Saturday, September 9, 2017

I Don't Think I Care that the Foxes Need to Eat

These are three of the group of eight guinea fowl.

                 Life on a farm can be challenging sometimes, if just because it places us up against some stark realities. For example, I work hard to make sure that all the animals here are protected and are either safely caged or indoors in an outbuilding before dark. This alone can be very challenging sometimes, and in all weathers.
                     We have enjoyed our cadre of eight guinea fowl that I have raised from guinea keets. We have been lucky that these eight have had the opportunity to grow up and gain some skills before being challenged by snakes and some small animals. The guineas keep the tick population down, and will take on copperhead snakes, in a dance, quite frankly, too horrible to watch (for the snake, that is.)

                     At the end of each day, all eight of the guineas, the white and the pearly ones, return to their enclosure which has a tarpaulin top. They stay on the perch until daylight, and appear to sleep. Once in awhile, one of the female birds decides to sit on some eggs somewhere, and then we have only seven of them on the perch.  This of course is worrisome, and I will try to find them and return them to their enclosure before dark.  Sometimes, where they are nesting is not found. Last evening, this was the case.

                   This morning, there are piles of white feathers about every four feet from a fenced enclosure where we keep alpacas, where my errant white guinea was apparently nesting on quite the pile of eggs.  I followed it, from the nest, into the woods, and then had my husband meet me there with a machete.  Although there were plenty of white feathers, there was never any blood. Could she have been grabbed by a younger less experienced fox and have ultimately flown away and escaped ? I continued to search thinking that if I found her blood and the den of the fox, I could shoot multiple times into the den and save the rest of my guineas from being a repeated dinner for these animals.

                   I looked because if she had escaped she might need veterinary care, perhaps even gatorade, but she has been nowhere to be found. No particular evidence exists that a particular den of foxes has done this, although I know from the sounds, that parents have been training a new group of cubs to hunt.

                   I know that foxes need to eat too, but I expect them to find small animals and leave the animals I have nurtured on this farm alone.  I know in winter, this gets much harder.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

We Will Be Missing Maxine

No pictures were ever taken of Maxine, but this is probably what she looked like when she was younger.

                 When unscrupulous hunters find they have dogs who have aged out of usefulness, or are ill, or aren't great hunters, they drive them out to the country, remove their collars, and abandon them. A friend of ours who lives nearby has witnessed this more than once.  Two of them found their way here to the farm this year.  Some years, we return fifty hunting dogs to those who tag or microchip them. Very occasionally, when we are unable to find the former owner of a dog after advertising the picture, we keep them. This has happened about four times in twenty years. Two of them came to us within the past year.
             One of these dogs we named Maxine.  Our son James spied her one evening this Winter on our property, terribly thin, cold and hungry. We had tried to catch her before, but she had been leery of human beings. James placed her in the isolation kennel room and visited her often.  We can't adopt too many of these abandoned dogs because we have our own dogs and as they age, their veterinary expenses can be quite expensive.  A new elderly dog can be quite an expense. Since we have no proof of their rabies status, we will need to get them a rabies shot, and in one year, it must be repeated. It will be every three years thereafter. Although I do all the shots on the farm, rabies shots on dogs and cats in our state must be done by a veterinarian. They also will need a heartworm test and then heartworm preventive. A starving dog can't be given large amounts of food initially. They have to be carefully fed, often with a more expensive product until their stomachs can tolerate food, and then over time, they may be able to be advanced to a more typical food. When she is well enough, they receive an annual distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, parvovirus and coronavirus vaccine.  Maxine was an extremely elderly hound. Every one of her teeth was broken or in poor condition. The vet thought she was extremely old and that she probably had been abandoned after the last hunting season. She had also never been spayed.  No one claimed her.
            We decided that we would take care of Maxine, and that she could live the rest of her days here with us on the farm. She was particularly fond of the other hunting dog here.  At first we started with a chicken and rice dog food which she loved. Over time, she was advanced to a grain free dry food which had small pieces. We also added a wet food to it.  It didn't take long before she adored us. The elderly dog would jump like a puppy !  Despite the fact that the vet thought she was living on borrowed time, and likely had some organ damage from protracted starvation, I genuinely thought she had about the better part of a year. She had been through so much, and now finally had a family who loved her, and a group of dogs where she belonged.
            Several days ago, Maxine seemed quiet. She didn't eat as well as she did normally. She was drinking well and urinating quite a bit. She is a very old dog, I told myself. This afternoon, she had a seizure, and then lay quietly in her kennel room. Our other dogs were quite upset.
             At five, when I checked her again, she began another grand mal seizure. I wondered why I always lost dogs on a weekend.  I surmised that she was in renal failure, and that her fluid and electrolyte imbalance was the cause of her seizures. I hoped this wouldn't go on long.  We stayed with her, stroking her and speaking to her softly in between seizures. We were careful to avoid being accidentally bitten.  Then I began to cry, and I put my hands together,

