Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ross the Rooster

This post was originally written on another one of my blogs "What I Learned from Daniel", in June, 2012.    Because it is relevant to life on the farm, I have reprised it here.

Ross the Rooster, and to the left, one of his three hens, who were all sisters.

      Two days before Daniel's sudden death, he and I visited a neighboring town, a distance away, to pick up animal feed and to select a rooster.  Our old rooster had passed leaving us with three hens who needed some protection when they free ranged.   Daniel picked a beautiful young Rhode Island Red with a nice nature, that he named Ross.  We carefully put Ross in a box and hurried to finish our errands, and then headed home so Ross would not need to spend too much time in a box.  Ross adapted quickly to the task of watching his three hens, and they accepted him as if they already knew him.
            Of course, Daniel passed suddenly two days afterward, and somehow Ross and his girls held together, even though we probably weren't as attentive as normal in those days of dealing with such a terrible loss, and an autopsy, which turned out to be normal, leaving us with the probability that a spontaneous heart rhythm disturbance in an otherwise healthy heart somehow took our youngest son.
            Ross has not had it easy.  About a month after we got him, one of our Labrador Retrievers, Sally,  picked up the cage in which Ross slept, and shook it violently.  When we found Ross, he looked dead.  All floppy and lying on his side.  We brought him into the house, and put him on his side on a pizza box in a warm place, and gave him gatorade. He lay there for hours, and eventually was able to stand.  He took three days to be able to walk and eat and drink normally.  We were thrilled that it wasn't yet time for him to join Daniel.   Ross is also incredibly courageous. He will seek out snakes and attack them, because I think he believes they are a hazard to his three hens.  There was also one other dog attack in the past four years, but this was not as severe as the initial one, and Ross recovered quickly.

This is Ross recovering from the dog attack of which we spoke.

            With his three hens, Ross has sired about a hundred hens and roosters, most of whom look a good deal like him.  He looks surprised when one of them ventures near his area.  He recognizes them as looking as he does, but does not seem to understand that they are his sons and daughters. One of his sons and one of his daughters passed recently, which is still very good odds for 100 chicks, all of whom made it to maturity. He is particularly annoyed when one of his sons crows loudly.  Ross is coming up on being about four years old.

These are a few baby roos and hens of Ross.

             About a month ago, a large fox broke into the coop where Ross and his three hens live, when they are not free ranging. The fox apparently grabbed one of the girls likely breaking her neck in order to grab her through the small space he was successful in breaking into. Ross and the other girls were bewildered the following morning. The fox was apparently so quick and aggressive that they did not know what happened. My eldest son fixed the opening, and later that day, when the fox returned and challenged him by growling and running toward him,(often a sign of being rabid) he shot the large male red fox.

             This morning, when our son Matt went out to check on Ross, something was wrong.  Ross was lying on his side, and although he could move his head and neck and his comb was still brightly red colored, he appeared not to be able to move.  My husband moved him to our barn sick room immediately, and called me. I am not sure what is wrong, but I suspect some type of an infection coupled with heat exhaustion.  Many times, animals will tolerate high heat well, but if they are ill, particularly with a bacterial infection, their tolerance for heat is poor.  We gloved and cleaned up Ross, who appears to be weak but not in any particular pain. I gave him gatorade, and then gatorade cut by half with water, when he seemed reluctant. I tried cooked oatmeal and the normal farm remedies. Ultimately, I gave him an injection of antibiotic which the vet has us keep in the refrigerator for such occasions.

            We continued to check on him hourly all day. We used a warming light to keep the temperature constant at the preferred rate.  We turned it off when it became a little warmer.  We have offered gatorade and water all day. For a time, he seemed a bit more alert and to be moving a bit better.  However, when evening came, he went back to a side lying position, and although he does awaken and his eyes and his comb look very good, I think he may pass overnight.

            Daniel, I am sorry I can't do any more than this, to save Ross.  At this point, my goal is to keep Ross comfortable. He has become very important to me since your passing.  He is the last pet you chose and named, and he has worked hard here to protect his hens and his progeny, and is a treasured farm member.  I told Ross tonight that I would very much like him to recover and for him to stay here on Earth longer, but that if he must go, to you Daniel and to God, that I understand.  I know that you will take good care of him and that he has a hen and some of his children there with you also.  I told Ross I will do my best to take care of his remaining hens and other family.

            Please say a prayer for Ross the Rooster.  May his passing, if this is what is to be, be gentle and easy.

