Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Ripple Effect

Dear Katie:

I was a pediatric oncologist for almost 20 years and have seen too many things and people who beat "the odds." For Argus - they are 100% or none....

...When I took care of the children, I used to think about things and the effect of their lives as the unknown ripple where a certain life can touch and sometimes completely change others – and it is often unknown. Some of the children I cared for went into “caring professions” and that was the obvious effect - but I also know many in medicine (and horse rescue of late) who went into what they did because of one individual. My guess is you will never know all those whom Argus has affected – and the horses who will have good lives because reading about Argus inspired some humans to do what they wanted to but had not had a palpable reason to commit.

There is the science of medicine – but too many times I saw caring make the difference in how things turn out. So the medicine and Dr. Miller will do what medicine can – but only you and Ridge and Odie can give the medicine of the soul and heart. Argus knows.

A reader

Overhead in the smoky gray dawn, a noisy flock of Canada geese drift through the airspace over the farm, circling for a moment before crashing comically to the ground in the front pasture. They "honk honk" impatiently, as if dismayed to find the whole farm still asleep. I stir in my bed, trapped between a gray tabby cat and a heavy brown dog, trying to decide between settling back down to sleep and greeting the day early. I opt to rise, tempted by the thought of hot coffee, and, wearing my new black Christmas slippers, quietly shuffle my way down the hall of the old farmhouse.

I'm careful to move quietly, not wanting to wake either sleeping children or alert Odie the Mule, who studies the kitchen window with his large, sad brown eyes for signs of life at the break of day. Once Odie realizes we're up, he alerts the other horses, and soon, from the barn, a chorous of impatient bangs and throaty whickers cuts short my warm, slow start. For now, I crouch down whenever I cross the kitchen window, feeling smug in my deception of the early-rising Odie. His breakfast can wait for now.

The laptop groans to life, flashing blue light at me as I blink away my sleepiness and cradle my mug. I click here, click there, and soon am faced with an unusually high volume of emails. About Argus. Warm wishes, hope, message board vigils. I sit, blinking through tears as I click on the PayPal link. Sleepy still, I enter numbers, letters, passwords. I'm still new to this online stuff.

What I see makes me lose balance, to almost fall off my chair in total surprise. People have sent money for Argus! I can hardly believe what I see: a balance of $1,057.23. I am grateful that it is dawn, that the house is asleep, that my privacy is ensured. I lay my head on my own lap and weep, big tears running down my face, into my hands, across the flannel of my red plaid pajamas.

(Note from Katie: This money will go directly toward the purchase of Argus' medications. I feel embarrassed accepting anything more. I ask that you do not send anything more except your continued prayers, support and good wishes. I don't want to divert important help from other animals in greater need than Argus. This has taken the pressure off us to the point where I can handle the remaining medical expenses as they come up, over time. It lifts a tremendous burden. Thank you!)

As if sensing my emotion, the geese start up again. "Honk! Honk! Honk!" I peer outside to see a small flock of about 12 geese nibbling the tender green blades of grass in my closed-off pasture. I go back to reading e-mails, dabbing at my eyes with a now-soggy section of toilet paper. Each message is like a jewel that I look at and admire before hesitantly closing it. Each message contains warmth, and wisdom, and hope.

The geese alight suddenly, frightened off by the lumbering Half Pint, who's broken into the off-limits summer pasture and is now eating the forbidden grass with greed. He pauses for a moment as he looks toward the house, spotting me through the living room window. We make eye contact for a moment, and then both look away.

My cover blown, I dab my eyes again and prepare to head outside and start the feeding process. Six horses, one pony, and one goat wait for me to appear, half-dressed in pajamas, tall mud boots, and the old orange down jacket. A chorus of whinnies greets my appearance on the back porch. It's the best feeling. Even Argus manages to lift his head and look my way.