                            Heavenly Father,
                          Thank you for bringing this sweet animal to us.
                          I am sorry that more of her life was not spent here with us.
                          Lord, please don't let her suffer like this.
                          She has lived a long life and she deserves to go Home, quickly and safely.
                          Lord, you know I can euthanize her if I have to, but I don't want to do that.
                          (I was referring to the fact that even loving farmers will end a beloved animals    suffering with a bullet if need be, and I would have, had this gone on too long.)
                            Please call her Home Lord. I know that we will see her again.
                            In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

       My husband said Amen.

                And then, Maxine took one last breath, let it out, and died.

 I looked at my husband and said,  "That's the fastest that the Lord has ever answered any one of my prayers."      Then we both cried.

                  Maxine's body has been wrapped and will be buried on the farm tomorrow.

  Her soul soars back to the loving God who made her and shared her with us, and who called her home, just after five in the afternoon today.

Monday, January 9, 2017

A Rooster Goes Home

One of these birds is Chuck as a hatchling.

  You might recall that we hatched the fertilized eggs from our Rhode Island Red rooster, Ross, and the three Bantam hens we bought.  Ross is the same rooster that Daniel bought two days before his passing, and so Ross and his offspring will always be important to us. Normally there is a hatch rate of a percentage of fertilized eggs, but we were strangely lucky on our first attempt. The wet sponge in the incubator is a wonderful trick and I think it maximized the hatch rate. All the eggs we determined to have been fertilized hatched in the incubator. We had a hundred percent hatch rate !

        Since we had quite a few hens and roosters, we gave some of them to friends as they grew, but many of them remained here on the farm, including roosters.   Sometimes, animals who have known each other from hatchlings will cooperate with one another even though they are each roosters. Other times, some must be housed completely separately from others.

         Chuck was one of the roosters from this large legacy of Ross the Rooster.  Chuck is a beautiful looking rooster. He was of nice size, and had abundant red feathers with a spray of darker green ones at the tail. Some of the other roosters picked on him, and so he spent some time in a cage within the corner of the barn with other animals. Since he had a view of a beautiful hen, he seemed contented.  Each time we placed Chuck in outdoor housing, he seemed to become ill. He didn't move or eat well and he seemed to tolerate extremes in temperature and weather poorly. This was interesting because his siblings, except for one or two of the original hundred, did not.  Several times, Chuck made the journey to accomodations outside in Spring, but tolerated weather changes poorly.  Eventually, we found him a large cage designed for many more animals, and he lived in it in the corner of the barn. He watched the other animals and listened to the radio for most of the day.

          This year, Chuck would have been eight years old. He was living in the barn and had his cage cleaned daily. We would take him out to move around in the sunlight every so often. About a month ago, I noticed that Chuck had a normal wattle, but that his comb was not the crimson it should be. It looked paler somehow. I remembered that one of Chuck's brothers has a heart defect and that I had read a heart problem can cause pallor in the comb.  I decided to treat him with an antibiotic in the event that he had an underlying pneumonia. The color did not change, but afterward he seemed well.

