Sunday, May 7, 2017

A Story for All Horse and Goat Owners and Equine Vets in the Aiken County Area and Beyond

A neighbor's old horse died and was buried; but there was a major problem with the burial.

I had a traumatic experience with an injured goat recently and my regular vet would not come out to help.

Sound strange?  Two stories that intertwined came to a head on May 2, 2017.

Second hand information from my neighbor: 

On Thursday evening, April 20th, my neighbor, Debbie, had to have her 37 year old horse, Trendy, put down at 6:30 pm. It was his time so she had her vet, Dr. A., euthanize her dear companion of over 30 years.
Trendy  1980-2017

Debbie told me the doctor suggested several names of people for her to call to bury her horse. He tried more than once to have her make the call herself. She was too upset to make the call. She chose a name she recognized and again asked him to call that person for her. He made a call to have the horse buried. It was to someone other than the person Debbie asked to have bury her horse.

She had to get someone to bring a tarp over to help cover her dead horse. Debbie was told the man with the heavy equipment would come the next morning to bury her horse. 

Debbie asked me to come over Friday and stay with her while her horse was buried. While I was there, she asked the man who came with the heavy equipment, a backhoe with a small bucket, to dig a small hole in the center of the grave to plant a tree. The guy said he had never heard of anyone doing that, but sure, he could do it.

Sunday afternoon April 23, Debbie saw me in the yard and stopped. She was upset.

She told me that her dogs were sniffing around the grave on Saturday when let out in her pasture for a short while. They persisted when let out again on Sunday. 

She finally went over and was shocked. She could actually see her dead horse in the small hole left for the tree. Her magnificent animal had been buried in a shallow grave only a few feet deep! The following picture shows the grave after Debbie threw some shovels full of dirt in the hole so she did not have to see her dead horse. Her text that came along with this photo was "I did take a picture. Just under was Trendy" 

Shallow Grave

I told her to stop her plan to throw more dirt on top of a shallow grave. She should call the guy who dug the grave and have him fix it. She didn't know his name so I recommended she call Dr. A. to get the name and number and have the problem fixed. She was so worked up over seeing her dead horse that I said not to worry. I'd take care of it for her. 

I called Dr. A. whose phone message says to text him for a faster response. I sent the following text to him at 2:42 pm:

"Pls call Linda Vola ASAP. Deb O'Connor's horse is visible. Was only buried a few feet down.
Need number of someone with backhoe to get here Now to rebury the horse
Need your help please"

Dr. A.'s Response shortly after that:

"Just called the heavy equipment guy who did the job. 
He is in Charleston. He's leaving now. He will be there around 6 pm to correct the issue ASAP."

My immediate responses:

"He came with only a small bucket digger 

He better not charge her anything additional. I'm sorry to be so curt but this is very upsetting"

"Thank you for your help"

Dr. A. called me a short while later and apologized for what happened. He told me that the equipment with that bucket was capable of digging down 15 feet. The only issue he could think of was that maybe there was a problem with the burial location. Maybe the hole couldn't be dug deep enough right there. 

I explained that the man helped Debbie pick the spot. (I was there at the time.) Also, Debbie was in the house the whole time so a knock on the door could have solved that issue. 

Dr A. remarked that he'd gotten a chance to look at the situation. The guy who did the job initially was in Charleston. The man's son was in Aiken, so the son was coming instead of having to wait for the father to come back. 

I repeatedly thanked him for taking care of it and told him what a traumatizing experience this was for both of us. 

As far as I knew, things were good when I hung up from the call.

More second hand information from my neighbor:

On Monday April 24th Debbie received her bill in the mail from Dr. A. for euthanizing her horse. Included was a single burial charge.  

She then received this text from Dr. A. on Monday:

"So the heavy equipment guys are going to charge me twice for the burial. I will need to charge you for two burials.  I sent an invoice last Friday but would like to add an additional $350 to it for the second burial. 

I was told he left an 2ft hole in center of burial site early Friday morning for tree planting the next day. He reported that it appeared dogs had helped excavate the remains back up by Sunday afternoon and no tree was planted.
Thus I'm being charged again... Plus it was after hours and Sunday and so on...

I really don't like that you had to go through this. I am sorry."

Debbie then called Dr. A. and told him she didn't think it right that she should be charged twice, as the service wasn't performed correctly the first time.

