Finn and the trailer
In last week’s blog, I wrote about my trials and tribulations with getting Finn in the trailer. He was hauled all kinds of places last summer, with some trips totaling 8 hours in the trailer. I think he’d prefer NOT to be in the trailer, but he’s not afraid of it per se. He just chose loading as one of his tests of my ability to make him comply.
I received a comment from a woman who stated that it “made her sad” to read about the “method used to load the horse.” I asked how she would accomplish the same goal? The answer was, “I never allow the horse to turn away. It just takes patience.”
I am strong for a woman in her 60’s; however, if Finn decides to exit the trailer, or not enter it at all, I can’t physically make him do it. Either he does what I ask, or he doesn’t. And the only way I know to get that degree of cooperation is to move his feet. Just like the boss mare in the herd… she says move and the recipient of her request moves.
I have no problem getting feedback, positive OR negative, about what I write or how I handle my horses or dogs. In my opinion, my treatment of Finn last week was not in any way abusive. I never got angry with him, and he had options all along. When he chose the right one, life got easier!
When it came time to load for teeth floating last week, he first balked. I hadn’t allowed lots of time for round pen reminders, and it was (is) a swamp around here anyways. I quietly backed him up once, and he walked forward and jumped in. Move your feet… The vet sedated him for his teeth float. He did great because sedation is just that, only sedation. The noise and the rasping on his teeth are stressful. When it was over, Finn immediately staggered into the trailer. Due to daily rain, we haven’t done much since.
I have mentioned more than once in past blogs that I have more confidence in my ability to train dogs than horses. I am gaining on it as far as my horsemanship, but I have been training dogs since I was a toddler!
When I am at the veterinary clinic, I spend a significant amount of time educating clients about two things: weight management and behavior issues. I have walked clients through the incredibly difficult decision to euthanize a dangerous pet. I had to do exactly that with Emma, a Rottweiler I raised from a puppy. My confidence in my training expertise applies to dogs… training cats is another dimension entirely.
Koda the Cat
Last week there was a message waiting for me from the young vet that staffs the clinic the vast majority of the week. He was preparing me to see a client with an aggressive cat. This young woman had just had her second child, a 2-week old boy. She had a 2-year-old daughter as well. Her mother was with her for the office visit. Her in-laws were due to arrive shortly after her parents left.
Koda the cat was 9 or 10 years old and she had raised him from kittenhood. It was a 2-cat household, and the other cat was “like a dog”. Apparently Koda had never been Mr. Nice Guy, but his aggression and ill-temper were on the upswing. Granted, his personal space was shrinking, and the little people were increasing. The household chaos, in general, was increasing.
I drew blood to rule out any medical reason for his temperament. I had to gas him down to some degree to even get the blood. The results were all normal.
Koda would “seek attention” by climbing on their lap, and then without provocation, he would swat, hiss and bite. He liked to lie on the back of the couch, and recently he had swiped at the two-year-old as she walked by and scratched her under her eye. She was afraid of him. His best option for seclusion, the “cat room” was also the guest room, and it was increasingly occupied. The husband was ready to get rid of Koda.
I provided the young mother with an extensive handout detailing the needs of a happy cat. Some of the suggestions are easier to implement than others. We talked through some of the ideas. We discussed medication, and she had (understandable) reservations about that. I was extremely committed to making sure this young mom left knowing she had options.
However, I also wanted her to realize that there were limitations on what she could do at this busy, stressful time in her life. There are the “recommendations” and then there is the “reality.” It would be wonderful if the two concepts were the same, but they’re not. I did not want to convey any judgment or guilt associated with any decision she might have to make.
The client left the clinic and headed to PetsMart where she bought a second cat tree with an enclosed element that provided Mr. Nasty with a convenient place to hide. In our frequent communications since her office visit, she states the cat has rarely left the new tree. He appears to be leaving everyone else alone, for the most part. At some point in the future, I may suggest that the client use medication (transdermal that is rubbed on the ear) if his aggression continues to be impossible to endure.
My own experience with this was heart-wrenching. I raised my Rottie, Emma, from 8 weeks old to 6 years old. She was always an assertive dog, but I was up to the task of being her mom. However, she would target other dogs. Once she made up her mind that someone had to go, there was no changing it. She repeatedly attacked Leah, a housemate. Medication was a mixed blessing, for while it helped somewhat, a missed dose was catastrophic. For her, it was a bandaid at best.
The third time she attacked Leah, I was extremely fortunate that my daughter was home ill. I am not sure how things would have unfolded if I was alone. Emma was determined to kill Leah. She had a vicious hold on Leah’s front leg. Leah was screaming in fear and pain, urinating and defecating. I had one hand on Emma’s collar and one arm around Leah, but I didn’t have the strength or wingspan to do any good. Emma dragged us all across the kitchen floor, Leah’s blood mixing with feces.
The only option I could think of was to shove my fingers in Emma’s eyes. No response. She was in another zone entirely. Eventually, when Emma tried to reposition her hold on Leah’s leg, my daughter managed to pull her off.
After taking Leah to the clinic first to attend to her wounds, I took Emma to the clinic and put her down. It nearly killed me. But I have grandkids, and I can’t and won’t have a dog who is dangerous. My animals mean the world to me, but they have to behave and be safe to be around. That goes for cats, dogs, and horses.
My crisis with Emma occurred during an otherwise horrible season of my life. I had so many things crashing around me. Sometimes, a horse or pet owner must make decisions that might be different than a decision made in a less stressful time of life. This trending post from Horse Forum asked if it was ethical to put down an otherwise healthy pasture horse? Ultimately, only the owner of the animal can decide what is best in their given situation.
There are many excellent resources available on the internet to learn about better pet ownership and better horsemanship. There are many different approaches, with new ones appearing regularly. Talk to your vet with any concerns you have about your pet’s behavior. We’re here to help and listen. And many of us have personally experienced what you encounter in your own home.
Lastly, I know we all think we are invincible, but even with the best training and relationship, our equine adventures can be dangerous. I encourage you to consider yet another measure of safety as you ride… have emergency medical information available. I know I don’t bounce as well as I used to, and if I get hurt I want the best treatment available. ID MyHorse Emergency Tags have been recently modified to ensure the attention of first responders. They will be available in late June. Be prepared and stay safe! (Right now I’d just be happy to ride… it is too wet to go anywhere!)