Thursday, July 21, 2016

Barnyard brawl

With (at current count) 18 animals, noise is something I am quite familiar with. Dogs bark, cats meow, rabbits thump their feet on the ground when they are annoyed at something, roosters crow, hens cackle, ducks quack, and mice run on their wheel. Animals make noise: this I know and generally pay little attention to. The exception to this rule are the typical noises that signal something is wrong - cats that hiss or growl, a bark with a certain tone, or - around here - a frantic flapping of wings. 

This sound of wing beats is what alerted me to something amiss in the backyard the other day. As this sound never means anything good is happening, I ran outside to discover Maggie and Gretchen in the middle of a whirlwind of wings and feathers. After separating them I was able to look them over and Maggie appeared to have gotten the worst of it, with a gash under his chin (if ducks have chins) that was bleeding. As ducks are equipped with very little weaponry compared to the beaks and spurs of a rooster, Gretchen walked away without so much as a scratch from what I could tell. Maggie's gash was somewhat worrisome, but even more than that was the concern that antibiotics would be required and they would need to be started immediately. 

That this incident happened on the Sunday before the fourth of July was even more unfortunate: it meant that our avian vet would be unavailable until Tuesday at the earliest. Our backup vet was also not in the office. The only option left was the emergency vet (one town over, because our emergency vet didn't have anyone who could treat ducks), which probably meant a big wait and an even bigger bill. (I swear the animals conspire only to get injured when it is the most inconvenient timing and all the regular vets are unavailable.) 

This circumstance is how we found ourselves sitting in the waiting room at the emergency vet surrounded by the usual cats with kidney stones and vomiting dogs. Walking in there with a duck made us something of an emergency vet celebrity. Two hours, one stitch, fourteen pills, and $100 later we walked out of there sufficiently patched up and ready to live to fight another day. And I'm sure it's only a matter of time until they do.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The walking wounded

It is our assertion that Maximus is an indoor cat. It is Max's assertion that he should be allowed to go outside whenever he wants to. We are concerned about Max's safety while Max is primarily concerned with his fun. Needless to say we do not see eye to eye on this particular issue and Max will take any opportunity that he can to escape; which is what he did the other morning when Max sneaked upstairs and pawed open the screen door on the front deck and got out into the front yard. When we discovered his escape, Mom and I ran outside to begin searching for him and he led us on a merry chase through the front yard to underneath the trailer to under the Suburban where we were finally able to corner him. As I lay on the ground, half under the Suburban, I spotted him crawling along the undercarriage of the car and I was able to just reach his tail so I grabbed it, figuring he would follow along with it seeing as how it is attached to him. He did, but he was rather more upset than I figured he would be and he expressed his displeasure by biting my thumb. Hard.

I don't remember who gave in first, but one of us eventually let go and Max ran off, no worse for the wear while I staggered into the house, bleeding from both sides of my thumb. I am not normally a fainting sort of person but the combination of the adrenaline and the sight of my mangled thumb had me sinking to the floor in a bout of extreme dizziness and nausea. I did not pass out completely but I was useless to continue chasing Max so it was fortunate that Mom was able to catch him on her own somehow.

By the afternoon, Max was safely back in the house but my thumb still had not stopped bleeding so off we went to the urgent care. Usually it is me taking the pets to the emergency vet, so being on the receiving end of the care is a switch here on the Unfarm. I figured they would bandage it up and maybe give me some antibiotics but it turns out that the damage was worse than I had initially realized: Max had bitten clear through the nail and pulled out tissue that is supposed to stay inside the skin. (It would not surprise me in the least if it was discovered that Max's teeth actually met inside my thumb.) This meant that they had to take off part of the nail (I know, gross) in order for the wound to heal up at all. After that they were able to bandage it up and gave me a bottle of antibiotics to take for the next five days, with full recovery expected in four to six weeks. Upon learning that my tetanus shot was up to date, gotten several years ago after I was bitten by a squirrel, they gave me twice the number of pills that I actually needed. It seems they sensed a pattern in my interactions with animals and foresaw the possibility of a need for antibiotics in the future.

In the end, Max and I came to an understanding: he forgives me for pulling his tail and I forgive him for biting me. That is not to say that I don't flinch when he gets claws or teeth near me, however.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Arrivals and departures on the Unfarm

As it has been some time since I have posted anything (goodbye, resolutions) there has been some small number of arrivals and departures here on the Unfarm. A change of cast, so to speak.

The first to leave was Daphne, the mouse. This left Caroline (being the other mouse) all alone and precipitated the arrival of Evangeline - a small, grey mouse to keep Caroline company, which would have worked well had Caroline not then died soon afterward, leaving Evangeline alone. It would appear that either my timing is perpetually off when it comes to the mice or my luck is just plain lousy. 

Shortly after Caroline died (and was stored in the freezer beside Daphne until they could be taken to be cremated - a fact which my mom forgot until she went rummaging around in the back of the freezer for cheese and was startled (to say the least) by a frozen, Ziploc-ed mouse) Clover, my sweet little rabbit, took a downward turn. It started out with weight loss that had me concerned enough to make a vet appointment but became something closer to panic when he became lethargic one evening a week before his scheduled appointment. I took him into the vet the next morning on an emergency drop off appointment and he remained there on heat lamps throughout the day and went home with me in the evening in less than stable condition, with poor appetite and low body temperature. I was cuddling with him at home that evening when he stretched out and then went limp. Having held enough dying animals (that is a sad statement of my life, is it not?) to know what that meant I pleaded with him not to go but it was useless: he died in my arms. And so we lost Clover - the malnourished stray I had caught in a live trap and nursed back to health six years ago. Perhaps the only positive thing I can say about losing Clover was that at least he was not bonded to any other rabbits that would be left behind; I was in the process of bonding him with Jojo but they were only at the point of tolerating each other when Clover died. 

The benefit to having so many pets is that when you lose one you can't wallow in your misery for long: you have a dozen or so other animals that need you still. Which brings me back to Evangeline, our lone mouse. As it so happens, I was trolling the humane society website (as I often do, looking for some animal or another who seems to desperately need a home like ours) and happened across the profiles of three female mice who were up for adoption. Here was a perfect opportunity to add roommates for Evangeline while supporting a worthy cause. Needless to say Evangeline now has three new mice to socialize with: Angela, Francine, and Gemima.

And so the tally stands at this: departures - 3, arrivals - 4. But knowing life on the Unfarm, those numbers are sure to change again all too soon.