Sunday, November 29, 2015

Top Cat

Twenty one years ago we adopted a fluffy little grey and white cat. She was ever so feminine, with large green eyes and perfect pink lips, and I gave her the name Miss Girl.  Not long after she moved into our tack room Miss Girl began to expand in her mid-section.  Though a vet assured me that wasn't with child, one month later she gave birth to two tiny kittens.  Pictured above is "Big Zekie", one of those tiny kittens, now at age 21.  Much like his mother, Zeke has always been a hardy sort.  He spent his early years as a barn cat, with no rules.  He crossed the street, he roamed the fields, dodged coyotes, was picked up by a great horned owl and lived to tell the story.  The cat was always smart and knew how to stay alive.  When we closed our barn, Zeke became a house cat.  He learned quite quickly that sleeping on beds and couches was fairly wonderful.  He adjusted to the rules of staying in at night, with free rein to come and go during the day.  He endured four moves during our years of living in the northeast. Each time he'd survey the new domain, pick a comfortable spot to sleep, make sure he knew where the litter box and food bowls were located and that was that.  Two years ago he survived the trip from NY to SC, while in a crate with Miles in the the peak of a horse van.  And he came out of that with his usual aplomb.

  About a month ago I started to think that Zeke might be losing weight.  Well, he's old, I told myself. I know he won't last forever.  Then I noticed that he was losing hair.

"It's his thyroid," said my pet savvy older sister, Pam. "Go get him tested at the vet."

Off we went to the vet.  While in the examining room I heard the vet outside the door talking to the tech.

"The cat is 21??", he said.  "Wow."

  Zeke and I left the vet office with a bottle of pills meant to balance his thyroid levels.  Within a few days I began to see a difference.  His hair started growing in and he didn't look quite so gaunt.  Another thing began to change, too.  Giving Zeke the half pill every morning began to be progressively difficult.  At first he ate them in his food. His appetite was so voracious that he was unaware he was taking his medicine.  Then one day I noticed a little white sliver being left behind in his bowl.

"Bastard," I muttered, grabbing the slimy sliver and forcing it between his teeth. That went okay at first, though he didn't like it any more than I did.

"It's for your own good!", I'd yell, as Z clenched his jaws and pawed at my hands.  This went on for a couple of weeks, but at least he was getting his meds and looking so much better.  Then he started a new trick.  I'd walk away from one of our pill forcing sessions, feeling victorious that I'd properly medicated my old kitty, only to return and find the pill on the floor, or in his dish.  He'd apparently learned how to mimic swallowing it then spit it out, like a petulant child.

   My frustration level reached a crescendo yesterday morning. Zeke is now so much healthier from having a balanced thyroid that he can actually claw the crap out of me.  Basically, I have an ancient kitty that I can only medicate while he's sick. Once he's healthy, it's like trying to pill a crotchety, angry mountain lion. It's ridiculous.  I can manhandle a 1200 lb horse with no trouble, but this senile, deaf, nearly blind husk of a cat is beating the shit out of me.  Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled that Zeke is doing so well. He's rather miraculous to still be such a force at his advanced age, but there has to be an easier way.  After hearing me complain about it last night, Jonathan agreed to help me with the "pilling of Freddy Cougar".  We're going to start giving him the pill before his dinner this evening.  If no one hears from us for a few days, please send help.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

And we're off!

   A year ago Jonathan and I were hired by a racehorse training center to work in the barn taking care of the horses.  Jonathan ended up spending most of his time working out of the barn fixing fencing and repairing the long driveway with the Bobcat, a machine which he became very skilled at operating. I spent most of my time in the barn with the racehorses.  After a  full year, I can say that I don't care for looking after racehorses. They're all a bunch of nut jobs.  It's not their fault that they're nut jobs, because they're cooped up for 23 hours of the day, fed tons of high octane grain/vitamins, never turned out and the only time they do get to go out during the day is to gallop around the training track.  Handling them requires finesse, strategy, bravery and skill.  It's very easy to get hurt around horses, even quiet riding horses.  Young thoroughbred race horses are like ticking bombs. Anything can (and will) set them off.  Oh look, a bird! cue:rearing.  Oh, here comes a car down the driveway! cue:bolt sideways, then segue way into rearing. Oh, a big gust of wind! cue:hang the fuck on, because I'm going to go apeshit.  You get the message.  Either you learn quickly how to keep their feet on the ground and away from your body, or you get injured.  I've been lucky in that I've kept myself out of harms way, with the exception of one dislocated knuckle in my second week of working there due to a rearing fit from a spastic filly.  The one predictable thing about these youngsters is that you can never assume that they're going to behave.  I operate under the boy scouts motto in that I'm always prepared for a fit.  I've learned to tell them how good they are in a soft, gentle voice, and that a hand on their neck can keep the savage beast that lives within them at bay. I've also learned that not having a chain shank is a dumb idea.  It's not like you have to be rough with a chain over the nose, but having it there helps when the flying monkeys in their heads start buzzing around. Our time is now over at the race farm. It was a fine job and it helped keep us afloat while we established ourselves in a new area. Recently, we've been teaching and riding more, which feels much more like home. In order to move our own business forward it became clear that we needed to stop the morning hours spent at the race farm.  I could say that leaving will be bittersweet, but it's not.  With the exception of one person that we've worked with for the last several months and the two roosters (Comanche and Rupert), I'm not going to miss that place with its daily series of chores and the death defying antics of the Thoroughbred's.  We've met a lot of good people at this job and made some very good friends, so it wasn't all bad, but it sure feels good to be moving on!