Out in the barn, I am delighted to see that Argus has finished his grain from the night before; the first time in two weeks. It's chock-full of herbs, probiotics, and other things that will help support his immune system through all of this. His eyes sparkle for a moment before he settles back down into the dullness of illness. I wrap my arms around his neck, talking softly to him, telling him about all the wonderful people out in the world who wish most desperately for his recovery.

I go through my checklist, preparing a armload of things to put into Argus: A rectal thermometer; 20ccs of Naxcel to inject into his measly muscles (it's painful for him at times); a 60cc syringe full of liquidy "red stuff" (also known as Rifampin) mixed with a half gram of bute. Argus stands patiently while I gently peel back the left corner of his lip and shoot this syringe-full of red liquid down his throat. He begins to shake as I remove the cover of the needle, readying his "shot." I scrub down the injection site, this time his chest, and the shaking increases. I feel like a terrible mother. Still, he stands still, his mouth pressed tightly closed, his eyes elsewhere. A couple of quick smacks with my fist on his pectoral muscle, and the third time I plunge the needle in. Argus stands still. The Naxcel goes in. Liquid gold.

A week ago, Dr. Miller and I wondered if I could pull any of this off, and for how long. Getting a needle and oral medications into Argus was a rodeo event. Now, it's like he's been doing it all of his life.

I think about the pediatric oncologist's letter as I stand with Argus. How the threads of life take us here and there; how a seemingly random, and meaningless act might leave a legacy of benevolence that lasts for years, although we may never know it. How we go through life, never fully knowing the reaches of our actions and words. How a white horse, forgotten in a lonely paddock for most of his life, has the ability to touch hearts all over the world.

Love is medicine, too. It goes both ways, sent to Argus to encourage and heal, and sent back out into the world with the hope of peace for all creatures.

Light a "candle" for Argus --- this is fun!...


Sport's Mom said...

I would like to be the first to say that the pediatric oncologist who poured his heart and soul out to you in a letter feels exactly the same way as I do. From the first moment I read his story on the Fugly Horse of the Day blog I was in love with this beautiful gray horse. Sport is the love of my life. He was my best friend when everyone else betrayed me. I was certain that there was no other horse like my baby boy; no one could ever love as I have love for him. I was proved wrong with the first line you wrote. You stood up for a crippled old horse that everyone else had forgotten, and in doing so you touched so many lives; human and animal alike. Everyone has a kindred spirit. You have found your own. I know I have found my own.
Love and Prayer,
Your sister in Georgia,

deserthorses5 said...

Argus is so lucky to have you, Katie. Both you and Argus have touched many people.

kbryan said...

That letter was so beautifully written, and so true! You and Argus have touched many lives.

Prayers for his recovery. . .

excaliber813 said...

"How a white horse, forgotten in a lonely paddock for most of his life, has the ability to touch hearts all over the world."

That quote from you, says it all.

It has been your gift of writing that has brought us close to Argus, that ability to feel all of the emotion you feel. The sheer joy, the immense sorrow, profound pride, each one touching us in so many ways.
I know there are so many more stories Argus wants you to tell.

Argus has a huge "network" of caring, adoring fans!

Love and prayers,

SOSHorses said...

I am relieved to hear that our Argies is doing so good at taking his nasty medicine. He knows you only want what is best for him and is trying his best to corporate.

I know he is going to be as good as new very soon.

Hang in there Kate. Because you give him those nasty meds and those horrible shots you ARE a good horse mom. The bad ones are the ones who don't give them.

We love you and all of the Watermark farm bunch (the human ones too)

Original L said...

"Love is medicine, too. "

How true. I have seen so many kids whose owies get better with a kiss from their mom, or who feel less sick on their mom's lap. I was that kid many times. It is an amazing thing, how caring and love really do help... I am humbled how my mare Mira when she is sick shows dramatic improvement when I spend extra time grooming her and hanging out with her. Still sending prayers for Argus.

icehorse said...


My heart feels like a teeter-totter.
Yesterday when I read your blog, my heart sank to think of Argus with internal pigeon my heart soars with hope for him. With so many people pouring this good energy into his healing, I know he will pull through. You are such a trooper!


