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When we recently took Mija in for a checkup for her back pain, the vet apologized in advance. “I’m about to make your life more complicated,” she said. Then she proceeded to describe the twice-daily medicine mixing procedure for Mija.
I shrugged it off with a laugh. “I’m already mixing meds for two horses. What’s one more?”
And it’s true – no big deal.
It helps that I now work from home. It could be a problem if I were rushing out the door to make it to work by eight o’clock every day.
But I’m not.
I did however find it amusing one afternoon when I gathered all of the medicines in one place.
Two people, two horses and one cat have amassed quite an arsenal of supplements/medications.
We’ve got potions and powders and capsules and liquids going into our bodies all the time.
And it made me wonder this:
Are all these meds part of the process of keeping aging bodies going, or simply attempts to be as healthy as we possibly can?
Maybe it’s just an issue of semantics.
Is it a natural part of aging, or is it prevention of aging?
I do remember a time when I took a couple of aspirin now and then, and a multi vitamin and I was good to go.
These days it’s a bit more complicated.
Maybe it’s that we know more than we used to about keeping bodies healthy. Medicine has made some mind-boggling advances.
Or maybe it’s that we Baby Boomers are realizing that life really does have an ending date.
I don’t know. I think I’m still figuring it out.
Any light you can shed on this?
The one thing I do know is we are all in it together.
What I’ve dubbed the “Love Triangle” has morphed into a quintet – Beau and four mares. He started with Pepper and Chickadee.
He’s now added a real looker of a buckskin mare named Vixen and a draft mare whose name we don’t yet know. She’s also a pretty little (big) girl.
Out of this group, Vixen is working hard for the position of lead mare. If any of the others get too far away, it’s Vixen that herds them back into the fold. And if she sees Pepper getting too close to the bachelors, especially Bud, she makes a big fuss and cuts Bud off.
That little move hasn’t endeared her to us.
I may be projecting my own feelings here, (ya think?) but it seems that Pepper is depressed. When we go to feed, she has no spark, no zip. The sparkle in her eye is gone.
It worries me.
I wonder if her old arthritic legs are giving her problems. Is she in more pain? Is the bute not working anymore?
I wonder if she misses her old friends.
I wonder if she’s okay.
I know Beau and Vixen and Pepper are simply being horses. Doing what horses do. Rick and I have worked to keep our horses in a pasture just so they can be horses.
I must admit that I’ve thought about moving Bud and Pepper to a different home.
It would get her away from Beau and back with Bud. But we like where they live, and it’s home to them. Besides, I’d miss Red and Amigo and the rest of my horse friends.
I’ve also sent out many little prayers that Beau will find a nice new home. I don’t wish any bad things for him; just that he leaves!
The horses are teaching me that I can’t control everything. In truth, I’m doing well to control myself. Some days even that doesn’t happen. Especially with any modicum of acceptance or grace.
In part, life is about learning to let go and accept the things you can’t change. I’m still in grade school when it comes to that particular lesson. The serenity prayer from AA puts it so well:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Miss Pepper has decided beyond a shadow of a doubt that we’re trying to poison her. She’s one hundred percent certain of it.
And as a prey animal, a horse can’t be too careful.
There’s danger at every turn and one must always be on the alert.
Yup, that’s our girl.
Ever on the alert, ears back, ready to run in an instant if she needs to flee.
You may be wondering what we’ve done to her food, to convince her that she’s being poisoned.
It’s a simple thing, really.
Just not to Pep.
We’ve changed the brand of Bute that goes in her food.
The medicine that eases her achy, arthritic hocks, and helps her walk (and run) with less pain.
The medicine that over the summer has helped her eat better, put on weight for winter, and generally feel ever so much better.
When our vet brought us a new supply, it was different. Apple flavored instead of cherry. Apparently the manufacturer had to change things.
Did they ask Pepper?
No, they didn’t.
And she doesn’t like changes.
Of any kind.
No way, no how.
Like the fairy tale of the Princess and the Pea, where the princess could detect one tiny pea placed under a pile of mattresses, Miss Pepper found the new medicine with one whiff. She didn’t even have to take a taste.
Her disdain was obvious. “What are you fools trying to feed me?”
At least I think that’s what she was saying, if my horse translator was working correctly.
She’d take one sniff and dump the pan of feed. “If you think I’m eating, this, you’re crazy.”
Then she’d try to eat Bud’s food, or graze a little on the dried grass beside the car.
I tried to explain, really I did. I held her feed pan up and scooped out a handful of grain, hoping the direct approach would entice her to eat.
She did take a bite, but that was it.
“Nope, I’m not eating it.” Then she walked away.
The next day, as an experiment I didn’t put the Bute into her food.
She ate every morsel.
Now we knew.
It would be a slow process of introducing just a few grains of Bute into her feed, gradually increasing to the recommended dose. On Saturday I added the tiniest amount to her feed, thinking I could sneak it past her.
Okay, that was ridiculous.
She sniffed and walked away.
I persevered and directed her back to her feed.
Eventually she ate what was in her pan.
But she was cautious.
That’s our princess.
He’s happy to clean up whatever Miss P. leaves behind.
His palate isn’t nearly as discerning.
The season is changing here in Colorado, as evidenced by the lovely cool mornings and evenings. Summer is giving way to fall. It’s time to pull up the comforter, turn off the fan overhead, and snuggle into the blankets. That early morning alarm doesn’t seem so appealing, when it’s dark and cold.
In the pasture the last few days I’ve noticed that Miss P. seems hungry.
She’s often the first one to the gate, and on many days, she’s waiting patiently for us to arrive. Last night she spotted the truck as we rounded the first turn, and made a beeline toward us, and her dinner.
