The herd was out by the pond, all but Bobbie. She was making her way towards us. At first I thought she was just coming to say hello like she usually does (in hopes of a carrot) until I realized that she was holding her head unusually low and to the side. Her eyes were heavy and so sad looking. Something was definitely wrong. She was coming to ask for help.
She gladly followed me into the corral but never lifted her head, even when she did her normal "talking" to ask for some grain. We put a small feeder on the ground to see if she indeed had an appetite and were pleased that she went straight to eating. From her posture we feared she had wrenched her neck or her back and treated her accordingly but by the next morning it was obvious that we were wrong. Our old girl had been bitten by a snake.
Her lip had swollen to several times it's normal size and the fang marks were now clearly visible. Her huge, painful lip made eating and drinking difficult and she had no sense of balance. She didn't appear to be cognizant of her surroundings and was not responding to normal communication.
The vet gave her fluids using a bucket of water, a hose and a pump - a method I had never seen. This Macgyver move saved us from having to haul her when she was in no shape to stand in a moving trailer. He gave her shots of antibiotic and steroids and left us with twelve days of syringes. He expects her to be fine and although I was terrified that the 12 hours that had past would be catastrophic for her, he felt we had actually caught it early.
Shortly after he left, she made her way to the water trough (even though we had a water bucket conveniently on the floor of her stall) and I was thrilled to see her swallowing several big gulps. We had put Rey in the corral with her because we knew her company would be comforting. We witnessed Rey guiding Bobbie away from harmful objects and standing quietly by when she rested. I'd seen mares do this with their foals but it was so sweet to see Rey do this with her dam.
What I really found amazing was what my friend Sandy and I witnessed next. The walk to the trough obviously took all the energy Bobbie had, so she just stood there - head still low and eyes almost closed. Kit was on the other side of the fence by the trough watching her closely. Both of these young mares, Kit and Rey, stretched their necks down to meet Bobbie's face and proceeded to gently lick her mouth right where she had been bitten. Their three heads remained connected for several minutes while Bobbie stood motionless enjoying their care.
I understand that animals can sense when something is wrong, but it still astounds me that they knew exactly where she was hurting. Nature is phenomenal. That includes "us humans" although I think we let a lot of things muddy up our instincts and intuition.
We rose especially early this morning to give the poor girl her first set of shots for the day. She teetered a bit when I first started leading her but she quickly got her rhythm. She's eating and drinking and the swelling has gone down considerably. Her eyes are brighter and she's seeming more like her old self.
The vet says we're lucky that this is our first snake bite in the nine years we've been here. I'm sure sweet Bobbie isn't feelng too lucky...