Sunday, December 6, 2009

Better than checking his forehead...

We always know how Snoopy is feeling by how interested he is in putting everything in his mouth. The chiropractor, Dr. Bari, has pronounced him ADD, and I can't dispute this. Under saddle, he rides like a dream. On the ground, he wants to know what the broom handle tastes like. Or the reins. Or your shirt. No amount of spanking deters him; he always comes back for more.

So when we took our annual Christmas picture this week, we went through several shots of this:

To get to this:

I guess Snoopy's feeling pretty good these days.

P.S. Thanks, Niki, for taking all the pictures!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The leg moves forward

Here are just a few shots to show Snoopy loping and jogging over poles. Even though he doesn't have a lot of flexibility in that foot (back one with white sock), he is moving it underneath himself much better. He still uses his hip to get the foot over poles; Niki says that movement may never quite go away. After all, they fused one of the joints, so full flexibility's not in the cards.

His stamina needs to be built up, too. Niki thinks that if he keeps progressing, we can probably take him to a show sometime in the spring. They've been having a lot of one-day shows nearby (if you consider Palm Desert nearby), so I'm hoping one of those comes along when it's time.

In the meantime, isn't he a pretty boy?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

We're soooo happy!

The good news is, Snoopy continues to get better every day. The bad news is, he's getting so much better I've had to put him back into full training. Can you say, "Ka-Ching"?

Niki is walking, jogging and loping him, in the big arena. Today, she jogged him over a pole, twice. It was on the ground and he was going in a straight line, but still, it's so much more than we thought would happen last year at this time.

Also, today, I got to get on him (after Niki) and walk him once around the arena. Even after his workout, the leg felt pretty sturdy. I notice he still wants to drag the toe a bit more than the other hind foot, but the leg moves in a straight line, he's advancing it further under himself, and he places the foot, as opposed to tossing it toward the ground.

All good!!!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

We're in the big arena now

Snoopy is continuing to progress, so much that Niki tack-walks him at least one day every week in the large arena.

We've also moved him from the paddock on the hill, down to a pipe corral by the arena, for two reasons. One is to re-introduce him to the concept of a smaller living space and more workouts per week. The other is because he began to lose a little weight and we wanted to bulk him up and keep an eye on his eating habits.

He gets two alfalfa flakes twice a day, plus a couple of buckets of alfalfa cubes. In addition, he gets a little corn oil to shine his coat, which is dry, flaky, and sparse.

Within a week, he's already looking a little plumper, with thicker hair.
It's not a lot, but we'll take it. Life's good.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

We can only guess it's forward...

I'm sorry to not post here more often, but I've decided that rehab is like watching a baseball game where both pitchers are throwing a no-hitter: slow as hell and not as exciting to the crowds as to those guys on the mounds.

Niki and I think Snoopy is making progress. Why? Because he's not getting any worse. He's being lunged 3-4 days a week, which is rebuilding his stamina as well as his leg, and Niki is tack-walking him one of those days. The first riding session, she rode him for about 5 laps and his leg started to feel spongy (not as supportive) for the last 1/2 lap. The second time, the leg still felt sturdy after 5 laps, so she dismounted and called it success. The third time, the leg still felt sturdy, so she trotted him a few paces, just to see if he feels under saddle like he looks from the ground.

He does, but he wasn't extra sore the next day when he was lunging (light trotting only).

We're calling this progress. Our philosophy is, if Tuesday, he doesn't limp for 1/2 lap, and on Thursday, he doesn't limp for 3/4 lap, it's progress. To get him limp-free will take as long as it takes.

In the meantime, once Niki feels confident in his ability to be quiet at the walk (so far he has been), she's going to tack-walk him in the big arena, where he can walk in a straight line instead of constantly curving right or left. I hope to be there, to provide pictures!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More progress!

I cleaned my house rather thoroughly last week. So thoroughly that I cannot find my camera. Why is this important?

Because, on Wednesday, Niki rode Snoopy for the first time since he broke his leg, and all I have to show for it is these pix I took with my cell phone:

She lunged him a bit before climbing on, then walked him for about five laps before he started seriously dragging his leg. According to Niki, "He didn't buck and he didn't collapse under my weight, so I consider it a success."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

More progress! Yippee!

Here's another quick update of Snoopy's progress:

For the past two weeks, he's been lunged with the saddle on. At first, he had a definite hump in his back, and there were a couple of aerials while he remembered the feeling of leather cuddling his withers. He eventually settle down, and is being trotted and loped, both directions, for about 10-15 minutes twice a week.

This past Thursday, Niki called me from the ranch. She was very excited.

"I just lunged Snoopy, and for the first time, I had to look carefully to see which leg was lame," she told me. "He was actually using the whole leg at the trot, instead of hiking it up."

Good news, peeps! We could be back on the road to this again!

Isn't he gorgeous? And smart.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

We chillin' now.

I just wanted to give everyone a quick update on how Snoopy is doing.