Holly said...

What a post! The letter, your description and the obviously depressed Argus has my emotions (so close to the surface when I read this blog) in a tailspin.

Hugs to you

gentle scritches to Argus

and thank you to the pediatric oncologist who wrote such an eloquent, touching letter.

Lori Skoog said...

Beautiful post today. So glad to hear that Argus ate his grain, that you have received financial support and that he is so accepting of the medicine. I'm sure he trusts you.
Lori Skoog

Kim said...


Sending loving and hopeful prayers your way tonight.

SkyBar Farm said...

Absolutely beautiful post! The oncolgist is absolutely right. Argus' story has opened up so many hearts and eyes to the plight of abused and unwanted horses. A change is coming thanks in large part to you and Argus.

Anonymous said...

He's going to make it, the whole world is sending it's love. :)
We're all confident that Argus is in the best hands, all we can do is stand at the sidelines and cheer.

excaliber813 said...

Checking on Argus today, sending loving thought's and prayer's.............


Sydney said...

Argus has many angels watching him.

He teaches us all a lesson, human and equine alike that I learned not too long ago from my old rescue that I had to euthanise.
Love and kindness know no boundaries, no limits no ends. Time heals all wounds but a friend helps time along.

Lost My Marbles said...

Katie and Argus,
I am so pleased for you that people have responded with so many messages of prayer and hope and healing, and that they've helped to ease your financial burden. I wish I could have contributed in that way myself.

Thank you for updating so soon - I'm thrilled that Argus ate all his dinner! I have been worried sick about him all weekend, and this is a bit of good news. I'm glad he is now taking his medicine well, too. It can be really hard psychologically for an animal parent when you're trying to help them and they fight back. You can't "explain" anything to them, but obviously smart Argus has figured out that you're doing these things for a reason.

So *hugs* to both of you, keep your spirits up, and know that we will be with you every step of the way. I trust your wisdom to always do what's best for "our" white horse.

Nancy said...

Katie -
Glad Argus is hopefully on the road to recovery by taking his medicine. I know how difficult it can be to try to get them to eat and take the medicine that will get them better.
My horse was sick in 2007 with Asyllium poisoning. He ate some of the flowers at a horse show in Michigan, and immediately became gravely ill. I spent an entire month in the barn with him, icing his front legs and feet every two hours, injecting various medicines into his mouth (and getting them spit back on me), and taking his temperature. By the end, he would just look at me with a look of resignation, but he knew that I was there to help.
One of the supplements that really helped my horse, and it might work with Argus, with his immune system was Cavalor Resist. It is rather expensive, but no other supplement worked like it did to boost his immune system.

Nlevie said...

Oh I am so happy to read that Argus is accepting his medicine - sure makes it easier on us "moms" ? And I am also thrilled to hear that people have sent some $$ support as well ! I wanted to, but things have been tight for me as well, so that is a relief to hear. Bless you for all you are doing and for tyour beautiful writing that inspires us all !

Anonymous said...

Ooops, too late!!! ~~snicker~~ Actually, I read your post and just ignored it. My mom says I'm hardheaded that way. ;o) A little more on it's way to help out. Argus, his story, your obvious love for him and his for you have really touched me and so many others. It reminds us that there is good in this hard old world. hang in there, we're all there with you in spirit.

Anonymous said...

I first came across Argus' story from coth. So I find it appropriate to send you 'Jingles'. I hope Argus and Ridge get better. They both have many more lives to touch and Argus has so many more things to learn about the world. Hugs from SC

GoLightly said...

Sorry I haven't checked back for awhile. Please tell Argus I'm thinking about him, and wishing him all the luck in the world. He deserves it, and so do you.

(silent prayer, from my heart)

Anonymous said...

God bless you and Argus... He (and you) have certainly touched my heart. Thank you so much for this blog and for all you do. Trust that it HAS made a difference to this someone, and I am sure more someones than just me.

excaliber813 said...

Thinking of you Argus & Katie, sending heartfelt thoughts and prayers.