Spring is finally in full swing here, and I’ve been putting miles on Nakai to avoid the Empty House. Ben surprised me with a GoPro Hero 5 Black, so I’ve been playing around with it while riding the home trails.
Setting it up was easy (No tears of frustration!) and transferring files over is also pretty quick. I’m still figuring out the app itself, but otherwise I’m totally pleased. I cannot wait to take it out on a ride with friends!
I haven’t written much about Khoshekh save for an introductory post. It’s not that there isn’t much to say about a cat’s life – it just seems too personal to post.
I met Khoshekh (then called Cosmo) at the Upper Bucks SPCA a week after losing Jake. I was still reeling and desperate to hear some purring. Anyone who has lost a pet understands the Empty House. Toward the end of that first week it was affecting me so badly I found myself making excuses not to go home.
Sick, snotty, and a bag of bones, Khoshekh eased into my life with a familiarity the seemed too coincidental. Almost overnight he became my shadow, filling out to a plump 13 pounds and chattering non-stop. He learned to grumble and groan, using these little chirps and trills to greet me when I came home or after waking from a nap. He learned “hurry”, running to the kitchen or to wherever I was calling him from.
Wide eyed and wiggling, he chased his tail constantly. He also teased Mulder and used my antique farmhouse table as a personal jungle gym. Later on, those two would spend snow days cuddled up together in front of the wood stove.
The best part about Khoshekh was his absolute love for people. Unlike Jake, who would refuse to look at you and wheeze as if you were sucking his life force, Khoshekh made a habit of stretching himself up my chest, gazing at my face and slow blinking. Occasionally, he would lean forward and head bump, rubbing his face on my nose, cheeks, and chin. He would stay like that for hours. A visitor to our home meant sidling down the hallway exorcist style only to flop dramatically on the floor for belly rubs. It didn’t matter who you are: he was going to meow and rub and you were going to like it.
Saturday morning, his meows changed pitch and he violently vomited his breakfast. As he walked away, I noticed his right hind leg seemed weaker – it wobbled as he walked. He took a few steps before sliding to the floor and resting on his side. When he took a few more steps with the same result, I grabbed him and took off for the vet. The last time I saw hind end weakness like this was Jake’s kidney failure.
We get there and cannot find his femoral pulse. X-rays showed a clean pelvic area and pretty hips and hind legs… but also showed his lungs were full of liquid. I was shocked. His last X-rays less than a year ago were clean. The cardiologist was not in, but it seemed like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy may be the culprit. Worried that he had half a blood clot in his leg, I was given a diuretic to drain the fluid from his lungs, pain medication, and medicine to knock out a blood clot if one was forming. I suspected congestive heart failure.
We made it through one dose of each before he began declining. At first I thought it was the medicine; the pain medication in particular has a bitter taste and he reacted as such, spitting and sticking his tongue out.
By Sunday morning there was no change, and he did not want to eat or drink. Each dose of medicine caused vomiting.
By Sunday afternoon his breath was much more labored, and I became horrified as I counted breaths. He was upwards of 60 breaths per minute – extremely high. We couldn’t wait for the cardiologist, and my poor Khoshekh looked miserable. I made the decision to euthanize.
He’s buried out back by the oak tree. A mound of stones from our home’s foundation covers the spot.
I am heartbroken and heavy with guilt.
If I had elective x-rays done a couple months ago, just because, would that have made a difference? There were no outward signs of heart disease with the exception of increased vomiting over the past couple weeks. With each of those, however, were hairballs, and I naively attributed them to his grooming (and shedding. Sheesh, Khoshekh, hair was everywhere).
He was in my life for a year and 4 months. I have no idea what kind of wild ride he went on the first six years of his life, but I am grateful for him to spend his seventh with me. At the time, I felt Jake had a hand in this. Perhaps he knew Khoshekh needed a soft place to land. Perhaps he knew how badly I needed a cat like Khoshekh.
People say cats pick their owners. I hope I lived up to the expectation, Khoshekh.
Shortly after his 1 year gotcha-versary, something clicked.
Guess who’s now wagging his tail – AT ME!
I should clarify: Mulder loves people. Guests coming into our home is cause for utmost celebration.
Lindsay coming home? Meh.
He used to look at me as if saying “Oh, the warden’s back”. While he would listen, and tried so very hard to do anything I asked, the bonding just wasn’t there. He didn’t seem to care if I was around. Two months ago I could’ve dropped dead and the only one upset would have been Khoshekh.
Now, however, I have a wiggle worm who popcorns around the kitchen, bouncing off of everything, talking and whipping his little tail around like a propeller. He’s so far up my ass his new nickname is Mulderoid.
I spent a whole year boosting his confidence and working to get him to open up. Now, it’s time to dial it back to manageable levels.
He’s learning “Watch Me” and we use it when coming across stressful situations. I use it mostly at the canal where we pass strangers and other dogs in close proximity. He used to be hyper-focused on other dogs, barking and straining on the leash to get to them. Just this past weekend we passed a property that had a setter harassing us as we walked. Mulder tried so hard to focus on me and never even offered a whimper. We still have a long way to go but I am incredibly proud of how well he is learning to handle such situations.
We work hard on this to reduce to stigma that pit bulls are untrustworthy, vicious dogs. I do my best to ensure Mulder is an advocate for his breed.
He’s so scary, in fact, that he hides from the rain under my truck.
Foxcatcher was the kick off to my endurance season and the main reason for beginning this blog. I’m reminded of the nauseating anxiety, relief flooding my veins as we settled onto trail, and the exhilarating realization that we crossed a LD off the bucket list.
Of course, there was also the rain, wind, ice, and snow. I shiver involuntarily; I think my bones remember the chill.