Niki's been lunging him twice a week for a couple of weeks now, trotting each way for 5 minutes. Typically, he wants to lope a little first, but so far, he hasn't wanted to go crazy, so Niki lets him settle into the trot. A couple of things of note:

1. He has no stamina, so 10 minutes of trotting exhausts him.

2. Even though he's still lame, I can see that it's less about pain and more about muscle build-up. His leg and hip muscles look noticeably smaller on the left (injured) side than his right, and he tends to fling his foot at the ground instead of placing it.

When he's not being lunged, he's in a large paddock on a hill, which forces him to use his muscles, traveling down to his food, up to the gate, and midway to his water. The other day, he trotted up the hill to see me and he didn't look lame at all! Of course, his walk down the hill told another story...

I'm very heartened by his progress. I had no idea how tense I was until I went to San Marcos. Now it feels like there's a muscle in my stomach that suddenly relaxed.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Baby steps forward

When I told Dr. Murphy (Brigid) what the good doctors in San Marcos had to say, her first response was an inward gasp, followed by, "We're not going to just put him in Tina's pasture, right? We're going to use bell boots and wraps and protective measures, right?" If she hadn't been a vet, Brigid would have made a perfect OSHA inspector. Always thinking Safety First.

Since Tina's pasture is home to several sheep, I'd never put Snoopy there. One of his favorite games when he was young was to break into the goats' pen and chase them around. When he caught them, he'd pick them up by the tail and throw them. And he always caught them. The thought of him playing ring toss with the sheep, while funny, was asking for trouble. Probably.

Tina and I discussed a couple of options. The most viable one seemed to be to put him in one of the small pipe corrals on the hillside:

The incline of the ground would force Snoopy to utilize his foot and strengthen his muscles. Thinking that Snoopy might feel a little too good in such a large area, we listened to Brigid's concerns and decided to put him in a pipe stall that's a little bigger than what he's in now, but smaller than the corral.

But, first, a longe. Niki was supposed to trot him for 5 minutes each direction, on the longe line. Snoopy had other ideas, and wanted to lope. They split the difference - Niki loped Snoopy both ways for 3 minutes on the line.

Once in the larger stall, Snoopy was very quiet until he thought it should be time to go home to his "real" stall, then he started pacing and running and charging the gate. He should calm down this evening, when he figures it all out. And once he truly calms down, we can start to ride him at the walk.

This weekend, I dreamed I rode Snoopy in a horse show. We won first place in horsemanship, and were preparing to go into the trail course. It's the first time I've dreamed of being on him since he broke his leg.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A date with the doctor

We did it! We went to see Dr. Martinelli, and his cast of thousands.

As hard as it seemed to do two weeks ago, it was much easier today. Of course, it wasn't cheap. Tina is on vacation this week and Christine is taking care of the horses and the dogs; these are my two go-to gals when I need Snoopy to be hauled anywhere. Unfortunately, the ultrasound specialist, Dr. Rantanen, was only available today, so I had to call a professional horse transport.

Enter Chuck and Stacey of Chuck Erb Horse Transport. Chuck's name is actually much longer than "Erb" – it's got about 25 letters – so he just uses the first three. We arranged for pickup at 11:30, to be down at Dr. Martinelli's by 2 pm.

Before we left, I decided to groom Snoopy a little so he'd look nice for the doctor. As usual, Snoopy wanted to bite my shirt, play with the brush and generally invade my space. We spent five minutes working on our tough-love relationship. I'd curry him and he'd stretch his neck out to enjoy it, then he'd turn and try to nip my shirt and I'd smack his nose.

When Chuck arrived, I warned him that a) Snoopy is a land shark, and b) he might be a little high-spirited. Snoopy proved me wrong by walking quietly out to the street, to Chuck's enormous vehicle. It was like a horsie limo – it cost about as much, too. Chuck was, however, a really nice man, and very good with Snoopy.

So I followed Chuck and Snoopy from beautiful Chino Hills,

To beautiful San Marcos.

This is the route we took.

When we finally got to the Twin Oaks Farm, Dr. Martinelli's intern, Dr. Walker met me. She immediately had men to take Snoopy to a stall and unwrap his leg (we had put a standing wrap on it for shipment), gave me paperwork to fill out, and then escorted me to the office to meet with the other doctors. Talk about efficiency!

Let me just say that I loved, loved, LOVED Doctors Martinelli, Rantanen, and Walker. They put me at ease, and spoke to me like we were all people trying to figure things out, and not like a team of gods answering the tiresome questions of a mortal.

We began by reviewing Snoopy's x-rays. They all agreed that Dr. Fischer had done a really good job and that the bones had properly fused.

Next, we went outside to watch Snoopy trot.

"Wow, he's really lame," Dr. Martinelli said.

As Gibbs would say to DiNozzo on NCIS, "Ya think?"

Dr. Walker then administered a little cocktail to sedate Snoopy so he wouldn't kick Dr. Rantanen during the ultrasound. My big black horse was in dreamland within moments.

I watched over Dr. Rantanen's shoulder while he slid the sensor over Snoopy's fetlock and pastern. At first, the screen reminded me of my first ultrasound of my son when I was pregnant. Then a bizarre shape took form in the graininess.

"See that?" he said. "Looks like an alien."

"So that's what's wrong with Snoopy," I told him. "He's got an alien infection."