Dr. A. complained that it took her 48 hours to contact him after the burial. He made some comments to her about business being tight but that he was going to do the right thing and pay the heavy equipment man for 2 burials. Dr. A. told Debbie he felt she should also do the right thing and pay him for the 2 burials. When asked, the doctor refused to give Debbie the man's name and number to call directly as the man was the doctor's subcontractor. 

He also told her that if she didn't pay him the full amount, then he could no longer be her vet and care for her other equines.

Debbie was so upset she didn't know what to do. She had always spoken so highly of Dr. A. She didn't think it right that he was putting it in her lap to fix an issue between himself and his subcontractor for a sloppy job.

After her conversation with Dr. A. she called me and asked for both my husband's and my advice as to what she should do. She didn't want to pay twice and wanted to let others know about what happened to her as in her opinion it wasn't right. 

I personally thought being asked to pay twice was not right and a bad business decision on Dr. A.'s part. To save face, if I were that contractor or Dr. A. I wouldn't have charged the client for the initial bury. A gesture of goodwill after such an awful experience would have been what I would have expected from my many years of experience as a business professional. 

I suggested that since she and I were both upset that maybe my husband, Charlie, could call and speak with Dr. A. Charlie is always calm in a storm and could speak to him as a business man regarding the choice Dr. A. was making and talk over why it was not a good choice he was making for his business.  I asked her to hold off until I could speak with my husband.

Charlie agreed to speak with Dr. A. but asked Debbie to think about it overnight and let him know the next day if she wanted him to call Dr. A. He even took us out to dinner to IHOP that night since it had been such a bad day. We didn't talk about it anymore that night.

Debbie and I spoke the following day and she said she wanted Charlie to call Dr. A. 
Charlie called and left a conciliatory message for Dr. A. on April 26th. He basically suggested that a discussion between the two of them might calm the waters of a brewing storm. Charlie never heard back from Dr. A.

Equine owners, in my opinion, your vet should take care of you when your horse dies with their assistance. They should call someone for you to bury your horse properly, if that is your wish. That's just common decency and caring for their client.  

It is also my opinion that the person who buries your animal should send you a bill, just like the pet crematorium sends you a bill for your cat or dog who is put down by your small animal vet.

I only hope and pray none of you reading this has to go through Debbie's experience with a bad burial.

Now for the rest of the story.

The following part of this story is told to encourage local equine veterinarians to have at least one vet in their practice who is knowledgeable about farm animals other than horses

In addition, it is a warning to farm animal owners to always have a plan B in case of an emergency.

Charlie and I (read that as Linda) adopted a "Last Resort" dog from the shelter very recently. She is a fabulously sweet dog that took only a week to get over her separation anxiety issues. She had people or canine companionship at all times and was deliriously happy and in love with our 2 biggest dogs. Lots of smooching and snuggling going on (between her and the 2 other dogs too).😉

Unfortunately we found out the hard way that our new family member couldn't resist a moving cat. She loved it when 2 of our 5 cats walked by and snuggled up to her. However, our slowest cat who was never bothered by a dog or unfriendly cat ended getting chased, caught and badly injured by the new dog.

We were just getting over that trauma, as the cat was still scheduled for its last accident related vet visit on May 5th!

On Tuesday, May 2nd, I was at the barn doing pre dinner time chores. I noticed the evening game of tag with the goats going on. The oldest of our big dogs had been playing this game for years. However with 3 dogs instead of 2, I realized it got a little more serious when one of the goats ran between me and a closed stall door. This guy never runs towards me. I stopped the game or so I thought. I should have been paying better attention instead of focusing intently on what I was doing.

I remember seeing the goat and dogs running away from the barn. Not an unusual site. They were spread out so it didn't register as a chase. However, a minute later I heard an ungodly scream. Luckily I had the golf cart right there. Unluckily, I was wearing shorts with no pockets, so no cell phone on me. Left it in the tack room.

I grabbed a polycarbonate/plastic shovel which is smaller and lighter than your average wood shavings shovel and drove to the other end of the pasture as fast as I could. I thought a dog was injured. Somewhere inside my head I must have known I'd need something to break up a fight if necessary. 
My Lightweight Baby Shovel

When I got to our pine woods I found one of our two goats on the ground, looking half dead, bleeding from its neck, leg and under its chest. The jaws of a large dog we've had for a year,  with no aggressive tendencies ever shown, were clamped tightly around that goats throat. Our other 3 larger sized dogs were just watching. It was obvious that at least 2 of the pack had stopped playing tag and taken the goat down.  