           The last few days have been exceedingly cold here.  The outdoor chickens who has houses within fenced enclosures, seem fine. The guineas also are dealing with the cold and wind. The ducks, who are exceedingly old, and were bought when Daniel was a small boy, are spending extra time in their house, but they too are fine.  I noticed that Chuck was spending more time than usual curled up. He seemed okay, and after all, he was in a warmer spot than the others.  I did not bring out the Delonghi heater or lights because he seemed to be weathering the cold, but I kept a close eye on him.

           Today when I checked him, he seemed okay, but by this afternoon, his posture did not seem right. I took a closer look at him and he seemed to be in a torpor.  He's too cold, I thought.  I placed the Delonghi on a low setting near him.  I also gave him an antibiotic injection, and he barely noticed.  He looked healthy and beautiful other than the pale comb.

             I checked Chuck thirty minutes later and he responded as if to thank me. I stroked him and told him he was a good rooster, and that I hoped he felt better.  A half an hour later, I checked him and he was peacefully lying on his side and had passed.

             I wonder if Chuck has a similar cardiac defect to his brother who also passed?  Almost eight years is a long lifespan for a rooster with a birth defect.   Still, I will miss this bird.  I often get very close to the ones who have difficulties that require my assistance.   Goodbye Chuck.  Thanks for coming.  May you find your family in Heaven and may Daniel look out for you there, in the farm in the sky.

              Chuck was buried this weekend  overlooking both one of the hen houses, and a beautiful forest.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Blessing of a Life With Animals

Daniel and Cammie, 2004      Copyright 2016


The following post originally appeared on my blog What I Learned from Daniel.

The post has relevance for those of us who love animals, and so I would like to call your attention to the link to the post here:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

From Rational Preparedness: What Is Myiasis ?

          Because the infection of wounds with fly larvae can be an issue for both animals and human beings, I would like to call your attention to this article, which appeared first on my blog Rational Preparedness.

Although the post was originally written for human beings, the post also gives insight as to the issues of wound infection with fly larvae for animals as well.

The post in it's entirety appears below:


                 Most people who have an interest in survival and emergency nursing believe that maggot infestation of wounds is a problem only in the Third World.  Most correctly, maggot infestation of wounds can occur absolutely anywhere in the world.   There are a wide variety of flies including Old World and New World screw worms which can cause a fatal infestation in animals and also in people.   A soldier, a homeless person, a traveling migrant, or anyone else who frequents the out of doors or a tent living situation, can develop a wound and have flies lay larva in it.  The larvae then hatch and the insects feed on moist necrotic tissue.
                 The first time I ever saw this was the time I rescued a turtle with an compression fracture of its shell.  Flies had laid larva in the compression fracture area before I had encountered it. Once the infestation was established, not even the vet could not save the poor creature.    On a farm we see this occasionally with elderly dying animals. especially those who are no longer able to swat flies or in those who are in in multi-system failure. Even though curing the issue might not save them in the long term, it will promote their comfort. Make no mistake, some animals and some humans can die from such infestations, even when whomever is treating them finally gets a handle on the primary cause for their health problem.Infection with fly larvae can be an important cause of mortality for some.

                  Occasionally, nursing homes are fined when maggots are detected in bedsores. This is the reason that restaurants as well as nursing homes often use a blue wall device which electrocutes flies.

                    There are some harrowing accounts of soldiers from the first world war who were caught in no man's land for several days with open fractures. By the time the men were retrieved, their wounds were filled with maggots.  Such men had a 75% chance of mortality when discovered in this manner.  The Civil War also had its share of deaths from this issue.