Dr. Rantanen took a series of snapshots of the foot with weight on it and weight off it. He followed the suspensory ligaments from one insertion point to the next. While I watched, Dr. Martinelli began to talk to me about bone scans as another diagnostic tool in our search for Snoopy's lameness. As he talked, I thought I saw the dollar bills floating, out of my wallet and into the walls of the barn.

Between the x-rays and the ultrasound, I waited for those magic words: "Aha! There's the problem." But they never came. Dr. Rantanen kept saying that he saw no problems with Snoopy's ligaments. He showed me the pictures he'd taken and explained what he was seeing in each one to prove his point. Quite frankly, I had to just believe him. I mean, he could have pointed to a dark spot and said, "See that? It's Swine flu." Who was I to argue?

In a nutshell (and completely paraphrased for the medical-terms-impaired), this is what Dr. Martinelli told me:

"Dr. Rantanen can't find any soft tissue damage, so there's no need to do shock wave or stem cell treatment. His x-rays show that the bones are fused properly. So basically, there's nothing wrong with him, except that he's lame.

"I think, although radialogically, he's fused, functionally, he hasn't. He just still hurts from the initial injury and surgery. I won't give you a 100% guarantee that he'll end up completely sound, but I think right now it's still too soon to tell.

"In the meantime, I think you should take the kid gloves off and let him be a horse. Turn him out, don't worry if he runs around and kicks up his heels. If he's quiet enough, ride him at the walk. Just don't let him do any reining slides again."

What he said made sense to me when I equate it to human injury. I've never broken anything, but after my C-section, there was a loooonnnnggg period of time where I could not do situps because there was a range of motion where I just couldn't feel my stomach muscles. In addition to the fracture, Snoopy has had an incision to install plates and screws. The bone has to be traumatized by the foreign objects. When you toss in the blood vessels, muscle, nerves, etc that needed to be cut or moved around to get to the bone, why wouldn't he still have some soreness at the trot?

So the good news is there's nothing wrong with my horse. The bad news is that he's still lame. The better news is that I can relax and let him have a little fun.

Oh, and BTW, Snoopy was a complete gentleman at Twin Oaks and never tried to eat any of the doctors or attendants, which Dr. Martinelli teased me about constantly. "Oh, watch out, he's gonna chew on you," he'd tell the helper as Snoopy laid his sleepy nose in the crook of the guy's arm. Isn't that just like a kid?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A new day, a new tactic

Last Tuesday, Dr. Martinelli emailed me, after I had emailed him.

"Hi Gayle,
Dr. Rantanen will not be available this week, but should be next Wed May 6. He will confirm with me this week, but you may look into transportation options for mid-day on May 6th and let me know."

We didn't mention the whole snafu of the previous week. At this point, I decided to let it go and move forward. I also decided to take a different approach with this visit. I've emailed Dr. Martinelli to tell him we will be there around 2 p.m. on Wednesday and to contact me ASAP if this is not feasible. I'll also call him tomorrow to leave the same message on his voicemail. I've contracted Stacy and Chuck again to carry Snoopy down to San Marcos, so all I need at this point is to go buy a fat, quilted standing wrap for his leg.

I'm so hoping it happens this time.

In the meanwhile, we've moved Snoopy to a larger, outdoor pipe stall, to allow him to walk around more and get more stimulation. Here he is in his new digs:

He's really liking it here. It overlooks the round pen, so he can watch the other horses (I suspect he runs vicariously through them), there are goats and deer in the neighbor's pasture to look at, and he has a neighbor two stalls over. Her name is Rose. We can't put him next to a horse at this point because he wants to play with them, so there are too many aerials and squealing to be safe.

I'm still not sure what will happen on Wednesday. Will the doctors find anything useful? Anything treatable? Will he have to stay down there for therapy?

Stay tuned for our next installment of That's My Snoopy!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The wait goes on

I know you were all just breathless with anticipation about Snoopy's visit to Dr. Martinelli this week. Let me relieve your suspense: it didn't happen.

Here's what happened instead. Tina and Niki are at the Hollywood Charity Horse Show this week and couldn't trailer Snoopy to San Marcos. Christine (my other friend with a trailer) is in Elk Grove at a horse show and couldn't take him, either. This meant I had to hire a professional horse transport. They're nice people, very easy to get along with and take excellent care of the horses, but they are Expensive - As - Hell. They're easily triple the cost of what Tina or Christine would charge me.

But I didn't see any other options, so I booked Stacey and Chuck to take Snoopy to the doctor. The problem was that they wanted to know when they were doing this, since it was a day trip and Snoop had to come home. It was a very reasonable request.

I called Dr. Martinelli, just as he requested, to find out when to bring Snoopy down. I called him on Monday. Then I called him on Tuesday. Three times. Each time I called him on Tuesday, I had Stacey calling me shortly after (telepathy on her part, I'm sure) to get the status.

My options were few at this point. I could just arrange for a mid-morning transport and hope for the best. Maybe we'd get down there and the ultrasound doctor wouldn't be there, which means we'd go home and I'd have paid $400 for a car ride. Or we'd get down there and the doctor wasn't coming until late afternoon and I'd have to figure out how to get Snoopy home. We could hitchhike, but Snoopy doesn't have opposable thumbs.

