drifter just isn’t himself.  He’s kicking and biting at his belly, and about fifteen minutes ago he started rolling.  Just acting colicky.  I didn’t have a number or name for your vet, so I called mine.  I hope that’s okay.” 

Panic screamed through Janice, but she did her best to push it down.  “That’s fine.  I’ll be there in about ten minutes,” she told Sally.  Her thoughts were running away with her.  How bad was he?  Would they be able to help him?  How much would this cost?

“Alright.  We’ve been walking him to keep everything moving.  See you soon.  Bye.”
“Bye,” Janice said just as she hung up. 

She pulled her sneakers off, and crammed her feet into her muck boots.  Her coat was still on, and her keys in the pocket, so she ran out the door.
The blue Saturn flew over the country roads as Janice maneuvered the little car around sharp turns and over blind hills in her race to the barn.  She “California-stopped” at stop signs, even flooring the gas to beat the train crossing before it blocked the road.

The barn at Rolling Hill Farm sat atop a small hill, its white sides and green roof a beacon from the road.  As Janice pulled up the long gravel and dirt drive, she could see Sally’s husband, Ron, walking Drifter.  He waved as she pulled in, and signaled her to go to the office. 

Sally met her inside.  “He seems to be doing ok,” she said after hellos were exchanged.  “We’ve been walking him for about a half-hour, now.  The vet just called.  She’s on her way.”
The woman walked outside and watched man and horse walk back and forth up and down the drive. 

“He looks thin,” Sally said. 
“I know.  That’s why I wanted to move him.  I don’t know what they were feeding him at that place, but I don’t think it’s what I provided.  He was only there for like three months.  He shouldn’t have dropped weight like that.  If it was just the drive, I wouldn’t have been so anxious to get him out.”

“Well, it’ll take some time, but we’ll get the weight back on him.  Unfortunately, it comes off faster than it goes back on,” Sally said.  “Now that you’re here, I have to run to the house to get hot water.  The vet might need it, and we’re not hooked up just yet.”
“Ok.  I’ll go take my turn at walking him.”

Dr. Hanson arrived about ten minutes later.  She started her exam with a TPR—temperature, pulse, respiration—noting the results in the file.  Her stethoscope roamed around Drifter’s abdomen, listening for gut sounds.  More notes were made.
The doctor turned to Janice when she finished.  “His heart rate is about fifty to sixty beats per minute.  His respiration is around twenty-five.  And his temperature is 102.5.  All slightly elevated.  I don’t hear any gut sounds, and that worries me the most.  I’m going to give him a mineral oil treatment to help pass anything that could be blocking his intestines.  I’ll need some hot water.  Do you have that here?”

“My wife went to get some from the house.  She should be back soon,” Ron said.

“Good,” said Dr. Hanson.  “You keep walking him,” she told Janice.  With that she walked back to her truck to get supplies.

Sally pulled in, and Ron helped her carry four gallon jugs of hot water to the vet’s truck.  The hot water was mixed with mineral oil in a large brown bottle.
Dr. Hanson came back with the watered-down mineral oil, a funnel, and a long rubber tube.  Janice stopped Drifter so the vet could begin her work.  Dr. Hanson slid the tube up one of Drifter’s nostrils and down into his stomach.  Once it was in place, she affixed the funnel to the other end and began to pour the mixture into the funnel, lifting it up every so often to drain the contents into Drifter’s stomach.

“You can keep walking him now,” she told Janice.  They started a slow walk while the doctor poured and lifted, poured and lifted.

About five minutes into the treatment, Drifter let out a harsh sneeze.  Blood ran out of his nose, staining the white snip on his muzzle.  A bloody blob of fleshy goo stuck to the sleeve of Janice’s barn coat.  The vet assured her that he was fine.  Sometimes the tube could cause mild trauma, especially with the walking.

They walked and treated him for twenty minutes.  Then the tube came out.  “Keep him moving,” Dr. Hanson said.  And she began to clean up.

When she was cleaned up and ready to go, she went to talk to Sally and Ron.  Janice walked Drifter up to them, and Ron took the lead so the vet could talk to her.

“Walk him for another half-hour or so.  Then let him rest for a while,” Dr. Hanson told Janice.  “I have a foaling call to attend to, but I’ll be back after that.  He should be fine until then.  If you notice anything, call the office.  Dr. Brower is there.  He’ll be able to help.

“In the meantime, you guys get something to eat.  I’ll be back as soon as I can.”  She shook both women’s hands and left for her next call.

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