Monday, August 13, 2012
The story continues, from Marmalade's point of view...
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As I think you can imagine, the day the filly came had a surreal quality about it. It began in the early hours of the morning, well, to be truthful, I began feeling odd hours before that. I was restless. I was feeling... not quite right. I really can't describe it. When John led me in from pasture in the evening, I wasn't particularly happy to go inside. I wasn't comfortable in the confines of my stall. The walls seemed to come in on me. They were too close. I wasn't interested in the hay that awaited me and I only mouthed the grain. Then the pain came. It started slowly and evolved into a screeching, tearing, screaming beast. It was an Anaconda squeezing me from the outside, putting pressure on a ball with glowing spikes, straight out of the forge, moving within. Nothing brought relief. I tried stretching. I tried pacing. I got down. I got back up again. I was being torn apart. My gut was on fire. The lady came. She soothed me. Her voice brought the focus away from my pain for a moment. The man came. The one with the acrid odor of chemicals and fear. He worked back where I hurt. He pushed. He stroked my hip. And then, with one last tearing, squeezing pain, it stopped. Blessed relief. I lay, prone. My sides heaving. I was lost in the relief. Drops of sweat were slipping through the hairs of my hide. Tickling. My world came back into focus slowly. Like ripples in a pond, my focus moved out. First I noticed the shavings piled in front of my face. Then I noticed my knees, then my hooves. I then became aware of rustling and movement towards my flank. I struggled to lift my head, and propped myself on my elbows. Noticing, now, the stall walls, the people and... with a lurch I heaved myself up, shaking the sweat and shavings from my coat and turned to examine the creature in my stall. I took note of its scent, smelling vaguely of me. I nosed it. I wuffled the breath out of my nose, then sneezed. The creature bleated and moved unsteadily toward me. She reached her head under my flank and pushed, poked, and then a tiny warm tongue curled around my teat and she began to suckle. My vision collapsed in on itself. I was in my own world again. Just me... and my baby.
Although the delivery of this little filly took me totally by surprise, the care of the filly came to me naturally, instinctually. Had you asked me, just hours ago, what it is that a mare does when seeing to a foal, I would have looked at you with vacant, unknowing eyes. But as soon as that little girl began nursing, I somehow knew to nuzzle her, and to clean her and to be wary of how I moved in the stall when she lay down. My heart warmed to the chestnut filly faster than the rising sun brings warmth to the sand in the paddock. The filly collapsed in sleep. I cocked one hind leg and rested. My ear swiveled toward the stall door as I heard John shuffle down the aisle of the barn. He stuck his head over the stall door. I nickered to him, as if to say, "Hey, there. Look what I did!" He came in, moving in his characteristic, slow manner. He put his gnarled hand on my neck and rubbed me. He admired my little girl and murmured, in his deep, cadenced voice, that I had done a fine job. A fine job, indeed. John went about his barn chores. He carried flecks of hay to each stall. He cleaned and refilled the water buckets, and he meted out each serving of horse feed and supplements. Even though he gave me my usual ration of feed, and added something sweet and savory, I didn't have the appetite to eat. John patted my neck saying it was OK if I didn't want to eat. I'd been through a lot. I turned to attend to the filly who had gotten up and was nursing again. The normal sounds of the barn were comforting. John turned horses out and began cleaning each stall, and I dozed as the filly drank her fill. John left me to rest. He didn't turn me out, and unlike last evening, that was fine with me. I appreciated the cool darkness and quiet of the stall. Later John came in and he cleaned me up a bit, with a clean smelling wash. He wiped me down with a damp sponge, cleaning off some of the sweat from last night. He washed down my legs where blood and fluids had dried, trapping bits of bedding and hay.
Aunt Jane and the girl, Sophie, came to visit. They cooed over the filly, calling her, "Easter Surprise". Sophie came into the stall. She put her arms around my neck and laid her cheek next to my mane. She made soft, soothing sounds. I always liked that about the girl, Sophie. She used to make those sounds for me, and rub my neck in a special way, when she began asking me to do horse things for humans.