Or I could cancel.

In the doctor's defense, I know they get busy. But I hate calling and calling and calling - to a black hole. I begin to feel like a jilted lover. "Please, can't we just talk?" Or a stalker.

I was so revved up about seeing this doctor, and finding more information about Snoopy's injury, and I still am, but if we have to re-schedule, that's the way it is. I'll get in touch with him again (even if I have to call in Dr. Murphy) and try to make an appointment when Tina or Christine can take him. That way, I've got a little bit of wiggle room if the appointment doesn't go as planned.

Because nothing ever seems to go as planned these days.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

We've set the date!

After two phone messages and an extensive email to Dr. Martinelli with no response, I called in the big guns: Dr. Brigid Murphy. This experience has removed any trace of shyness I ever had about contacting doctors, animal or human. If it takes name dropping, intermediaries, papal dispensation, I don't care - I'll get to see that doctor one way or the other.

Dr. Martinelli couldn't have been nicer when he called finally called me. He had actually read my blog and could discuss Snoopy's case in detail - not only that, but he had a way of talking to me that didn't either condescend or talk above my grasp of medical lingo. In other words, I felt like we had a conversation.

As I suspected, before going through any treatment, he wants to do an evaluation, which is fine with me. I mean, why should he give my horse shock wave treatment on MY say-so? The really good part of this is that he contracts with a doctor who has a digital, high-res, state-of-the-art ultrasound and can get much better pictures of Snoopy's pastern. The not-as-good news is that the doctor (he told me his name, but I can't recall it right now) is semi-retired and has a sporadic schedule. We've set the appointment for a week from this Wednesday. I'm to bring Snoopy's x-rays, too.

He sounded a little worried when I told him Dr. Fischer didn't see any reason why Snoopy would return to full soundness. While he said this was certainly possible, Snoopy's injury being in the back of his pastern makes it one of the more difficult types of desmitis to treat. He's had horses take as long as 18 months to recover from this, so he likes to take the kind of pessimistic, long-term view. That way, owners are not looking for the miraculous, 6-month healing.

So hopefully Snoopy and I will find a ride down to San Marcos on April 22nd. I think it's also the weekend of the Hollywood Charity Horse Show, and both Tina and Christine may be too busy to give us a lift. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Progress begins again

Despite my house falling apart around me, luck smiled upon me Monday. Dr. Snyder called, around noon I think, to discuss Snoopy. He sounded like he was on his car phone; either that, or he was standing in the middle of a freeway.

I went over the same things that I told Dr. Nieto - or whoever it was - about Snoop's broken foot, short-striding, handwalking since August, yadda, yadda. I added in what Dr. Pollard had written down for me to tell him about the diagnostic anesthesia: "Abaxial nerve block was essentially negative. Low 4-point block was 80%+ better."

Dr. Snyder was as patient and nice as Dr. Nieto-whoever and said that it sounded like insertion desmitis was the correct diagnosis. He offered three options:

1. Stem cells - I thought this therapy was only useful for new injuries, but Dr. Snyder told me they've been having a lot of success with chronic problems. The downside to this therapy is that it's wildly expensive, about $3000. I'd have to sell a lot of copies of Freezer Burn to justify it.

2. Shock wave - Dr. Snyder assured me that this was much less expensive, and wouldn't harm Snoopy at all. The worst that could happen is that after spending money on the treatment, it wouldn't work.

3. Continue with the current therapy - which is just walking.

Dr. Snyder recommended the shock wave plus the walking regimen. He said the next ultrasound (due April 26) would show whether there was any improvement. Actually, he sounded like he would be interested in knowing how the ultrasound turned out.

So that's what we're going to do. Tina spoke with Brigid (Dr. Murphy) who said Dr. Martinelli had the best shock wave machine around. He is down in San Marcos, but he's the head of California Equine Orthopedics, and he treated Copper, Tina's old show horse, so he sounds pretty good. I'll set up the appointment, then figure out how to get Snoopy down to his facility.

I'm actually kind of excited to have him treat Snoopy. I don't want this blog to sound like I just want my horse to be instantly healed. If it takes a year for him to recover, it takes a year. What I want to avoid is for Snoopy to end up an invalid because we didn't push enough, stretch him enough, etc.

Trust me - I'll keep you all informed.

Monday, March 30, 2009

For my next trick...

I don't have anything truly revelatory to report here, but I have been using this blog as a way to communicate with the vets as to when things happened with Snoopy. After my dismal e-mail exchange with Dr. Nieto, I decided to wipe the slate and start from scratch. I would call UC Davis anew, as if I'd never called before. Dr. Murphy and I spoke on Saturday about my troubles, and she said, if necessary, she'd get involved in the mix.

This morning, I called UC Davis and asked to speak with Dr. Snyder. The woman answering the phone said she'd put me through to his voicemail if he didn't answer. Of course he didn't answer - what doctor every answers? It was a little disconcerting - there was no outgoing message on his voicemail, no "Hello, you've reached me." Instead, I heard a beep, then Little Miss Computer Voice told me to press 2 to continue to record my message. I pressed 2, heard another beep, and recorded what I'm certain is a long, rambling, message, accompanied by every phone number I will be even close to - I considered leaving the number to Albertson's since I plan to do some shopping later, but I didn't.