Update:    Ross, the Rooster passed away just after 9 am this morning, June 24, 2012, at four years of age.    I noticed that he passed just after we placed some dried flowers on the grave of one of the other chickens nearby, and that when he passed, there was a momentary clucking and crowing of his progeny, as if in tribute.  I know I shouldn't be sad because Daniel has his rooster back, but I am.
               He was buried in accordance with our normal funeral practices for animals, in which the family gathers, we read some scripture, say some words and thank God for a creature such as this, and then we completed the burial with each of us gently shoveling before the grave is completely filled in. We completed it with a bouquet of dried flowers from the farm.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Updates on Jared

Jared, sitting by a warm running dryer in the Mud Room. The three fluid containers are lemon Gatorade, plain water and chicken broth.  The food nearest him are pieces of grilled chicken.

        I have chosen to share the continuing saga of Jared's health issue here, in the event that someone who reads recognizes an issue in their own pet, and is therefore able to put together their own animal's issue, and more intelligently seek veterinary treatment.
              In the last post I established that Jared is thirteen years old and that he has never had an appetite to write home about. He has always taken considerable effort and creativity to feed.  A couple of weeks ago, his appetite dropped off to almost nothing.

"No, Mom. Don't make me drink that !"

 While we made a vet appointment, he began with watery diarrhea.  Initially, the veterinarian staff thought this was simply the end of his life, but I reminded them that he looked well and was highly functional a week before and so this was an acute process, and not completely the downhill slide of old age. He did not move well as we took him from the truck to the vet.  They wasted no time in getting bloodwork.   The most rapid bloodwork showed positive for Erlichiosis, a tick borne illness which may be carried for an extended period. He may also simply have some antibodies to it, and may not actually be ill from it.  Usually, dogs who are symptomatic and positive are treated, and dogs who appear well, are not.  (Incidentally, German Shepherds with erlichiosis can become extremely ill.)   The vet did not wish to treat him at this time because she felt it would flatten his appetite even more.  The second issue was that Jared has a very low sodium, and a potassium level that was in the highest range of normal.  His other kidney labs were within normal limits.  They decided to test him for Addison's Disease, and so a Cortrosyn stimulation test was scheduled.  (Lucky for us, this was a fraction of the cost for a human test of the same type, which is thousands !)   When the bloodwork from the Cortrosyn stimulation test was back, it was negative for Addison's Disease, and Jared was worse.  By then, I was feeding him with meat baby food, salt, water, and proton pump inhibitors, until we had a better diagnosis, all through a large plastic plunger-styled feeding syringe. The vet was planning for intravenous hydration at home.  He was cooperating, and for that reason, I was continuing. Finally, I told the vet that I wanted to go ahead and treat him for the Erlichiosis, and perhaps also for a gastrointestinal parasite.  Shigella is part of the normal surface water here. It sits on the clay and has killed many humans and animals in the few hundred years since this area has been occupied.  Shigella causes death through dehydration.  Dogs of course, get shigella when they drink from puddles while running on the farm.  Humans get shigella from drinking what might look like a beautiful stream or waterfall, which might still be contaminated.  Both antibiotics began in an oral syringe, along with a little food, some salt, and even some mylanta between doses. (Mylanta will impede some of the absorption of antibiotics and can disrupt electrolyte imbalance when used in the long term, so we should avoid doing so, unless your veterinarian has ordered this practice or approved it for some very narrow band of uses during antibiotic therapy.)   Three doses of each later, (36 hours later) the dog began to eat.  A week later, he is eating better than he has for some time. He looks well, and I can barely keep this exuberant individual on a leash !
           The moral of the story is that anytime a dog has rapid onset watery diarrhea, treatment for shigella (also known as shigellosis) should be contemplated, if tests for worms or other obvious causes are negative. Also, we probably should treat for a positive canine erlichiosis test more often than we do, especially in large dogs who seem more vulnerable to it, than others.
          If you own, and love dogs, please read the links to Erlichia, Addison's Disease and Shigellosis, as above.  Our vets are all very good, but we are the experts in the environment and in the habits of our dogs. Our own input and observations are invaluable in pinning down a diagnosis, in a young, or even a very old dog.
         Jared continues to gather strength and to recover. He is really enjoying his life in what are likely his last years. This dog has lived with our family for thirteen years and was a beloved pet to our son Daniel.  Eventually, Jared will join Daniel, but it won't be today !

Later Updates on Jared:



Prior Posts to the above with Jared as the subject: