Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Life Plays Us Like a Game of Jenga

Life plays us like a game of Jenga. One by one, it pulls away our supports and adds to our burdens, just to see how long we can stand. --Nancy Chase, August 14, 2007.


Tomorrow I'm leaving on my sheep-delivery trip. So I had a lot to get done today.

I got up early so I could give the 4 traveling lambs their pre-trip worm medicine and vitamins while it was still cool out. I was in the kitchen mixing up the vitamin drench and our Pomeranian Leeloo was racing up and down the hallway, romping with the cats.

All of a sudden there was an ear-splitting burst of yelping from Leeloo. I thought the cat had gotten annoyed at last, and scratched her. But the yelping didn't stop. I put down what I was doing and went to find her.

She was lying at the foot of the front stairs, shrieking like a fire alarm. I literally had to put my fingers in my ears before I could approach her. After a minute, seeing that help had arrived, she quieted to small, sad, quavering whimpers.

As soon as she stood up on three legs, I could see that her left front leg was broken. Just above the ankle, it was bent upward at a 90-degree angle where there shouldn't be a joint. When I lightly touched it with one finger, it flopped loosely as if not even connected.

No wonder she'd been shrieking so loudly. That had to be unimaginably painful and frightening to her. She'd probably tried to chase the cat up the stairs and had fallen.

Damn! A puppy in severe pain, another vet bill added to our already overburdened expenses, my busy morning schedule suddenly tossed out the window... none of this was good.

Ken is away on a business trip, and Leeloo is mostly his puppy. They are so attached to each other, we joke that she's his new girlfriend. He loves this dog more than anything. I looked at the clock: 7:30 a.m. He'd be up by now, but not yet occupied with his business day. I grabbed my cell phone and called him.

"Hi, what's up?"

"I think Leeloo just fell down the stairs and broke her leg."

He asked if she had any other internal injuries, and I assured him that I thought it was just her leg. She was still whimpering softly in the background. Ken heard her, and softhearted guy that he is, started getting choked up.

"Take good care of her," he managed to say. "I can't listen to this anymore."

And HUNG UP on me!

I stared at the phone in disbelief. Umm. Yeah. Thanks honey. No problem. I'll take care of everything.

Have I mentioned that sweet and kind hearted as Ken is, he's not really great at dealing with emergencies?

To his credit, he called me back a minute later and helped me quickly locate the vet's phone number. But, good grief! What would have happened if I'd phoned him while she was still shrieking? My ears were still ringing from that an hour later.

The 45 minute drive to the vet seemed really, really long. Poor Leeloo whimpered the whole way. I know she was in a lot of pain.

I dropped her off with the receptionist just after the vet hospital opened, before the vet had even arrived. I drove back home and waited for the vet's phone call.

When it came, it wasn't good. Leeloo had definitely broken her leg, but in a place that requires surgery rather than casting or splinting. And our vet doesn't do that kind of surgery. She'd have to refer us to a vet in Charlottesville. Surgery would cost around $2,500. The exam and x-rays from the vet who couldn't do anything cost $273.

Damn! We simply don't have that kind of money right now. I called Ken back to see what he wanted to do. When I told him the price estimate, he said, "I don't think we could do that even if we wanted to."

"Okay," I said, "but what do you want to do instead? Do you want to put her to sleep?"

I don't know what he thought our other options might be, but this suggestion hit him like a bomb. I heard him fighting back tears. "No," he said. "We have to do the surgery. We have to." Poor guy, he was at a business conference, surrounded by coworkers and customers, and having to deal with this at the same time.

I still needed to tend the sheep before the day got too hot. Not only did the traveling lambs need attention, a couple of my own sheep were showing symptoms of heat related stress, so I wanted to dose them with vitamins too, before I left for my trip.

Worm medicine, vitamin drench, and for my own stressed sheep, a couple of vitamin shots. It's not easy to hold a 100-lb. sheep still by yourself while you're the person poking it with needles! They thrash around and fight to escape, and it takes both brute strength and a steady hand to get the job done.

One sheep, Sally, thrashed so hard, she ripped the needle right off the syringe. When I felt around in her wool to see if it was still stuck in her, I discovered that in ripping the needle free, she had also ripped a big hole in her skin.

Great. Another animal disaster was all I needed for the day!

I felt around and around in her wool and could not find the needle. I assume it got flung onto the ground somewhere, but I couldn't find it.

Then I had to go back to the house and find my can of Blue Kote to spray on the wound, to disinfect it and keep the flies away while I'm gone.

After all the sheep were finally taken care of, I drove back to the vet's, picked up Leeloo and drove her to the doggie orthopedic surgery specialist in Charlottesville. I think if this had happened to any other animal on the farm, we would have had to bow to our depleted finances and have the animal put to sleep. But I can't ask Ken to give up this dog that he loves with all his heart.

So I went in, filled out the forms, looked at the scary x-rays of the puppy leg with the extra joint where there shouldn't be a joint, and listened to the vet describe the bone pins, clamps, braces, pain killers, and physical therapy he has planned for Leeloo. He's very nice--a friendly man who takes the time to explain everything in detail.

But all the while, I'm thinking, "How are we going to pay for this? We have to do it. We have to do it for Leeloo and for Ken. But how are we going to pay?"

By 2:30 p.m., seven hours after I started, I finally got back home again. I hadn't had anything to eat or drink since the night before, and I'd used up most of tank of gas driving back and forth.

I was tired, emotionally wrecked, and starving. For the rest of the afternoon, I made a bunch of phone calls and wrote a flurry of emails, getting directions, confirming meeting times, and finishing up last minute details for tomorrow's travels. Then it was time for evening chores, feeding the animals and filling the water troughs.

Now it's almost 9 p.m., and I still have to pack for my trip!


Susan said...

oops, I think I commented to the wrong post. If I commented on the previous post, it belongs here.

Mark said...

My heart goes out to you Nancy. How gut-wrenching, all of it. Sending you positive thoughts which is all I can offer at the moment. If I win the lottery, I'll cut you in. Hang in there!

Nancy Chase said...

Thanks guys. I appreciate the words of support! After a day like that, I surely needed them.

Ness said...

Holy cow...how awful! Great timing with Ken being away too. Ugh...