The problem with leaving a message is that I really need to have Snoopy's big folder in front of me to discuss his injury and treatment in terms a doctor can understand. So I'm hoping Dr. Snyder returns my call today, while I sit home, patiently waiting for the Home Depot to deliver and install my new water heater. The past week has been trying for the Carline household. The microwave is broken, the water heater leaked all over the garage (and the shut-off valve broke, meaning we spent most of Friday night and Saturday was spent without water entirely), the dishwasher won't drain and there's a leak under the kitchen sink. When the bees showed up in our chimney on Sunday, it really was the last straw.

And, to top it off, my horse is still lame.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A brake in the action

Yes, I mean "brake", as in "putting on the brakes."

To recap, we're trying to find the source of Snoopy's discomfort with his left hind foot. The fracture has healed. Dr. Fischer thinks it's tendinitis, at least the equine version. The exact wording was, "the superficial digital flexor tendon was enlarged at its insertion and had hypoechoic areas in each branch."

Got that?

His recommendation was to handwalk Snoopy for 30 minutes a day and bring him back in 60 days for more tests. This might be fine if we hadn't already been walking Snoopy for the past, oh, eight months or so with no improvement. My insecurity about Dr. Fischer's diagnosis comes from watching him do the ultrasound - he never seemed to have that "AHA" moment, when he points to something on the screen and says, "Look at that." He only waved his finger about and used words like "seems to be", "looks like", "maybe". I don't care how sure he was about his diagnosis when he spoke to me in the office, I didn't see that same degree of certainty in the examination.

Oh, and NOTE: **To All Horse Owners Who Have Ultrasounds Performed** When they are doing the ultrasound, request that they print at least TWO copies of the ultrasound pictures. As state-of-the-art as my equine hospital may be, they cannot save the ultrasound electronically, like they can their digital x-rays. So everytime I want a second opinion from another vet, they have to send the original to the vet, along with a SASE to send it back when the vet is finished with it. This is important to know.

I called UC Davis and spoke with Dr. Nieto, who talked to me about Snoopy's problem for about 20-30 minutes, then said he'd rather not look at medical records, he'd rather see the horse at this point. He told me that the first thing he'd do is perform his own ultrasound, then do pain blocking to pinpoint the source of Snoopy's pain. This is also called "diagnostic anesthesia" - you numb the hoof, see if the horse still limps, then numb the fetlock, and work your way up the horse's leg to find out where the problem is.

Dr. Fischer had refused to do this blocking. According to him, you risk injuring the horse by allowing him to put full weight (or full range of mobility) on a hurting limb. The other vets I spoke with disagreed with this. Their arguments were that: 1) you only trot the horse briefly to see if it still hurts, and 2) after you perform the procedure, you put the horse back in his stall until the anesthesia wears off.

I scheduled Dr. Pollard to do the pain blocking. He had to cancel the first appointment, but he was on time the second time and I watched him work. We started with the hoof. There was no change in Snoopy's trot; full stride on the right and a half-stride on the right. It was a little funny to watch Snoop walk the first few steps with a numbed foot - he couldn't find his foot or the ground, so he kept lifting his foot uber-high, then kind of slop it down. After awhile he figured it all out and was as good a patient as he could be, under the circumstances, the circumstances being that Dr. Pollard didn't want him sedated while we trotted him.

Dr. Pollard next went to Snoopy's fetlock. Snoopy was, by this time, very happy to be out of his stall and be allowed to trot, even if it was supposed to be slow and even, with a stud chain. Poor Niki has bad knees and a broken toe, but Tina was sick with some kind of crud and couldn't jog very far, and I'm the mom, so no one trusted me with him. (This is okay, I understand. I taught him all his bad behavior.)

The fetlock numbing made him trot a lot better. Not 100% better, but a lot better. Dr. Pollard officially described it as 80%. He wrote me a note to describe his findings and told me to call UC Davis again and offer to send them the x-rays, the ultrasound and his findings, to see what they have to say.

By the time I got home, it was too late to call, so I emailed Dr. Nieto, reminding him who I was and what we discussed, etc. The next day, I got this email from him:

"Dear Gayle, I think you have the wrong person. I have not talked to you about your horse. Sorry, Jorge Nieto"

WTF? His was the name I heard when the woman at the office said she'd transfer my call. His name was what I heard when the voicemail picked up. No one else on the website has a name even NEAR 'Nieto'. Did I spend 30 minutes talking to an imposter?

Honestly, I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach.

I emailed back: "I'm sorry to press one more time, but I called UC Davis Large Animal Hospital, Equine Clinical Services on Friday, March 6th and explained my horse's problem. They transferred me to the voicemail of Dr. Nieto, and I left a message. About 20 minutes later, a doctor called and we discussed my horse - I perhaps assumed it was Dr. Nieto? Or is there another doctor on staff whose name sounds very much like yours?"

I'm hoping that sounded like perhaps I made a mistake but perhaps you just forgot about that Friday phone call - because, because, um, it was Friday afternoon and you'd already had a few gin & tonics?