                       In later years physicians used sterile maggots bred in labs to clean wounds with large amounts of necrotic tissue, however these are specially bred and fairly innocuous  types and the entire process is watched very carefully.

                    Myiasis is the medical term for such infestations. It is pronounced as if written my-eye-a-sis.

There are a variety of different classes of infections of this type:

1. The first one is a nosocomial myiasis.   Nosocomial always means hospital acquired or acquired during the course of receiving medical care.  (An example of this would be the bedsore with nyiasis encountered by the nursing home patient as I mentioned earlier.)    Hospitals take great steps to avoid flies for this reason.

2.  A cutaneous myiasis is also possible.   This is an infection of this kind within the skin. This is far more common in tropical regions, but it can occur almost anywhere in the world.
3. Infections of the eye, or Opthalmomyiasis can also occur.
4. Such infections may also occur in other body orifices, such as nose, ears and occasionally mouths. The urinary tract and the intestine may also be infected, particularly when someone ingested larva in food or drink.
5. In animals, injections of Ivermectin and Dectomax can be used to kill the invading agent.  Although this is done in animals often, Ivermectin can cause liver enzyme increases and is rarely used in human beings, although it is known to work, particularly in Africa where it has often been used in those with helminthic eye infections.  In human beings, a 1% topical solution may be used, particularly when the wound is near the eye. Stromectol is one of the brand names of this drug when used in human beings.
6. Improved personal hygiene and better handling of trash can also improve the likelihood of not contracting such an infection.
7. Occasionally antibiotics of certain types may help with secondary bacterial infection, but will not help against the invasion of these larvae. 
8. It is possible simply to cover the wound with generous amounts of vaseline, choking off the larvae. They will slough off when dead by themselves in about 5-8 weeks.  Rarely, a physician will surgically remove them, but this is often not the best course, and leaving them to slough off may be the safest course after thick vaseline application.    Theoretically, vegetable oil or thick mayonnaise could be used, although I would be concerned that food substances may attract other flies.

How such an infection progresses depends largely upon the species of fly and worm that invades the wound.  There are some as mentioned in the cutaneous version above that afflict intact skin.
Infections of all these types may lead to septicemia and to death.

Of course, the most prudent course with regard to Myiasis is PREVENTION.

When someone in your party is injured, wounds should be bandaged when possible. They should stay indoors until the wound has almost healed.   Badly injured people in wilderness situations should be in the most solid and clean structure you have, away from food which might attract flies.  Building this patient a "net bubble" as is often done with children sleeping in parts of Africa in order to avoid malaria, may also be beneficial.
In the cutaneous versions of this disease, the insect often creates an air hole for itself.  You may be able to get the insect to come to the surface for removal by covering the open hole with a thick glob of vaseline, cutting off its air.

I am well aware that this is a difficult topic for many to read about and that the mental images of such are particularly unpleasant.  However, during a migration, a protracted disaster with or without injuries, this can be an issue. Proper management can make a difference in the survival of the infected.

    The pictures of such were so disturbing that I chose not to include them so that our readers were more likely to read and learn from this article.  They certainly can be googled.

 Preparedness Implications:
 In view of this, please purchase extra vaseline, extra gauze for application to wounds and extra amounts of clean roller gauze in order to secure the gauze to such wounds.   Consider buying mosquito netting for your emergency medical kits.   A bug zapper might be a good idea also.

Rational Preparedness ©2016  All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Hot Reggae: We Will Meet Again

