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!