Today I decided to start all over again and leave a message for Dr. Snyder. I called UC Davis, only to be told that Dr. Snyder doesn't have his voicemail set up! Sigh. The lovely young girl told me to call on Monday, during regular office hours and they'll help me.

In the meantime... we walk.

Friday, March 13, 2009

When life gives you lemons

Okay, there's no lemonade to be squeezed out here. Only more lemons.

After speaking with Dr. Nieto of UC Davis, I talked with Tina and we decided to take his advice and do more to investigate the exact location of Snoopy's discomfort. Tina thought Dr. Fischer had done blocking, although I don't recall telling her he did (just one more miscommunication in Snoopy's recovery). On Sunday, I emailed Dr. Fischer to confirm that he did not do any pain blocking on Snoopy to further pinpoint the source of his problem. He replied the same day that no, he did not perform any "diagnostic anesthesia". His reasoning was, "with a dropped fetlock, there is significant injury already present and diagnostic anesthesia can alleviate the pain and exacerbate the injury."

I remember having this conversation with him during Snoopy's exam; when I told Dr. Nieto of Dr. Fischer's concerns, his response was, "Well, we're not taxing him significantly at the time, just trotting him briefly in a straight line. And the blocking agent wears off within an hour, hour and a half, so we just keep him confined until it's worn off."

So I made an appointment for Dr. Pollard to come out and perform diagnostic anesthesia today (Friday) at 10:30 a.m. I had a riding lesson to teach at 4 p.m., which meant I'd go to Chino Hills in the morning and stay until the afternoon.

Ah, if life was only that simple. Two additional items arrived on my plate: 1) an invitation to my son's high school soccer banquet, beginning at 6 p.m., and 2) my publisher sent me the final copy of my book to proof before it goes to the printer. Now I had to go to the ranch by 10:30, return home to work on the book and prepare for the banquet, then go back to the ranch to teach the lesson, change clothes and get to the high school.

Which would have worked, except that when I arrived at the ranch this morning, Niki informed me that Dr. Pollard called and canceled the appointment. It seems he was up to his elbows in emergencies this morning and just couldn't get to any non-critical cases. Damn horses - they refuse to get sick on a schedule, don't they?

So I went back home and tried not to think about wasting my morning. Instead, I focused on what needed to be done.

Snoopy's not in any immediate danger. Dr. Pollard re-scheduled for next Wednesday morning, so maybe we can get the answers we're looking for. I just wish I had a Data Out port I could plug into my horse and get the information. Color me impatient.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Who do I have to sleep with to get some service here?

Okay, maybe that's not the best way to start a conversation. After I mulled over Dr. Fischer's diagnosis and recommendation, I decided to go ahead and contact UC Davis' Large Animal Hospital.

I thought an email would be the best initial contact. In an email, I could describe, in a clear, succinct way, what the problem is and what I'd like the vet to do. So I emailed Dr. Snyder with enough information for him to call and tell me whether he could look over Snoopy's medical records and give me a second opinion before I drag my three-legged horse up and down the coast, looking for treatment.

By the time of this post, I still haven't heard a word from Dr. Snyder, so I called UC Davis. As is always the case, I ended up describing the entire thing to the woman answering the phone, who transferred me to a different vet so I could repeat myself to his voicemail. I'm pretty sure his name is Dr. Nieto, although the lady on the phone kind of slurred it and he seems to have an accent. They both assured me he'll get back to me next week.

WOW! As I was typing my hopes that the doctor would actually return my call next week, the phone rang. It was Dr. Nieto, who spent a good 20 minutes asking me questions and talking to me about what it all meant. His suggestion was to perform more diagnostic tests, specifically using pain-blocking to investigate where the pain is coming from. I explained that Dr. Fischer was hesitant to do this, since a horse that can't feel pain risks further injury. Dr. Nieto believes the risk is small, and the reward may be the discovery of where the problem originates. I thanked him for his time, and now I'll try to convince Dr. Fischer to research Snoop's short-striding a little more.
Wish me luck.

By the way, here's a picture I found in my files the other day:

This is why my boy is such a pill on the ground. Isn't he darling here? Only a few months' old, he loved to lay his head on me and get his withers scratched. This is not so darling now, when he weighs 1000 lbs. But I can't convince him that it's no longer appropriate.

It's my fault. It's ALL my fault.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Thot Plickens

Eposide I: The Queen is Not Amused

After my initial meeting with Dr. Fischer (for which I paid $175 just for the pleasure of his company), I had lingering questions. Questions that burned in the back of my head and kept me from sleeping, mostly because I knew that attempting to call Dr. Fischer and ask these questions would be an exercise in frustration. I might as well save the call and bang my head against the wall instead - the results would be the same.

By Friday morning, Tina had the same questions as me, and recommended we get a second opinion. There is a vet down south, in Escondido who has done miraculous things with lameness in horses, so we set up an appointment with him for March 18. In the meantime, I called the equine hospital to get a copy of Snoopy's medical records. When the office found out I never got a copy of his discharge papers, they had the blonde intern email them to me. In her email, she said if I had any questions, to contact them. It was the typical "if there's anything else we can do" company line.