A year ago I had been living with my half brothers and sisters and some other foals in a large pasture. We ran and we played. We ate lush green grass in the summer and had good hay when the pasture was snow-covered. Then we were collected, as a group, and loaded onto a truck. The truck ride was a transition to a new way of life. One with restraints and rules. Throughout the summer we were handled by the humans and learned new things. Sophie worked with me. In her gentle way, she introduced me to bits, bridles and saddles. I learned to respond to her light hand on the reins and subtle cues to move forward, turn and stop. Most of the herd went to live in new homes with new owners. I was Sophie's horse, though. And I was staying at the farm. When fall came, Sophie went off to college. My life took on its own new routine. I shared the pasture with 5 other horses. John took care of our needs. He turned us out in the morning and brought us in at night. He brought us feed and cleaned our stalls. On occasion he would brush me and he'd see to my feet. Sophie came home at Christmas for a brief visit, but the snow lay heavy on the ground and we couldn't go out for a ride. As spring came upon us John noticed the growing bulge of my mid-section. He chalked it up to inactivity and too much food. He figured that I would became more active when the pastures cleared of snow and I'd slim down. Little did he realize that I was harboring a secret of my own!
The first hours with Easter Surprise passed in a blur. I was exhausted from the prolonged labor and birth process. I hurt. I hung my head and napped, waking when Easter would nuzzle under my belly, looking for food. Instead of gaining strength and energy, I was losing ground as the morning moved on. My gut ached. My entire body throbbed with each beat of my heart. Visitors came and oohed and ahed over Easter. I sunk further into oblivion. The man with the odor of fear and chemicals returned. After some fussing and increased energy accompanying the hustle and bustle by the humans, I was led to the horse trailer with Easter bounding by my side. Once the trailer maneuvered through the smaller country roads and got onto the Interstate highway, where I no longer had to brace with each turn and rise and fall over the small hills, the gentle rocking of the trailer lulled us to sleep; Easter curled up in the straw with me standing over her.
As the sun was falling from the sky the trailer stopped and doors were opened. I was led off the trailer and into the bright lights of a strange room with cloying smells. The odors and the movement of so many people put me on edge. My Sophie gave me a quick hug and then retreated. A needle entered the vein on my neck and I was lost in a sea of sounds and lights. Sounds became softly muted. People moved around me, wavering in ripples of light and dark.
I awakened slowly. First I noticed odors, or rather, I sensed a lack of odor. I smelled crisp cleanliness: pine bedding, astringent antiseptics. Then it was the sounds I noticed: Human steps on concrete. The beeping of monitors. Humans talking. The rustle of horses in nearby stalls. My head seemed to weigh a ton. Everything felt thick and numb. My eyes were heavy but I forced them open. Images were blurred. I blinked to bring things into focus. I was in a large, bright stall. Easter was curled up in the pine shavings. I was tethered to a bottle hanging above me by a tube that disappeared under a bandage that encircled my neck. A human I did not recognize was perched on a stool in the corner of my stall. He talked to me quietly, saying, “Hey there, little lady, it’s about time you woke up!” At the sound of the strange voice Easter raised her head and lurched to her feet. As she made her way over to me and began to nurse I snuffled her from head to toe. Yep, she was my girl. The human referred to his watch and wrote some things on a clipboard in his lap. Later, after Easter was finished, he got up and approached me quietly, with an air of confidence. He stroked my neck and examined me from head to toe, quietly talking to me and making notes as he went along. A few other humans approached the stall and he shared his notes with them. Apparently I had undergone a surgical procedure to repair the damage that occurred during Easter’s birth. The perineal laceration repair had gone well. Now the two greatest risks were infection and tearing of stitches that had been placed internally in tissues between my rectum and vagina. Intravenous antibiotics would work to counter the first risk, and a soft diet was prescribed to help with the latter.
I spent 5 days at the University hospital. Easter and I received wonderful care and all kinds of attention. Everyone came by to visit me and to say, “Hello” to Easter. We had lots of pats and hugs and special scritches. Each day we enjoyed greater freedom, even having the opportunity to enjoy the sun in outdoor paddocks.
Finally Aunt Jane came back. She led me outside, with Easter at my side, to my truck and trailer. The girl, Sophie, couldn’t come as school had begun again. But the emptiness of her absence was counterbalanced by the pleasure I felt in coming home to my farm, with my pasture and barn, my stall and my friends.
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