The new dog was there ready to jump into the fray. The smallest of the 4 is afraid of his shadow and the other has always played tag with the horses and goats and is more of a herd protector. 

I was panicked, terrified, horrified, upset, angry and felt physically drained. I have enough trouble with my neurological issues not falling over in the house. I'd already had a very full day so my stimulation level had already been surpassed. 

In the midst of animal hunters after prey, I see our biggest, sweetest dog holding onto that goat and looking at me with pride. It was as if he was saying, "I'm doing good Mom right?" He would look up at me but he just wouldn't let go of that goat. 

I remember screaming, crying, yelling for help, trying to wave down a passing truck, yanking on both dog and goat collars. I used the plastic shovel to whack my 85 lb. love bunny and him not even blinking. I tried to use all my strength but felt like I was wielding a fly swatter at an elephant. 

I fell down at least 8 or 10 times tripping over the animals, fallen branches, being dragged to the ground while trying to hold onto an animal's collar. It was surreal, felt like slow motion and was terrifying. Somehow I finally separated the animals or the dog took a short break. I realized my only hope was to get the dogs away and go for help.

I hung onto the big dog and called his buddies. Thankfully they all followed me to one of our fenced yards. I know I fell down a few more times on the way. I ran into the house, screamed to my husband something awful about needing to shoot 2 dogs. I yelled at him to call Dr. A. and ask him to come ASAP as we had a badly injured goat. Amidst my hysterical sobbing I remembered to ask Charlie to come out and help me, as if I needed to ask.

Yup, Dr. A. is our goat doctor. Many of you may know he is one of the only commonly known veterinarians in the area who advertises that he is a large animal vet who will take care of all of your farm animal needs, with an emphasis on horses. His website videos show him with goats, sheep, and some other exotic animals. Five of his top 6 facebook reviews are about goats and the other is about a ram. Obviously, the man takes care of goats.

Our horse vet practice had recommended we contact Dr. A. when we got our goats a few years ago. Dr. A. came out initially several times to give the goats shots and treat one who had an infection from a "rubber band" castration done by the original seller. Dr A. has come out once a year to give them their annual shots, trim their hooves or horns if needed and has been wonderful to deal with each year. We pay him on the spot and expect to see him each year, unless we have a goat emergency or goat related medical issue.

Meanwhile Charlie and I tried to figure out how to get the goat across the pasture to the barn. As luck would have it, Debbie drove by, saw us waving her down in distress and ran out to help. It took 3 of us to finally get the goat across the pasture and into a stall. In spite of my hysterical crying, I ran for my cell phone and sent a text to Dr. A. at 7:06 pm:

"We have had a goat attacked by 2 dogs. He needs medical attention tonight. Please call me at 803341XXXX.

Linda Vola"

No response. So 10-15 minutes later I sent this text:

"Please let me know if you can come or can u tell me who to call to care for my goat. He is bleeding from the neck & leg."

I quickly got the following text back from Dr. A:

"Southern Equine might be able to help.
Based on recent events I feel you will be happier with veterinary services elsewhere." 

I told him originally that Southern Equine was our regular horse vet group. Since they didn't do goats they referred me to him! I was more upset and traumatized than I've been since I was 7 years old and saw my brother get hit by a car. Now Dr. A. was adding frustration, fear and anger to the pot, right in the midst of a medical emergency.

I thought this poor animal that I'd witnessed savagely attacked was dying!  My vet, who has treated him since he was a baby, decides not to treat my injured animal because of a petty disagreement he had with my neighbor!?!

My husband said he'd never seen me so upset and/or hysterical in the 26 years we've been together as I was during the course of that night. I don't get upset to the point of tears easily. I've always had a lot of responsibility in life so I've had to deal with a lot of heavy duty issues both at work and with my family. 

I texted back to Dr. A:

"R u freaking kidding me. You didn't call back Charlie when he wanted to have a nice level headed conversation with u. Now to refuse to treat an injured animal when both-the goat & I just went thru hell.
If you r not professional enough or man enough to come here & treat this animal then we r really done! Facts spread by word of mouth can have an enormous effect!"

