Thursday, December 10, 2009

Two Years!

For weeks after Half Pint's death, Argus walked out into the pasture every night around 10:30 pm. He'd face east, whinny four or five times into the darkness, then turn around and walk back into the barn.

Was he calling for his lost friend?

The three remaining geldings are doing well, although they remain a little sad without their herd alpha. Ridge has filled in nicely, and even though he lacks front teeth (they were removed due to gum disease), he kindly makes his point with Argus and Odie by 'gumming' them a bit when they get out of line. All in all, it works, and the three boys are managing. I think Argus does miss Half Pint quite a lot, though.

It has now been two years since Argus escaped his hell, two long, wonderful years of learning what it is to be a "real" horse. When he arrived, he was 15 going on two. Now he's 17 going on four, with the body, sometimes, of a 30-year-old.

Argus can now do all these things:

He stands quietly, even gratefully, for blanketing --- no halter, no fearful shaking, nothing! I can flip the blanket up over his back with great flourish, straps and buckles clanking noisily, just like a normal horse.

Dr. Miller can give Argus an IV injection without Argus rearing and plunging all over the stall, me twitching him and hanging on for dear life, Dr. Miller skillfully dancing in mid air in order to get the needle in. The other day, Dr. Miller came to inject Argus' painful knee joints. He gave the IV sedation right in the aisleway of the barn, and Argus just stood there, blinking calmly. Just like any other horse. I felt so proud of Argus, and Dr. Miller did, too. We celebrated by giving Argus his first monthly Legend injection, an IV shot that is helping Argus' arthritic joints so much that he is dancing in pasture again. Soon, I will be the one administering this injection. I never thought I'd be able to give this horse an IV shot.

Argus can come into his stall and paddock for a short time without getting frantic and weaving. In fact, he even likes it. Every evening, he stands at the gate to his paddock, knowing that a big tub of fattening food awaits him inside.

Argus has a best friend. He and Ridge move together through the pasture in unison. They look so much alike in their matching green blankets that I can only tell them apart by looking at their tails --- Argus has a much thicker, longer tail. He and Ridge have an unusual bond for horses. They do everything literally attached at the hip, grazing cheek-to-cheek for hours on end.

He can stand quietly when the farrier trims him. He no longer jumps when the farrier drops his tools. Argus cooperates. Argus likes the farrier. When Argus came to us, he had never had his feet trimmed, or even picked up, before. Now Argus likes it when people handle his feet.

Argus no longer stands for hours and hours, staring at things far away. His eyes, which were flat and shark-like two years ago (my theory is that he developed great distance vision, and poor up-close vision from 15 years of staring at distant objects), are now warm and brown and they actually see you. Argus looks at me with happy eyes, and much is said in his gaze.

Even so, old habits die hard. We often say that Argus is like a little old man hermit who peers out at the busy world around him through a curtained window. When the vineyards next to us are full of workers, Argus stands for long minutes, quivering, head high, alert, shaking, watching, studying. If on a cold day, the geysers to the north of us send plumes of steam up from the hills, Argus watches them, frozen. He gets excited and takes a break from his staring by doing his "dressage workout." Last week I watched him canter perfect 20 meter circles in the front pasture, punctuated by long, straight lines where he perfected his tempi changes. At one point, he was cantering calmly along, changing his lead every third stride. Those dressage riders who have schooled this movement know how demanding it is to teach. For our athletic Argus, even riddled with arthritis, dressage comes surprisingly easy.

When I enter the stall, Argus used to walk into his paddock, standoffish and not wanting me in his space. Close contact with people was something to be avoided. Now he stands, calmly eating his grain, and doesn't leave. He likes it if I scratch his neck, speaking softly to him while he eats. He even comes to the fence to see people now.

He's interested in us now. He wants to be haltered. He loves to be groomed. He's happy to be led out of the pasture and into the barn for some "beauty parlor time."

