Monday, January 30, 2012

The Jawbone of an Ass

"That's definitely an abscessed tooth. You've got to get him to the vet and have it removed," Wonder Woman told me, having appeared unasked at my side as I looked at Dink, who had been brought in from his pasture to a little paddock.

"He's got food stuck in his cheek," I said. "This has happened before."

The ranch manager had called me again on Friday, her voice sounding panicky. Dink's face has a big swelling on his jaw, get out here as soon as you can.  We'd just got back from the movies, but I swung my purse over my shoulder again and headed out, fairly confident that I knew what it was. About a year ago, I'd found Dink in the pasture with a big ugly bulge on his face. Palpating it had caused him no discomfort, so I'd saddled him up and ridden out through the orchard roads. Even if he did have a problem with a tooth, he needed exercised. By the time we got back to the ranch, the swelling had ... disappeared. He'd had a wad of grass stuck in there.

Back to Friday. Wonder Woman, who is a "trainer" shook her head at me. "It's not food. I stuck my hand in there and it's his gums. There's no food in there."

The ranch manager showed up, and Wonder Woman went on again about abscesses and how she had stuck her thumb into Dink's mouth, and knew that he had a bad tooth, and an infection going on. The ranch manager was freaked out, ready to load Dink into the trailer and cart him back to the vet's again. Her apt reading of Dink's demeanor on Wednesday had probably saved his life, but she really didn't want to save him just to lose him a day or so later. Wonder Woman continued to hold forth on why Dink should be taken to a vet right away, her yammering making my innards churn. There was something familiar in the way she was presenting her argument.

Yeah, that was it. I'd heard the method before. She wanted to induce a panic, make her listeners rely on her "expertise."

He won't eat his food because he's in too much pain. He won't drink water because the cold water will hit the rotten tooth and cause too much pain. He'll just colic again and die.

Fact is, horses' teeth don't have the same kind of nerve system that humans do. That's why, when a vet does a procedure known as "floating," he'll give the horse a dose of drugs to make him dopey and relaxed, and then, with the horse's mouth ratcheted open with a miniature car jack, uses saws and sanders to even out the horse's teeth. The horse's ears might flicker at the noise, but trust me, they don't wince or flinch when their teeth are sawed, sanded, or even yanked out.

And another fact is that you can't stick a thumb all the way back into a horse's cheek unless they're sedated and the mouth jacked open. A horse's teeth, front or back, can cut your fingers off, so that would be a stupid thing to do. Wonder Woman's thumb could not possibly reach the area of swelling.

The ranch manager took Dink's temperature and he was well within normal range. I put a halter on him and walked down the road with him, as much to give the two of us a break from Wonder Woman's hair-on-fire rhetoric as to exercise his roany hide.

We stopped to watch some irrigation system workers installing some kind of solar panel down the road; I let Dink snatch some long green grass recently sprung up from the rain last week. We walked back to the ranch to hear Wonder Woman continuing her "professional" dissertation. "Look at his cheek," I said to the ranch manager.

"There's hardly any swelling there!" she said.

"Same as before," I mentioned. "It's food. It works out."

"No, it's the pressure of the halter on his cheekbone," Wonder Woman stated stridently. "It's pushing the pus out."

"I haven't been hauling on his head," I told her gently. "I don't have to."

"It's the halter right over that spot, breaking the abscess. He has to be on antibiotics and get that tooth removed."

At that point, I pulled out the big guns. She could not accept my assessment of the horse's condition, but there was one thing she could not refute. "Here's the thing," I said to her. "I have NO MONEY LEFT. I could cover this last visit to the vet, but now, I HAVE NO MONEY LEFT. NONE. I can't pay a vet to look at his teeth today."

It was an unheard of argument, I guess. Wonder Woman wandered off to talk to another boarder about why she should or should not exercise her horse in the arena. I told the ranch manager I'd be back on Saturday to check on Dink.


I went back on Saturday with a can of Senior Equine food to tempt Dink's appetite. The ranch manager met me there, still worried, even though Dink had no swelling evident in his face. She'd brought Dink in to feed him in the morning, and dose him with antibiotics, and found that he refused the grassy hay, and the sweet feed with the antibiotics. I groomed the old fuzzy up and rode him out for a ride around the nearest orchard bloc. When we got back, I gave him a bite of an apple, and offered him some feed. He was hungry.

The ranch manager brought the bucket she'd put the antibiotics and feed into. I could tell right away the feed smelled sour -- no wonder Dink didn't want it. Nevertheless, once she went on to deal with other clients -- and no doubt listen to Wonder Woman, who was again on that day holding forth with her wisdom, Dink not only ate all the antibiotics/feed mix as well as my offering of Senior Feed, and in doing so, packed both of his cheeks full like a squirrel.

"Come look at his face," I called to the ranch manager when she passed by.

"Oh my God, what the hell is going on?" she cried, looking at his lumpy face.

"Now look at the other side," I said, pushing his head around. "It's all food."

Wonder Woman, who doesn't share a tack room with the lesser equestrians, just happened to come over to snort in on someone else's horse.

"Look!" the ranch manager cried. "It's all food!"

Wonder Woman had no comment to offer, not a single word.

Today I was out again, and Dink had no swelling of the face at all, and I only offer one comment on Wonder Woman's expertise: the big dappled warmblood horse she trains ... "trains?" ... She can't take him out on the orchard roads because he "doesn't know when to stop."

Long story, this entry. Sorry.

Dink is good.


Lydia Manx said...

See this is why I write vampire tales. Wonder Woman needs to be fang food and fast. Given her mouth she would qualify as fast food also since the vamps I host would want to drain her quickly to stop her yammering.

Sand, you are a far better woman than I!

Doug Gordon said...

Great story. We all hate self-appointed experts. I'm currently dealing with a "custom-fitted Elizabethan collar" on my puppy--i.e., a huge cone that's driving everyone in the house crazy, including the puppy. Custom-fitted, my eye.