She needs more calories to keep warm, now that mornings and evenings are chilly. We’d reduced her grain over the summer, because she didn’t need it. All that lush grass was keeping her happy. She’s actually put on a good amount of weight. And that pleases me. It gives her a bit of a head start for winter, when keeping weight on her is a challenge.
About mid summer our vet suggested that we start Pepper on a daily dose of Bute, to ease the pain in her arthritic knees. It has made a tremendous difference in her quality of life. She’s been a different mare.
Everything about her seems lighter.
Now she gets a little hustle going when she comes toward us.
She used to plod along, as if every step hurt.
It probably did hurt.
Chronic pain wears a person, or a horse down.
If we don’t have it, we can’t even imagine how exhausting it is to manage that pain.
I feel a little guilty that we waited so long to give this pain relief to our sweet girl.
There may be side effects with long-term usage of Bute, but we agreed with our vet that at twenty-eight, Pepper needed pain relief. We’re going for quality of life in her old age.
I hope it ‘s the right decision.
I think it is.
Have you ever had to make a tough call about your animals?
Or family members?
How did you handle it?
I’m looking for an inventor.
Someone who can make a popsicle for horses.
Preferably one that has a dose of bute contained in its frosty deliciousness.
Of course I have no idea if Miss Pepper would even take one lick of such a creation. Though yesterday, I was pretty sure she could be tempted.
I was going to an evening event, so had to make my way to the pasture in the late afternoon. It was hot.
That time between 4PM – 5:30 or 6 is just plain nasty.
And that was exactly the time I was trying to interest my old sweeties in eating.
They were waiting at the gate, which I thought was a good sign since time was an issue. Lately I’ve had to search them out – they’re usually in the shade of the shed or the stand of old cottonwood trees.
But no, there they were at the gate. And they marched right out to their feed pans. Bud tucked into his grain without a moment’s hesitation. No surprises there.
Pepper on the other hand, wasn’t so interested. She looked into her feed pan and sighed.
Then she nosed around the back of the vehicle, searching out her much-loved alfalfa cubes. She pulled the bucket toward her, spilling the contents.
She did have a slight look of remorse on her face.
I swirled the grain hoping to make it more appealing.
She took a nibble or two. Then back to the cubes, which required her to stretch her neck into the back of car. I thought I could outsmart her by moving the bucket of hay cubes.
So much for that plan.
She wasn’t interested in eating dry old grain. It was just too hot. She nosed around her feed pan once more and then walked away. She circled the car, nibbled a little grass and a bit of hay that had fallen into the road. And then she stood in front of the gate, only this time asking to be let back into the pasture.
“Are you sure you’re finished?” I asked as I stroked her neck. “How about just a bite more?’
“No thank you. I’m finished.” She nudged the gate and I let her in.
When I got back to the car, I noticed that Bud was just finishing Pepper’s grain.
I guess the heat wasn’t getting to him. And a dose of bute can’t hurt.
It’s supposed to get over 100 this weekend. Think of me as I look for a new way to get Pepper’s meds into her.
Horse popsicles are sounding pretty good.
I’ve mentioned before that one of the reasons we supplement the pasture with grain for our two old sweeties is that both need daily meds.
We’re usually able to slip the medicine into the grain and no one’s the wiser.
We started with Bud, who needs Pergolide to reduce his symptoms of Cushing’s disease. Once a day he gets a little red pill. It’s made a huge difference. Our vet recently increased the dosage, so now the pill is hot pink.
Either way, the bright color makes it easy to see, so that when Bud spits it out (which he sometimes does) I can put it back in the feed pan and ultimately into Bud. It’s a game he plays with me, rather like when your one year old keeps dropping a toy, just so you’ll pick it up.
Pepper isn’t quite as cooperative. She is one suspicious girl when it comes to her food. Last winter we put soybean oil into their grain for the added calories. Bud loved it, but Pepper wasn’t such an easy sell. I had to add the oil one tablespoon at a time until she was used to the taste and feel.
Like I said, she’s cautious.
So lately our vet suggested that we give Pepper a daily dose of bute to offset the pain in her back legs. Her knees are starting to calcify. It’s hard enough for me to even write this, let alone think about what it’s going to mean down the road for her – and me.
I want her to take the pain reliever so that she feels better. And I wish she could connect that powder in her food to feeling better.
But, she doesn’t.
If her food is even the slightest bit different, she won’t eat it. Just walks toward the gate and through telepathy says: “No way man. I’m not eating that stuff. I’m ready to go back now.”
So I’ve reverted to the old soybean oil system. I add a little more bute each time I feed her. Soon enough I’ll be at the recommended dose.
Right now we’re giving Bud a course of antibiotics from the minor surgery he had last week. We have to mix the powder with water and then stir it into his grain. If we do that, he’s fine. The first time we didn’t, and Bud wouldn’t touch his food.
The horses aren’t the only ones needing more medication these days and a way to manage it. Since my husband had a medical “issue” earlier this year, our meds have increased significantly.
Our own supplements and medications line the kitchen counter, making the room look more like a pharmacy than a kitchen.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement.
But I wager if you were to have a secret peek into cabinets of most people in their fifties and sixties, you’d find quite a lineup of potions, pills and magic elixirs.
Multi-vitamins, fish oil, Vitamin D, CoQ-10 are just a few that have taken up residence on our shelves.
What is it about this age? I often wonder if I’m afraid of dying. I don’t think that’s it exactly. It’s more that I am afraid of living when my body isn’t working anymore.
How about you? Are you taking more meds? And if so, why?