Today I cared for my chicken patient, a suspected severely sprained leg her ailment. It’s an odd day. One of our horses passed away from a bad bout of colic last night. Technically, the horse was purchased as a “Husband Horse” for Mr. Muse, and after my own horse dumped me on the road and sent me to the hospital, my confidence shattered, I couldn’t even bring myself to ride Mr. Muse’s horse. He was sent to my parents home to live out retirement, be ridden by my sister and elder niece and nephew, but otherwise have a happy life if eating and being cared for. His name was Mozan and he was an Egyptian Arabian.
Moe, as we called him for short (as did his previous owners), had not been gelded until he was probably three years old, older than what is normal. He had the face of a stallion – and the voice of one, too, his “scream” of inquisition when he saw strange horses during our walks was ear-splitting if you were in the path of his call. I don’t miss his persistent head-tossing for hoof trims. I do miss his Harry Houdini abilities to unhook his bull-snap from his halter in the barn and greet my Mom when she walked out to the barn in the morning.
I also recalled Moe’s initial fascination, and confusion, over apples when he first arrived as Mr. Muse and I chatted with one of our neighbors who’d called up seeing if we’d like to have some of his now-ripe McIntosh apples. I don’t know if Moe’s previous owners had never given him a whole apple before, but he didn’t quite know what to do with them at first, though as soon as I cut one in half, allowing him a taste – he ate them with gusto. Which, in a round-about way, brings me to “horse apples”; when a horse is colicky, they don’t poop, having a blockage in their gut which is very painful. Sometimes that blockage can twist around and well… that spells the end.
And despite all of that pain, physically for Moe, emotionally for the rest of us, I’m reminded still that life moves on though we grieve, a little or a lot. My chicken patient tries my patience, but I persist and even chuckle silently to myself at night as I realize that she has started to fall asleep while eating from the dish I hold before her in one hand as I hold her in my other hand, and I’m dozing off right with her. I don’t know if she’ll make it, I know she’s in pain when I perform “chicken physical therapy”, palpating the limb and joints and making her move the leg so it doesn’t atrophy. Sometimes injured animals just “give up”, and sometimes we have to let them, but I hope this girl is a fighter and so far she’s proving me right.
A coworker told me Friday that they admired that I was attempting to nurse this chicken back to health, that other people would write her off as a loss and have let her die or put her down. As she spoke, images of animals I’ve nursed back from injury or death, along with a panicked phone call from my sister asking what she should do with a baby goat born during a freeze and found barely breathing, flashed through my head. It’s not easy caring for another living, breathing creature, especially when you both know the outlook isn’t good but you both have to try.
So there it was, my morning. My head a jumble of grief and regret over Moe, concern for a nameless chicken and out of the corner of my eye I saw a little flash of green darting amongst the zinnias. A hummingbird, gathering up nectar to fuel her flight back to Southern climes when she chose to leave. A beautiful, shiny jewel that made me pause, appreciate what was and is, and remember that life goes on.
It always does.