Between Mechele and I, we changed no less than half a dozen times. We had trouble keeping the horses warm. Nakai turned cranky afterward and took it out on Rose. For all her boss mare tendencies, Rose simply let Nakai throw his tantrum. We separated the horses and proceeded to drown our irritation in cheese and breadsticks at the Olive Garden.
Two years later I find myself back in my western work tack, schooling roll backs and catching up with Maria in the pen. We fuss over our old men, laughing as Nakai excitedly flags his tail (this is the first time in weeks he’s ridden with anyone else) and catching Beamer as he tries a half-hearted run off on Maria down the middle of the pen as she works on square stops.
Endurance riding seems a lifetime ago.
I also feel a bit like an outsider.
I struggle with finding a balance between his head telling him that he can, that he will – and the body that needs a longer warm up and cool down. A body that needs to be monitored so he doesn’t do something stupid and hurt himself from over enthusiasm. When fit, he can keep up with everyone. But we are not fit, and fitness takes time.
I watch friends load up and trailer out as I school in the ring. Such is life without a trailer. I’m getting the truck set up to haul, but until then I’m stuck liking facebook posts about their trail rides and toodling around on the farm.
For the most part, I ride alone.
Maria’s in the same position. We want to do something, but we aren’t sure what.
I only managed to read 18 books in 2017. There were a few months where I wanted to read and couldn’t. I’d pick up a novel and zone out.
Anyway, here’s the short list of novels consumed in 2017. I’ve also plunged into the world that is Good Reads and am logging my conquests there. The goal this year is at least 20 books, and Good Reads tells me I’m currently 2 books ahead of schedule (7 down, working on the 8th). If you have an account, follow me there!
The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins [ Side note here, but hooooleeeeey, this was the worst. Does Paula Hawkins dislike women? She wrote them all as hysterical, unstable, and defined only by the men in their lives. The ending was anticipated 200 pages before I even got there. Seriously, ignore the hullabaloo on social media and don’t waste your time. ]
The Bell House Witch – Brent Monahan
Promise Not to Tell – Jennifer McMahon
Snowblind – Christopher Golden
Secret Place – Tana French
The Vanishing – Wendy Webb
Harbor – John Ajvide Lindqvist
Within These Walls – Ania Ahlborn
Things Half in Shadow – Alan Finn
Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence – Bill James
Under the Harrow – Flynn Berry
The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters
Nothing to Envy (Ordinary Lives in North Korea) – Barbara Demick
The White House Boys: An American Tragedy – Roger Dean Kiser
Spring’s been a rough adjustment. We’ve had four back-to-back Nor’Easters coupled with some rainy days in between. We’ll have a few days of lovely weather, the ground begins drying out, and temperatures reach into the fifties. Then…
Hello, April! I guess you couldn’t let March have all the fun.
Nakai’s had a reduced workload as I wanted to see how supplementing his diet with hay cubes would go. I needlessly worry; he loves them, he’s picking up weight, and the theme for our last ride could be filed under #halfhaltandpray. He felt wonderful and is full of energy.
I’m also under an incredible amount of work-related stress right now. I know better than to ride if I’ve have a rough day; Nakai handles my anxiety about as well as I do. He soaks up my emotion and we end up with a frustrating rides. Instead, I groom thoroughly, work on stretching, or do some various other ground work.
Currently, it’s raining (again). After 5 inches of snow melted yesterday, today greeted us with rain. All. Day. Long. They’re even talking about another potential snow maker this weekend.
I signed up for a virtual marathon for the duration of April to help jump start my motivation. I guess we’ll be slogging through a foot of mud on the trails.
The vet came out for spring shots. In addition to the usual coggins and shots, Nakai also received a body examination, mouth exam, and eye exam. There’s a fecal in there somewhere as well, but I do those every year regardless. I’m just waiting for the next person over my house to ask why I have noted to “gather poop balls for Jess” written on the calendar.
I felt the need for a baseline mostly because I don’t know what to expect in old horse aging. Nakai compounds this mystery as up until now he hasn’t had any of the issues that normally plague older horses. He’s very healthy for his age (27), and the vet still can’t believe he’s cushings free.
He hasn’t had an ERU flare up for over 2 1/2 years now, and while his eyeball is continually shrinking (and looking more pointy) it’s not causing any issues. He has two ancient splints on the inside of his fronts, but otherwise his legs are clean.
Amazingly, he still has all of his teeth, although some of them are nearly worn down completely. He’s beginning to have a minor issue chewing all of his hay (my BO noticed him dropping some), so I’m now supplementing with soaked alfalfa/timothy cubes.
The most interesting discovery was that Nakai has a heart murmur! Over the course of our endurance training I thought I heard something odd when listening to his heart, but nobody had confirmed one way or another what it was. It’s never bothered him, and the vet confirmed that it’s not hindering him in any way. Sometimes murmurs show up in older horses and I have no way of knowing if this is something he’s had his entire life or is a later onset.
In summary: Nakai’s old but not broken, and despite wanting to see a little more weight gain the vet told me he looks good for his age.
While I know he’s old, I don’t think of him as “old”, and it’s a bit of a system shock each time someone says it. I automatically get defensive, the Mama-Bear in me wanting to hulk smash the person next person who flippantly comments on his roaning facial hair.
In the same breath, my gallows humor and morbid “what happens after my horse dies” questions are somehow inappropriate. I deal with sucky subjects by way of humor, but I also have to be realistic. Hopefully I won’t have to cross this bridge for years, but knowledge helps me feel more secure. I can plan. Kinda. We all know the Universe is rather whimsical.
And I’d rather a minute too early than a second too late.