That's when I learned her name: Antje. I also learned her email address. This came in handy. On Sunday, I had an idea. I sent the following email:

"Dear Antje,
Thank you for the discharge papers. Yes, after mulling it all over, I have tons of questions.

1. We have been handwalking Snoopy since August. Another 60 days of "more of the same" does not sound like we will improve anything, does it?
2. Couldn't Snoopy's x-rays from the initial break, through the last series, be evaluated and compared to see how much (if any) the angle of the pastern has changed? If I could see that, for example, his pastern was lower and now it's getting higher, I'd have a lot more faith in the therapy, knowing that he's on the mend, but it will take a little longer.
3. Only walking was discussed as a cure for his problem. Is there no other physical therapy to be considered? Stretching exercises? Anti-inflammatories? Ice?

I'm frankly getting frustrated, not that it is any fault of the hospital. Dr. Fischer is a good surgeon and I am satisfied with Snoopy's surgery. However, I am having a hard time getting a local vet (apart from Dr. Murphy) to become engaged in Snoopy's recovery. After our appointment on Thursday, I had time to think and consider the questions above; however, my inability to access anyone with expertise to answer my questions frustrates me. My phone calls to Dr. Fischer go unreturned, so I clearly cannot seek out his advice.

I plan to be as pro-active for my horse's recovery as my wallet can afford. My next step will be to contact UC Davis' equine program to see if they can give me any other ideas.

Thanks again,..."

Antje replied, rather quickly, that she'd talk to the good doctor about my concerns on Monday.

Episode II, Where Gayle Gets a Rise Out of the Doctor

I expected a phone call, maybe on Monday, but maybe not for another week, since Dr. Fischer did not have a good track record with me and the telephone. Amazingly, I got another email later Sunday evening:

Dr. Hinz forwarded me your email. I had assumed that the communications were being handled by the referring DVM's. They had sent us the films and we called them and I assumed that you were informed. Obviously, something broke down. The issue is not your horse's pastern angle but the fetlock.
Why don't you call my cell phone at <***> after 8:30 tomorrow if you have further questions and I can try to answer them. Alternatively, email works for me but it can be hard to make sure that everyone is understanding everything.
Ted Fischer"

Holy smokes, it's the great and powerful Oz himself!

I sent him the following reply: "Thanks. I'll call tomorrow. Pastern or fetlock, my questions are the same."

Episode III: Making the Call

I called around 8:45 on Monday and got the doctor on the phone. We talked for almost an hour. According to him: 1) he and Dr. Murphy did try to compare previous x-rays, but couldn't find one with a comparable angle; 2) there is no drug or treatment other than time to heal a suspensory ligament; 3) there was no earthly reason for us to have to sedate Snoopy in order to walk him, and 4) while very sorry about the breakdown in communication, there was no way it was his fault.

I couldn't argue with 1 & 2, but we had a rather lively discussion about 3, where I kept repeating, "He's five years old and he hasn't been able to run free for ten months," and he kept giving me examples of psycho race horses who didn't need sedation to be handwalked. I don't care what he says, either he hasn't truly seen a "psycho race horse" or he thinks it's normal for a horse being handwalked to need four people keeping it from floating away like one of those Macy's Day Parade balloons.

As to his 4th topic, I explained to him what it looked like on my end of our tin-cans-with-string: Dr. Pollard takes x-rays and says we'll know what our next step is when Dr. Fischer reviews the films. I wait a couple of days and call, but Dr. Fischer doesn't call me back. After another week and another call, I tearfully explain it all to Dr. Murphy, who drives to the hospital, x-rays in hand, and hunts the doctor down to get our next step. By then, our 60-day rehab has turned into 75.

He still wasn't willing to concede fault, but he said he was certain our communications problems were behind us. They should be. I have his email address and his cell phone.

Epilogue: What next?

Half of me wants to believe he is correct, that walking will put Snoopy back on track. Half of me still wants that second opinion. So today, I emailed Dr. John Snyder of the UC Davis Large Animal Hospital, Equine Department. I explained Snoopy's injury as briefly as possible and asked if he would be willing (for a fee, naturally) to examine Snoop's medical records and see if he concurs, or if he'd like to see my horse for more tests.

I'm sure I'll have to auction off my organs to pay for any tests/treatment from UC Davis, but if I can return my horse to good health, it will be worth it.

Stay tuned for The Return of the Frustrated, Bitchy, Yet Proactive Horse Owner.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The good, the bad and the ugly

First, the bad news: frustrated by Snoopy's inability to trot without a pronounced limp, we scheduled an appointment with the doctor to have him evaluated. Pam at the Chino Valley Equine Hospital could not be nicer to deal with and set us up with an appointment with Dr. Fischer right away.

I have a love-hate relationship with Dr. Fischer, although I'm certain he's unaware of it. Surgically, he did a wonderful job of repairing Snoop's broken sesamoid. As far as communications go, however, he is a black hole of response. I cannot get him to call me back, even when I leave the most dire of messages. Every time I need an answer, Dr. Murphy has to chase him down for me. Before yesterday, I had never even seen him "in de flesh".

