It’s taken me a while to feel comfortable sharing this, but here goes. And while we still don’t definitively know what’s wrong with her, Miss Harriet is doing well this week.

Back in December, shortly after we arrived in Virginia, we celebrated Harriet’s birthday and her first anniversary with us.

Harriet's birthday

She was doing well then, along with everyone else in the herd.

Harriet's birthday2

It was about a month and a half later that we called the vet. Despite the fact that she was eating, Harriet was losing weight. Here are my journal notes…

Wednesday, February 19, 2014:
Update on Harriet.  She’s lost some weight since we got to Virginia (no one else has) – despite the fact that over the last several weeks we’ve been feeding her unlimited hay, three cups of equine senior mash three times daily, plus a tub of alfalfa cubes daily. The vet was just here to see her – she said that Harriet’s teeth had a couple of minor but sharp points, so we’ll schedule a dental for her soon (this isn’t currently keeping her from eating though). All of Harriet’s heart/lung/gut sounds were good. The vet took blood and is going to run a standard panel plus send a sample to Cornell to rule out Cushing’s.  They also took a fecal sample with them.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014:
Cushing’s came back negative. Harriet’s protein levels are low. Took her to Blue Ridge Equine Clinic in Charlottesville for an abdominal ultrasound. Harriet has thickening of her small intestine that is preventing her from absorbing nutrients. A test for Lawsonia is pending. If that is negative, she likely has inflammatory bowel disease or lymphoma. An exploratory surgery with biopsy would be needed to differentiate between these and is not recommended. These may be treated with steroids.

Harriet (with shaved sides) after her ultrasound:


Wednesday, March 19, 2014:
Lawsonia test came back negative.  I just talked with the vet… she said that based on Harriet’s age, she would more likely assume some form of lymphoma.  She wants to start Harriet on 10 mg dexamethasone (steroids) – if Harriet’s issue is inflammation of the bowel, this could help for years… if her issue is indeed lymphoma, it would help for a shorter time period. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014:
The vet just left – Harriet had a bad day today.  She started feeling bad after lunch and wouldn’t eat at all this afternoon. She started having diarrhea, hid in a corner and kept her head down, postured to pee and didn’t… we took her temperature and it was about 103.5.  Gave her Banamine while we waited for the vet and her temperature went down to normal range.

The on call vet came and did a complete exam… her heart rate is double the normal, her gums are dark red, her breath is bad and she’s generally distressed.  She doesn’t appear to have had any (positive) reaction to the steroids and she’s continuing to lose weight.  The vet fears that if the diagnosis of lymphoma is correct that something may have perforated – that would explain the fever.

She tubed Harriet and forced water/electrolytes into Harriet in case she was dehydrated…

The vet took blood and we should know more tomorrow… our regular vet will be here at noon for spring vaccines for the herd, so we should know more then.  The vet tonight left antibiotics to fight any infection, which we’re giving to her every twelve hours for the next week to ten days.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 (morning):
She looks good this morning – she’s got a spark back in her eye and is her feisty self. No temperature, administered her antibiotics and she’s eating. I’m heading to the grocery store to get her favorite strawberries – our regular vet will be here around noon today.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 (afternoon):
Our regular vet was here. Harriet has had a regular poop, peed, no fever, heart rate normal, gums normal color again… she’s still not herself, but she’s not at all distressed like she was yesterday afternoon.  Her blood work came back – her total protein is still low, which means that she’s still not absorbing what she needs from her feed – and it is likely that the steroids aren’t working as we had hoped. We’re going to keep a really close eye on her – looks like time will tell. 

It’s amazing how much our herd loves Dr. Hecking and how at ease they are around her. In this picture, Dr. Hecking was on the phone consulting with the vet that did Harriet’s ultrasound while Harriet listened in:

Harriet with Dr. Hecking

Tuesday, April 8, 2014:
Just got results of Harriet’s diarrhea panel and it came back completely negative. The other good news is that she has her poop back in a group these last few days and is again eating and acting well… we’re keeping our fingers crossed that things stay this way.  The positive thoughts and prayers must be working.

Thursday, April 24, 2014:
Another blood test. While Harriet’s total protein is lower now than it was at the beginning of April, she hasn’t lost any additional weight.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014:
Harriet continues to eat and act well. We know that the thickening of her small intestine is preventing her from absorbing nutrients, but we don’t know what is causing it. Lymphoma? Inflammatory bowel disease? There’s no way to know without an exploratory surgery, and we aren’t going to put Harriet through that.

What I can tell you is that Miss Harriet has finally realized that she really is a donkey and that she can’t stand to be separated from her herd – even for a moment. Go figure, Bernard seems to be her best friend in the herd. He spends a lot of quiet time with her, which is contrary to his nature.

We will be watching her closely, working with Dr. Hecking to monitor her condition. We’ll make sure that she’s eating and drinking and not showing us signs of distress. And we will be hoping that she will make it for a long while longer. 

Here’s what Don wrote about our first year with Harriet:
Harriet has brought so much joy to our life here at Morning Bray Farm. Her gentle and loving nature is unrivaled. The way she looks at you with her soulful eyes will melt even the hardest of hearts. We have been so blessed to share this last year with her, and look forward to many more to come.

Truer words were never spoken.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