Swollen, Snakebit, and Stupid
In this order I am describing: Seamus, Seamus, and, well…us. First of all, I appreciate you collectively shaking your heads and shouting “You are NOT stupid Jenna and Jeremy!!!” Thank you. And maybe we’re not, but we do lack the necessary planning skills, forward thinking and research ability to, you know, be prepared prior to purchasing: land, cows, donkeys, land, cows…(you get it).
This is now our second encounter with cow illness and it has become increasingly obvious that my minimal “veterinary” skills, learned while caring for the odd dog and cat, are not to be relied upon for, ahem, larger animals. My emotional response to cow illness has also proven pointless. Uncontrollable sobbing and high pitched shrieking at Jeremy do very little to cure the cow. Just fyi.
Seamus’s unfortunate encounter with a rattlesnake occurred in the wee hours of Saturday morning, which I feel certain about since we camped at the land Friday night, and since his face was its normal size at sunset. It was in the early morning hours that I noticed him curled at the edge of the woods, and I grew concerned something was amiss. Seamus doesn’t lie down or curl in a ball when the sun is shining and there’s a perfectly lovely bale of hay available. Hoping I was wrong, I walked towards him up the hill. He turned his head towards me at the sound of my footsteps and I reacted as expected upon seeing his grossly distended face – two times its normal size, bulging at the neck and eyes. I screamed and then I cursed and then I kicked a rock because the situation seemed to justify the additional drama.
I headed to a nearby general store where Mike previously imparted his cow healing wisdom when Matilda was sick. Remembering Davina’s warning that Mike and only Mike would have the answers, I walked straight to the front desk and requested this mysterious person, refusing offers of help from several other perfectly able individuals. Finally Mike appeared and listened patiently while I described the cow’s face, mimicked how he was breathing, the way he limped to the water trough, etc. I’m sure it was an awesome display considering that I was not only pretending to be a cow, but had also recently jumped out of a tent and had yesterday’s mascara ringing my eyes, hair elegantly sticking out in many directions. Once I adequately portrayed the sick cow, Mike shook his head and grimly announced that Seamus had clearly received a poisonous snake bite due in part to recent cooler temperatures which were sending snakes slithering across the county at this very moment (my skin = crawling).
This was all fascinating information. Cool temperatures and the recent rain had “woken the snakes” and at least 50 bites had been reported to him in the last week alone. Yay! A diagnosis! I gleefully requested the antidote to which he explained – there is none. He held up both hands, crossed his fingers, and said we should hope the swelling doesn’t spread to his trachea. FANtastic. I grudgingly purchased antibiotics and syringes to ward off infection from the actual bite (which appears to be squarely placed on his snout) but was told not to bother with the shots yet since he might not pull through the afternoon.
Needless to say and in an effort not to belabor the point any longer, it was a fairly crappy afternoon. But we lucked out. Seamus’s balloon-like face slowly deflated and today only a bump remains where he was bitten. I have no pictures of his face at its worst since, at the time, I wasn’t sure he would pull through and it seemed cruel to photograph his apparent agony. Of course, in retrospect, they would have made for some rather entertaining pictures.
What have we learned from this experience? That we have rattlesnakes. That they bite. That it could be us, next time. But mostly, that the cows require a helluva lot more equipment and knowledge than the dog and cat who are easily transported to the neighborhood vet. So the Great-Affordable-Cow-Squeeze-Chute search commences – the only contraption available to safely restrain these beasts without calling in neighboring help in order to administer shots. Speaking of neighbors, I was rather proud of our self restraint in not calling Dwayne and crying into the phone for help. I’m not saying we’re getting good at this, but maybe we’re figuring some things out after all.