Saturday, November 1, 2008

Animal Update

I finally got brave enough to take Tony out for a ride. I correctly predicted that things would have fallen in the trails with all the wet weather, so despite the fact that he’s slow as mud, I took Tony rather than Glin or Es because it’s easier to chop with him than with either of the mares – I can actually chop high stuff from his back if I’m careful, and if I have to get off, I don’t have to worry about him turning and running for home (Es) or sticking his nose out to see what I’m chopping (Glin). Plus, when Tony gets stuck in vines he stops and does what I tell him to get out of the tangle, where both of the mares tend to go straight up when that happens. The mares’ method is actually more efficient as far as getting unstuck, but Tony’s way is definitely calmer and safer. The trails were still pretty wet, and some of the trails seem to have turned into hopefully-temporary streams even though it hadn’t rained in a few days. Seeing the condition of the trails after a few days without rain made me feel less like a wimp for not going out before this – part of me had wanted to ride and was telling the other part that I was being a wimp for listening to Selwyn’s caution about flash floods, but it looks like the caution was well founded. It was really nice to get back out in the jungle, and a few good wildlife sightings enhanced the ride. I saw a flock of aracaris feeding in a trumpet tree, which I haven’t seen for a while, watched a collared forest falcon fly through the canopy, and was accompanied for a short way along one of the trails by a hollering troupe of howler monkeys. I was looking for big cat tracks since we’ve heard more rumors of a jaguar in the neighborhood, but the ground was actually too wet to hold any tracks. The birds are reminding us that while it’s getting cooler here, it’s getting much cooler in the north and we’re seeing a lot of the migratory birds. We’ve had a noticeable increase in warblers, thrushes, and tanagers, and the Birds of Belize book has been well used as we try to identify the new arrivals.

Recona dressed up as a purple-eyed dog for Halloween. Really, what happened was that she got a botfly infestation right around her eye, and her eye was looking more and more swollen. Fortunately we’ve learned to recognize the symptoms, and we’ve come up with what seems to be an efficient way of treating it. I’m not sure if it’s available in the US, but here we can get a purple spray that is an antiseptic, antibiotic, and insecticide. It’s great for all the little scratches the horses and dogs get because it cleans the wound and keeps the bugs off the wound. It’s really great for botflies, because it kills the larvae in the animal, and keeps the breathing hole from getting infected. We just spray it or wipe it on the infected spot, and in a day or two the larvae dies and the breathing hole scabs over. All we have to do is pull off the scab. Sometimes the dead larvae are attached to scab, and sometimes we have to squeeze the spot and the larvae come out in a gob of pus. It must feel good to the animals to get it out because they never complain or try to pull away. We squeezed five very small larvae – about as long as a grain of white rice, and about a quarter of the diameter – out of Recona’s face, and she never pulled back or snapped at us. Fortunately, we haven’t yet had the need to try this method on people, but it’s certainly easier on the animals than the way Selwyn removed the one from Tom’s arm.

This weather has been tough on the animals. Recona and Ness both had botflies, and I feel like I spend half the morning running around and taking care of the rest of the animals. Elphie cut half the eyelashes off the eyelid of her good eye, so I’ve had to treat that carefully. Lodo has a scrape on his leg and a cut on his nose, both of which require purple spray at least once a day, which involves both of us getting purple spots all over since he hasn’t learned to just stand still yet. All the horses have rain rot, and have little clumps of hair peeling off their rumps, and I’m just waiting for them to get scratches or thrush, which they’ve somehow managed to avoid so far. Recona has a swollen foot, and we’re not sure if it’s another botfly, or if she has an out of joint toe. Good news for the dogs is that we’ve found that Frontline Plus does kill Recona’s fleas, so all five of the dogs are scratching a whole lot less than they were a month ago.

We feel very badly for people with lots of animals, because if we’re having this range of difficulty with animals that are basically our pets, we can’t imagine what the farmers with herds of cattle, sheep, and pigs need to do. We have heard that lots of farmers lost crops or pasture – which quickly adds up to tens of thousands of dollars for them – but as far as losing animals in the floods or needing to provide extra veterinary care, the news seems to be mostly good. The government is telling farmers that they should vaccinate their livestock against black leg disease, an infection that seems to be more prevalent when the weather is wet, but we have not heard of any big livestock losses due to this disease.

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