Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The True Story of Beau's Feet, Part 1: Trying to get our arms around them

I have a story to tell. It has been a long time in the making.
It's a story about an amazing donkey named Beau who, once upon a time (one year ago, on January 24, 2010), came to live on Critter Farm.

Beau arrived with his donkey feet in terrible condition. While I was told by his previous owner that he had had foot care, it became obvious this was not the case.

The very first week he was here, it was all about us getting to know each other, becoming familiar with the other animals, and being very calm:

The following week, I started looking closer at his feet. I wanted to come up with a plan for getting them in shape. Not having had a donkey with bad feet before, I was learning as I went along.

I tried lifting his front feet and he twitched all over the place and looked at me like I was crazy. When I tried to lift his back feet, he made it very clear that he did not wish to have them touched. At all. Ever.

Now, Beau's a big boy and this was scary for me. By all appearances, he is a slow, sedate kind of guy. Yet when I tried to just touch those rear feet, even without trying to lift them, they shot out so fast behind him that I could feel the wind, created by his kick, move my hair.

I knew his feet needed attention but I also knew that to give them attention, he was going to have to let people touch them. We had a lot of work to do.

Here are some pictures of his feet from last February, the first few weeks after he arrived at Critter Farm.

His front feet were very long, both in the heel and toe. There was a chunk of hoof wall missing on his left front foot, which was very concerning:

Within a few days I noticed that the spot on his left hoof looked wet and when I touched it, it felt mushy:

I called the vet to come check it out. When she lifted his front feet, they were like clubs - huge and with the inside hoof wall compressed and growing underneath his feet:

The wet spot she diagnosed as an abscess (she also found evidence of an earlier abscess, too, that had cleared on its own). She cleaned the area out:

then she mixed up a paste of sugar and betadine to help everything drain:

She then applied the paste, wrapped the foot:

and made him a stylish duct-tape bootie to cover everything:

When the farrier arrived a day later for his first visit with Beau, he found Beau's rear feet also had the hoof curling underneath the foot which was then being compressed with his weight:

The lack of proper trimming on his rear feet had caused him to pronate inward significantly, twisting his ankles and forcing him to walk, basically, on the sides of his hooves:

Have you noticed yet how all this work is being done on Beau's feet, yet I mentioned earlier that Beau would not allow his feet to be touched?

Well...while I was working daily with him to build trust around his feet, Beau still wouldn't let any strangers near them. In order for the vet or farrier to come close to his feet, poor Beau has had to be sedated, quite heavily, with a cocktail of controlled substances that are illegal for me to administer on my own. This cocktail makes him so drowsy, he leans his forehead into walls:

or into me (see the drool marks on my shorts?), but at least the farrier and vet can work on him then:

Even under this much sedation, we only have about twenty-five minutes. After that, Perry, my farrier, can feel Beau begin to fight him and start kicking out with his rear legs:

I detest sedating Beau. Every single time the vet comes and I watch her corner him in his stall, then watch as she tries to find his elusive donkey neck vein, all the while feeling his anxiety rise (which is then transferred to Chester who is awaiting his turn with the farrier just one stall over), it makes me cringe and be furious at myself for not working faster with him to help him overcome his foot issues.

At the end of those days, though, I've known in my heart that I can't hurry this - that slow and steady trust building is the way to go. My goal has always been to have Beau lift his feet - all of his feet - not just for me, but for anyone who asks him.

But the question is: Did I set too high a goal for myself...and for Beau?

Tomorrow's post: Part 2: Having a farrier who listens


  1. Poor fella, so glad he ended up with you, your love and care. Looking forward to reading tomorrows post! My girls loved the story so far!

  2. I don't think you've set the bar too high. You are patient and loving and with time, pets and animals reward that; he just needs to learn the new pattern. Fortunately, animals don't live their lives dwelling in the past, so with a bit of time and love, much harm can be undone. Thanks for sharing your farm stories. I think I'm living my farm fantasies through you! ;)

  3. Poor guy, it must be so hard for him

  4. I don't think you have set your goals to high, but it just may take a long time. Slow and steady really does win the race :D Eventually.
    LiBBiE in Oz

  5. Interesting post. I know nothing about donkeys, but I do know that all critters need foot care. I'm sure his feet are very sensitive and that's part of the problem! Surely as they heal and feel better, he won't be so protective of them(?)

  6. Yowsah. I had no idea this was the starting point with Beau. The undercurling is outrageous. I don't want to think about where he'd be now if you hadn't entered the picture. And this part of the story puts your message from Tuesday in a whole new light. Unbelievable...

  7. Those *were* some rough looking hooves. But you are on the right track- slow and steady. With Donkeys, if they don't think it is THEIR idea, there is no way, no how you'll win a fight ;) Quiet persistence, lots of praise, the odd treat now and then and you'll have Beau and Chester all sorted out!