After giving Snoop a significant dose of his favorite cocktail, Tina, Niki and I walked him down to the hospital (the ranch is located maybe two blocks away). We stuck Snoopy in an outside pen then went inside to wait for Dr. Fischer. True to form, he walked into the office without acknowledging us, then walked out, then walked in... you get the picture.

Suddenly, I look outside at the Snoop and see one of the interns (the young blonde girl with a German accent whose name I can never get right) go into the pen with him, so I went outside to join them. Good thing I was watching my horse!

"I haven't seen Snoopy in a long time," she said. "Why are we seeing him today?"

"It's been ten months and he's still not trotting," I told her.

She turned him around in the stall. "Well, he seems to be walking just fine."

At that moment, Niki walked up.

"Oh, he walks fine," I said. "But his trot is... no good."

It was not quite the precise and detailed explanation I had hoped Tina or Niki would give the doctor, but Niki laughed and told me it was exactly right. His trot is no good. Tina and Dr. Fischer appeared at that point, along with another intern. The doctors all took turns poking and prodding his back pasterns, then discussing what they felt. Then they took him onto the dirt and trotted him. Apart from failing the sobriety test (he couldn't trot in a straight line), he wouldn't reach underneath himself with that left foot, although he didn't mind putting weight on it.

Then came the x-rays, then more x-rays, then an ultrasound. It all took a long time, so Tina and Niki had to go back to the ranch to teach their lessons. The hospital staff wouldn't let me into the x-ray room, so all I could hear was some general stomping about. With all of the waiting, he had started to mouth Tony, the guy holding him, which was a sign that the tranquilizer was wearing off. By the time we got to ultrasound, Snoopy was awake.

I'd like you to take a look at the picture:

Tony is holding Snoopy. We are in the hallway between the offices and the examination rooms. I don't know why, but that's where the doctor wanted to do the ultrasound. Just beyond Snoopy's nose is a ficus tree. It was a general recipe for chaos.

Snoopy wanted to eat the ficus. Failing that, he wanted to chew on Tony. When Tony objected, he tried to play with the handle on the door. He certainly did not want to stand still and have a gooey object run up and down the back of his pastern. They picked up his front foot to keep his back foot down. There was more general wiggling, after which he yanked his foot away from the blonde intern, stretched out and peed in the doorway. That settled him down for about a minute.

"I will need to sedate him," the blonde told me, "if I ever want to get this done today."

They did 'get it done today'. There was more discussion between the doctors that I couldn't decipher - were they saying they knew what was wrong or were they clueless? At least, Brigid (Dr. Murphy) showed up. I knew she could translate for me, if need be. Finally, Dr. Fischer asked me to go wait in the office and he'd explain all.

He showed Brigid and me the x-rays, comparing both hind legs. There was a marked difference in the angles of both pasterns. According to Dr. Fischer, the reason for this is a stretched suspensory ligament - basically, it's tendonitis. He doesn't believe it happened during the injury, but most likely was the result of Snoopy straining to compensate while he moved about during his recuperation. I'm wondering if that little episode of getting his cast stuck in the stall door may have started the whole thing.

The good news is that it's still recoverable, although it may be a long road. Stretched suspensory ligaments typically take a good 6-8 months to heal, and we don't know how long this thing has been stretched out. We're supposed to give him 60 days of physical therapy and then go back for another ultrasound to see where we are on the healing curve. Dr. Fischer wouldn't, of course, guarantee that Snoopy will return to complete soundness, but I'm hoping he's young enough to bounce back. I'm also happy to report Dr. Fischer is a lot nicer in person. Apparently, he just doesn't like to talk on the phone.

The ugly news? Physical therapy for tendonitis is walking. More walking, 30-45 minutes a day. More of the boring sameness that we've been doing for the past 6 months. Tina could weep.

Oh, yeah, and the 'evaluation' cost me nearly $700.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hope, we must have hope

Dr. Murphy still thinks that Snoopy is progressing, even if all we can do is walk him. She says (rightly so) that his left side had atrophied quite a bit. He needs to both rebuild the muscles and re-gain flexibility.

As Brigid says, "I'd like to see his butt cheeks look more even before we start trotting."

According to her, we're a long way from calling him permanently disabled. So we're walking him every day and having chiropractic adjustments and keeping our hopes high.

After all, what else is there for us to do at this point?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Slooowwww Progress

The arena is dry now, and we've gone back to walking Snoopy. Tina tried walking, then trotting, then walking Snoop, but he is sore after he trots, so Dr. Murphy has advised her to just walk him for a couple of weeks. We're also getting the chiropractor involved, but Tina is starting to sound discouraged and wondering if we should have some scans done of the entire hip/leg/foot. She thinks the break is healed, but perhaps his movement while he wore the cast, coupled with the months of inactivity, has tweaked some other piece of the puzzle.

In the meantime, they found a better tranquilizer to make Snoopy easier to walk. Can you blame him? He's five years old and hasn't been able to run and jump and buck since last May. I feel so sorry for him, having to be doped up just to walk around, but he's hard to control if you don't give him something. And Ace seems to make him less calm and more hyper.

I'd just like to have my horse back again. It's still impossible for me to think that he might not come back and I'll have a lawn ornament for the next 15-20 years.