                           Hot Reggae is an alpaca who was born in 1994 in the Pacific Northwest. He was the cria of an alpaca who was owned and bred by two vets in a very large operation.  By the time of his birth he was owned by a dentist and his wife who also lived in the Pacific Northwest.  Hot Reggae accompanied two other alpacas we purchased from them in March of 2000.  Hot Reggae made the long trip from the Pacific Northwest to Virginia in the air conditioned horse trailer that people in the alpaca trade call "The Alpaca Train".  He arrived to us with Mr. Ditto Two and Noche Buena.  Hot Reggae was a gelded male, but he had a very important job within the herd. He was the lookout, the security officer and the alpaca policeman, not only when the herd consisted only of three, but later when others were born, or added through additional purchases.
                          Alpacas are very much herd animals. The herd is a family to them, and when one dies, there is a grieving period. They are more loving and more empathetic than most realize. While protecting the herd and notifying us of marauding dogs and coyotes, he also grieved and supported grieving when Shakria, our first cria died when just a few days old.  He also supported the herd when Shakria's mother eventually died of astrocytoma.  He oversaw and participated in alpaca soccer tournaments until the farm vet put a stop to the practice saying that it could lead to a potentially fatal broken leg. Then, he became part of the tetherball alpaca league.  He also dutifully listened as our children learned to play a variety of musical instruments. The Irish whistle and the uileann pipes are the two I remember that he seemed to enjoy best. I also remember his placing his chin on my shoulder as I sat on the stump within the alpaca pen and cried when I heard that my aunt had died.

                        In 2004, we moved all of the alpacas to a new farm we built where they would have much better accommodations.  Hot Reggae never seemed all that impressed.  All he ever really seemed to need was his herd, some green grass, some good hay in winter, a handful of Mazuri pelleted alpaca feed per day, and lots of fresh water.  He tolerated shearing as if he understood. We never really needed to trim his nails much because he used to file them down himself on a sharp rock in the pen. He seemed to stop, as if it were a secret, each time he realized that we were watching.

                          Alpacas have a stated lifespan of about fifteen years, however in captivity and with good care, some individuals have lived much longer. As they have aged, we have developed additional habits which have kept them healthy and living longer.  Normally, We add zinc to their feed.  We continue injections to prevent meningeal worm. They receive an annual rabies and CDT shot.  With age, we give occasional thiamine and vitamin A,C, and D, shots.  We drop selenium tablets in their pellets

                           In the past year, we knew that Reggae, as well as his dear friend Mr. Ditto II, were failing. Neither were moving particularly well. Hot Reggae seemed to have a stiff neck. Their tolerance for heat was also not what it once had been. We made sure they had extra water and we added fans suspended to the rafters from their now shared concrete floored barn room.  When the weather was hotter than 90 degrees F, then we would spray them down with cool water particularly on the legs and underbelly which is where they dissipate heat.

                            At the end of July, both Mr. Ditto Two and Hot Reggae were illl.  Both seemed to have pneumonia to me. I treated both with an appropriate dose of Tylosin intramuscularly over several days. I also gave multiple injections of thiamine.  Hot Reggae rallied and seemed to recover.  Ditto died peacefully at the end of July, this year, at age 20.

                              We knew that Hot Reggae, though he appeared completely recovered, was living on borrowed time. He was now 22 years old !  He simply appeared not to want to leave his herd, and the human family who had loved him for all this time, right on top of Ditto's loss.  So he hung in there with us.
This morning, he seemed congested again.  I gave another injection of Tylosin. He drank some water and ate all the pelleted grain in his dish. Then, he grazed in his pen with his nephew, Chocolat, while I moved four horses out to graze.  He appeared all right, and yet I knew that we wouldn't have much longer together.

                               When I returned from lunch to top up waters and to check on him, he had passed quite recently. He was lying in the stall on his side under the fans on the cool concrete floor, his eyes still open.  I imagine that it had been just moments ago because as I wrapped him for burial, rigor mortis had not yet set in.

                                Today, Reggae joins a herd of alpacas who were all loved here. It is my hope that Daniel will look after them until we get there to, once again, help with the task.  It has been my honor and privilege to know you and to care for you while you were here, Reggae.  I will do my best to ensure health and safety for the remaining herd.  And of course you know, you will be sorely missed.  We will meet again, my friend.

A kind and gentle animal who was always the protector and the "police officer" of the herd.