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Much to our delight, Don’s sister Debbie visited us over the weekend. Not surprisingly, things got rather gooberific here when the herd discovered Deb had brought freshly baked Paco treats with her.

They certainly have mastered their goober faces now, haven’t they?

From left to right: Ellsworth, Bernard, Nigel, Grace, Buck, Patrick.

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The herd is doing extremely well in their new forever home.

They seem genuinely content here, and I think their unobstructed view of the surrounding countryside has a lot to do with it. (We were surrounded by woods in Lexington.) The Boyz and Grace get plenty of exercise walking their hills, and everyone is at a great weight.

MBF Donks

One morning a couple of weeks ago though, I went out to find Bernard in terrible pain. His chest was raw, swollen and hot. I immediately called our vet, who came to see him that very day.

Her exam revealed the following:

Skin disease; lameness: severe pyoderma in axillas, moist dermatitis, cellulitis: T: 99.4; fly bite allergy front legs distally and RH distally; donkey lame at walk from irritation in axillas and swelling in manubrium.

Poor Bernard!

Bernard's meds

While she was here, the vet administered Bernard dexamethasone IV and applied EquiShield ointment to the affected areas on his body. He was such a good boy and I think he felt better almost immediately. You know he loved the attention.

Bernard’s plan:

Give sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim 8 tabs twice daily for 5-7 days. Monitor for diarrhea. Give dexamethasone 2.5 cc orally tomorrow then 2 cc orally once daily for 2 days. Apply EquiShield ointment to affected skin 1-2 times a day. Can shampoo 2-3 times a week to clean affected skin of scabs. Use fan to reduce fly exposure. Start Zyrtec 4-5 tabs twice daily for 2-3 weeks.

We’re happy to report that Bernard is doing fabulously now. He’s a huge fan of Zyrtec these days, especially because it comes hidden in apple slices each morning and evening.

We’ve installed a fan up at the barn, and more than any of the other donkeys, we’re guaranteed to find Bernard standing under it when he wants to seek refuge from the flies. That’s my smart, smart boy.

Walking with Bernard

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We’ve been here for six weeks and it has felt like home since day one.

First day

We now have a porch goat:

Moo on her porch

Rain or shine, the gardens are lovely:

Garden after the rain

The herd has the farm’s best view:

Our first rainbow

Our snail races are exciting:

Snail races

Mornings are my favorite:

Morning


MBF Herd1

MBF Herd2

As you might imagine, it’s considerably more humid here than it is back in Albuquerque. And while everyone is shedding out quite nicely right now, Patrick not so much.

With as much sweating as he’s been doing, we figured it’d be best to trim him for the summer.

Patrick1

We pulled the clippers out on Saturday afternoon with the honorable intent of giving woolly Patty Pat Pat a full-body shave.

Yeah, not so much.

Patrick2

Poor Patrick panicked at the sound of the clippers. Try as we might to comfort him, his terrified moments quickly outnumbered his calm ones. I have to assume that Patrick is more apt to panic than anyone else in the herd because of his past abuse. (Patrick is also the only one to freak when Harriet wears her blue coat.)

Patrick3

He even did the unprecedented “try to kick Daddy in the head” a couple of times. That’s probably because Don threatened to shave D-O-N into Patrick’s side.

Patrick4

You can see how much little we managed to get shaved. I suppose it’s enough to let Patrick feel at least a bit cooler over the next couple of months.

Patrick5

Shaving him has allowed us to see Patrick’s brand for the first time though.

Patrick6

The man who used to rope Patrick told Don that his brand was similar to the symbol for hazardous materials. (I couldn’t believe it either.)

hazmat-symbol

Patrick7

I’m going to see it as a shamrock instead.

Shamrock

After all, wonderful things can come in threes, right?

Grace Patrick Harriet

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The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. (This is especially true for Bernard, who when he sees me opening a gate, is the first one to come galloping for inspection.)

Pasture

Over the course of the last few weeks, we’ve been working with the herd on the ins and outs of electric fences. I’ve heard of this working well for horses, but had serious concerns about it working with donkeys, who absolutely have minds of their own.

You can tell a horse what to do, but you have to negotiate with a donkey.    ~Elizabeth Svendsen

We started by running an electric rope in our permanently fenced pasture, then moved it to an area protected by the woods outside of that pasture, and finally last week moved it to our largest pasture area, which is open. They have a good line of sight here, so if they wanted to bolt, this is where they’d do it.

It all starts with this spool of rope:

Pasture2

Which we pull out to the distance needed:

Pasture3

And string it along these posts which we push into the ground:

Pasture4

This allows the herd an even larger (and new!) grazing area. The area that they’re standing in here is the pasture area defined by the electric fence; the area to the right of the wood post fence line is their permanent pasture:

Pasture5

This is where the electric current comes in (clipped into the electric wire that runs along the top of our permanent fence):

Pasture6

I have to admit it wasn’t pleasant watching them learn that touching the white rope wasn’t a good thing. I know it hurts; I’ve touched it.

But now that they know it and respect it, they’re happy. Doesn’t Patrick look happy?

Pasture7

I think Bernard (in the background behind Buck) looks pretty content too:

Pasture8

 ♥

 

It was yesterday afternoon. A spring thunderstorm had just passed through, the sun was shining again. It was time for Harriet’s afternoon alfalfa cubes and I ventured down to the barn.

I was attempting to move one of the donkey feeders and let me tell you… it’s slicker than snot on these here hills after a good rain and, well, I fell flat on my face in the mud and manure.

I was shocked. And I laughed.

I don’t know why, but I took a picture with my phone. Maybe it’s because Don wasn’t here and I wanted to show him photographic proof of my rite of passage. The only thing is, I apparently don’t know how to take a proper selfie. Here’s what I got:

donkey concern

Yup, that’s my hand. Covered in mud and poop.

But look at this:

Ellsworth

I laughed again when I saw it up close. My beautiful boy Ellsworth, worried about his mamma after she fell down.

How can you not love donkeys?

♥ ♥ ♥

Harriet and Bernard

 

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:

Harriet

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.

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