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