We spent the next hour making phone calls trying to find someone to treat our goat. I called my equine vet and the doctor on call reiterated they didn't do goats and suggested I take the goat to the emergency animal hospital in Augusta if Dr. A. wouldn't treat it. 

It was hard enough getting a 3 legged goat in a stall. I was afraid my husband, with a very recent knee replacement, was going to fall over in the process. How could I contemplate trying to get the goat into the trailer to an animal clinic that to my knowledge only treats cats & dogs?* 

I then called my small animal vet's emergency number. Of course her partner is none other than Dr. A.'s wife. I acknowledged that fact upfront to the office assistant who answered the phone. I told her I was desperate. She promised to call my vet and call me back.  By now I was constantly breaking down into hysterical crying in the midst of my conversations, so I passed my phone to my husband.

While all of this was going on, Debbie called a young farm girl who knows a lot about goats. She showed up in 15 minutes and dove into it. She started to assess the goats injuries, tried to stop the bleeding and clean him up some before a vet arrived, if we were lucky enough to find one.

My small animal vet's office called back. They said my vet was out of town and couldn't help. However, she gave us the name of a local horse vet who also treats her patient's goats and another vet over in Ridge Spring. 

I don't want to mention the name of the vet who came over to help as this is not something she advertises.

As she put it, vets are taught how to treat all kinds of animals. Since so many of her horse clients have goats and even cows, she has brushed up on those animals and can treat them. As she is not our horse vet we begged her to come over and help us. She agreed immediately!

The doctor had to run over to her clinic for the right supplies and arrived around 9 pm to treat our goat. She was the epitome of professionalism. She utilized our young farmhand's skills to assist her and explained what we needed to do over the next week or more.  

Our young friend has continued to come out twice a day to check on our goat and give him his evening meds. She and her sister are now on our speed dials! 

Hamish, our goat, is looking SO much better in spite of his open wounds.
Goat's Upper Leg Injuries Day 3
Some of Goat's Neck Injuries Day 3
Hamish Day 3

He is doing better. He is starting to walk around more and putting more pressure on his bad leg each day. He still has a ways to go but is definitely on the mend!

I am still very upset with Dr. A. for his refusal to come out and help my goat in an emergency. In my mind he was practically guaranteeing a death sentence to our pet if we hadn't been so persistent. As of this telling, I still can't stop breaking into tears at the strangest times. I must have repeated my story and feeling of helplessness to my husband and friend a dozen times that night.

My GP had to listen to my tale of woe and put up with my tears during my appointment for a physical on Wednesday. My Massage Therapist listened to me cry my story out, and Thursday I repeated it with a few less tears to my regular vet who came for equine spring shots. 

I even missed a chance to be with many of our community members and friends at an annual Kentucky Derby Party. The support of wonderful of friends and neighbors may have helped me, but I didn't want to bring the festivities down, not knowing which directions my mood would take me.

To any local equine veterinarian practices, you are not only in horse country but in farm country. Many of your clients have goats, sheep, cows and an occasional miniature pig along with their horses, donkeys and/or mules. 

Please have all of your vets brush up on some of the more frequently encountered farm animals or have a specialist in your practice to care for these animals. In my opinion, having only one unreliable resource in the area doesn't make sense. It's not good for your clients or for business in general. Be proactive to meet clients needs. If nothing else, goats need annual shots so you are guaranteed at least one visit per client per year.

I only hope and pray none of you reading this has to go through Debbie's experience with a bad burial,  or our experience with an injured animal in dire need of medical treatment that is suddenly, and unexpectedly, not available. 

I needed to write this down to help relieve some of the trauma. I felt you needed to hear it to be prepared for future events that may occur if you have a horse near end of life or other farm animals in need of urgent or other care.

Thanks to all of my family, friends and neighbors who have helped me get through this ordeal. Thank you for reading this and helping me get on with my healing.

Story by Linda 
Half of the loving partnership at Forever Young Farm and animal lover with 18 animals and always counting.

*(I called Augusta Animal Emergency later in the week and found out that they will treat a goat if the doctor who knows goats is on duty when an emergency occurs. They have a partnership with an Augusta practice that will treat goats.)

Please note that the story above is fact told by me, to the best of my recollection, as I experienced it and/or I witnessed and/or was told to me. Information told to me is listed as second hand information. 

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