  8. are you sure isn't a chow chow puppy? teddy acts exactly like beau when i try to do anything to her. she runs and hides, tucks her paws under her so i can't get to them, anything so i can not tend to her. it is awfully frustrating. and trying to get pills into her. that is an art and a science of it's own. it's hard to take care of these guys sometimes. maybe when beaus feet are all better he will trust all of you!

  9. How can people be so cruel to let any animals feet get so bad. Poor boy, made me want to cry. But then I realized, he is with you. He is OK.

  10. Awwww, made me cry. I see it all the time what the fear of a farrier or vet does to the donkeys, so it really is very important to have people at this job who not only know their job but also care beyond belief, so that even the shyest and most scared creature can get through it. Donkeys are so sensitive and so aware of everything and such feeling animals. And you are so right, you can't hurry it, slow and steady is the cure for that and lots of love and reassurance. We had animals that were tied down to get their feet done before they came to the DSC. And of course they were scared like hell when the farrier came, I must say our farrier is amazing, I just love watching him do his job because you can see how much he loves it and the animals. He is just an inspiration.
    Good luck with Beau's feet, sure looks though like you have everything under are such a good donkey mom.

  11. Never blame yourself. The person to blame is the one who let it happen.
    And I'm glad he was sedated. Made it easier to do what had to be done. I'm sure he was in terrible pain from his feet.

    The only thing I might have said was to do the other donkey(s?) first, so Beau could see that it wouldn't hurt and was a normal fact of life.

  12. Poor thing, that must have been really painful :( He was lucky to get someone as loving as you to start getting those fixed!!

  13. Bless you for taking on such a challenging problem and keeping Beau's emotional, as well as physical, needs in mind. Someday (soon, I suspect!) he'll thank you in innumerable ways...

  14. I'm one of your silent followers, but yesterdays post about your wonderful chicken, I'm so sorry for your loss, and then today with your sweet donkey, well I just had to tell you what a dear heart you have.
    Your animals are so blessed to have you as their Mom. All critters deserve to be loved, as you love yours. My critters are just dogs, cat, fish and turtles (30+) but they hold my heart too. The Olde Bagg, Linda

  15. I had no idea they had curled under like that. I didn't even know that was possible. You always see neglected equines with "ski" hooves.
    He's got to know in his heart that you're trying to help. One day at at time.
    Can't wait for the rest of the story.

  16. Poor baby. I'm glad Beau has somebody who really cares about his welfare.

    Probably when they don't bother him anymore, he'll be more receptive, but in the meantime just take it slow. It sounds like you have to walk the fine line between patience and getting his feet healed in a decent length of time.

    Good luck!

  17. Slow and steady trust building is absolutely the way to go. And, getting his feet healthy, too. He's a smart fella and once he starts to feel better, he'll know that you and the others had a hand in it.

    Seeing the condition his feet were in is so painful! That's criminal, really. Poor guy. So glad to know he's in the right hands. You're doing the right thing, Danni - and I have a feeling we're going to see and hear some really good news in Part 2 of this story. Give him a big hug for me!


  18. We had a horse once who was the same way with her feet. She'd had a very scary experience as a yearling and was nearly out of her head with fear at anyone lifting her feet. The local farriers wouldn't touch her, even the big cowboy types, so my ex had to work with her every day to try to overcome her fear. We bought carrots in 20 pound bags to bribe her and ex learned to be a farrier. It took over a year before she would allow anyone but him to touch her feet, but she did eventually overcome her fear and was able to be worked on by a "real" farrier.

    Slow and steady will get results, but don't beat yourself up over having to sedate him for now - his feet are too important to neglect and once they're in good shape you'll have a much easier time keeping them that way and helping him overcome his fear. Hang in there!

  19. How were you to know of this problem especially when the previous owner told you that the feet were taken care of? Beau deserves the loving-trusting soul in you. In time, may he show you the same kind of treatment. Hope you have days ahead of improvement and help that soothes his feet.

  20. Oh Danni. I'm sorry. I had no idea it was so bad for Beau. You're the best Mamma in the whole world.

  21. Wow ... he really had some serious hoof problems. It's too bad when people let their animals get in such bad shape. You've done a good job taking care of him.

  22. Amazing. I have never seen hooves in such poor condition. Poor baby. Lucky to have your loving care.

  23. I know how much work went into gaining Beau's trust and how appalled you were when you first saw his feet. Your loving, steady approach has paid off, and he is beginning to have wonderful feet!

  24. Poor little guy, I don't know why people can't realize that all equines need hoof trims as well as goats, lamas, cows, and other hoofed critters. I have a wonderful farrier for my horses, who was more than willing to work with my mini/shetland cross when I got him. You gotta keep the good ones coming to help. They are worth the cost.


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