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Pets Large & Small

Not a good start to the day

Dr. Kimberly Brokaw, DVM

(8/2013) I've known Mrs. Blue for several years. I originally met her when she kept her horse Sky at a local boarding facility. When Sky reached her 20's, Mrs. Blue brought Sky back to her house for retirement. Mrs. Blue has a small barn with fenced in pasture, but no riding ring or access to trails from her property. As Sky grew older and more lame, riding facilities were no longer needed and the home environment was more appropriate for her. While there are no other horses on the property, Mr.s Blue has a couple of goats who provide companionship for the old mare. While in retirement, Sky and the goats still receive regular veterinary and farrier care. Sky is shiny, healthy, and in good weight. As summer came, Sky was due to have her teeth floated. Mrs. Blue had recently started a new job and had little time off. She informed me she would be unable to be there at the appointment but that her adult son and his wife would be at the house to meet me.

I pulled into the driveway at 8am. While I've grown accustomed to watching people run through fields chasing a horse that won't come to them, or even throwing rocks, at said horse, I don't usually arrive in the middle of a domestic disturbance. However, today would prove the exception. I hadn't even turned my work truck off and yet I could hear them screaming at each other. One might think that my presence would put an end to the fight, but it didn't. Instead they proceeded to pick up rocks in the driveway and start throwing them at each other. This continued for several minutes until the wife took off her shoe, threw it at her husband, and then stormed off into the house.

As I got out of the car, I was thinking about how this didn't seem like a good start to my day. I figured I had three choices. I could pretend I hadn't seen them fighting or act like that was normal behavior that I see every day. Second I could ask if everything was okay and risk having to listen to a long drawn out explanation likely with information about affairs or in-laws that I would rather not know about. My third option would be to depart and reschedule the call. That option would have been my choice if the situation looked like it would become completely out of control and unsafe. I chose the first option. I got out of my car, walked over to the owner's son, and said "Good morning. Your mom told me you'd be here to hold Sky."

The son went and got Sky out of her stall and led her up under a tall oak tree on the side of a hill next to my truck. The barn tended to get a little hot, plus the goats liked to try and assist with the procedure, so over the years we had found that bringing Sky out of the pasture and under the tree is the more ideal location for performing vet work.

Sky's teeth don't align properly so she always has a tendency to form hooks on the backs of her lower molars and hooks on the fronts of her upper teeth. These hooks protrude from the teeth and make it difficult for the horse to eat without cutting the cheek or gum with each chewing motion. When a horse has teeth that don't align properly, regular dental care is extremely important. Mrs. Blue has always been diligent about getting Sky's teeth checked regularly and the hooks filed down so they donít injure the mouth. I quickly inspected Sky's mouth and found that again, the hooks were present and would need to be floated down. I gave Sky some sedation medication and started working on her teeth. While a cooperative mare, Sky has never really cared to have her teeth done, so sedative medications make dental work a much more pleasant experience both for Sky and for me. While some horses are content to have their teeth floated, others don't like the grinding noise or feeling, and truthfully I don't blame them. I wouldn't want someone filing down my teeth without sedatives and/or painkillers.

As I finished floating the upper teeth, a car pulled into the driveway and started honking the horn repeatedly. I looked at the son and asked if he needed to go see what was going on. He gave a firm "no" and continued to stand there and hold the horse. A few seconds later I heard the slamming of the house door followed my an unintelligible exchange of loud words, a slam of the car door, and the car pulling out of the driveway horn blaring. I still decided that I was going to pretend I hadn't noticed anything and proceeded to ask the son about the farm and how many acres they had and how long it had been in the family.

I finished Sky's teeth, watched her as the owner's son led her back to the barn. As I was cleaning up my instruments and putting them away in the car, I told the son to have his mom call me if she had any questions. A couple hours later I received a call. Being the ever attentive owner, Mrs. Blue wanted to make sure that Sky had done well with the procedure and if she needed to provide any special after-care. There was no mention of her son and daughter-in-law's exchange of words and rocks.

I have grown accustomed to the usual husband-wife bickerings of "Fluffy's been sick for 2 days" "No, she's been sick for 7 days" and "No, she's been sick since YOUR parents fed her the leftovers..." This was the first rock/shoe fight I'd gotten to observe. Truthfully, as the horse and goats seem very well tended and loved, I still think highly of Sky's family. Despite what seems to me to be an unusual style of bickering, they provide their animals with a loving and nurturing home.

Read other articles by Dr. Kim Brokaw