Day after day, he makes progress in small ways. I am amazed that after two years, he's still changing, still learning new things, still trusting us more and more, still growing, still becoming a horse, and discovering more and more joy. Just seeing him out in the pasture gives me the greatest rush of pleasure.

I am proud of Argus, and I tell him so every night as I buckle his blanket on. He stands, calmly munching his beloved tub of food, and looks at me as if to say: I am proud of myself, too.

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Della Micah said...

Two years.....goodness. So much progress for Argus and so many changes for you too, Katie.

I love this blog, even though half the time it makes me cry! We've all said in every way possible how beautifully and honestly you write. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us. Truly appreciated.

Grey Horse Matters said...

Argus has certainly found the perfect forever home. I'm as proud of him as he is of himself. Two years is a long road, but it's worth every step of it when a horse like Argus can just be a horse again.
You've done wonderful things for him.

CTG Ponies said...

What a wonderful 2 years you have given him! You didn't give him his life back, you gave him his life...period. I'm so happy that he has found his place in this world. And it's amazing what love and kindness can do.

KD said...

What a wonderful update ~ thanks for letting Argus' fans know how well he is doing.

Albigears said...

This is such an inspirational story on so many levels. Beating the odds, triumph of the underdog, rags to riches, but most of all a love story.

Argus is one lucky guy.

Buckskins Rule said...

Katie, you have every right to be proud of yourself. You patience and willingness to help Argus are the tonic that he required to ease his troubled mind. I feel that he was destined to find your family. You have shown yourself to be up to a task that many would shirk away from.

Misae Silverfall said...

I was here yesterday, looking for an update, and I thought to come back today and look.

I'm so happy to hear how well he's still doing, and how he's still growing, in his own way.

I wish I lived closer so I could visit! He's such a wonderful horse, and you're both blessed to have each other.

Here's hoping there are many more years, and many more amazing stories. :)

Holly said...

I love the Argus updates. Katie, you and Dr. Miller really need to put this in book form. It's a heartwarming story that others need to read. Many don't have or use the internet and if it had not been for another blog *I* would be ignorant of the Argus Series.

I, too, have a little old man who has come a long ways in 2 years. He will never be like a normal dog and there are things we work around but I am proud of him for changing so much and I am proud of me for bringing him so far.

excaliber813 said...

Yea for Argus!!!! 2 YEARS!
I check everyday for any update,and today I am moved to tears. I am so happy that Argus gets to see and feel the very best of humanity, with a safe, loving, forever home. His best friend Ridge always by his side. What a journey it has been,and thanks to your gift of sharing your heart and soul we have all been able to share the journey. Argus you are that "slightly tattered white thread" that has woven it's place into my heart.
I say a prayer for Argus and all @ Watermark Farm each night.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season!

Sydney said...

Glad to see an Argus update. The old man is doing well.

cdncowgirl said...

Bravo!! That is a LOT accomplished in two years for a horse that went so many years without.
I love your description of Argus's pasture dressage :)

LuvMyTBs said...

Thank you for the life you have provided for Argus and the love and care he now knows from Ridge and your family. I always cry when I read these updates but they are always good and greatful tears.

KarenTX said...

Amazing how far he's come and how much both of your lives have been enriched by having each other. He is a special horse, all of yours are, and you are a special person. Merry Christmas to all of you!

phaedra96 said...

How far he has come. I think sometimes it is sad that his health issues will forever prevent him from going into the dressage ring and knock the socks off the competition. He is a wonderful boy and so are you for giving him the best rest of his life.

Anonymous said...

Look at all you have given Argus. He is so lucky to have you.. and you him.
I was happy to finally see an update. And one that brought tears of joy to my eyes again. Thank you for letting us be a part of Argus's life.

PaintedPromise said...

i've been looking every few days to see what's up at Watermark... wow 2 years for Argus!!! what a great anniversary... you may be proud of Argus, and he may be proud of himself, and that is as it should be... as for me, i am proud of YOU! Argus would not be where he is today without you... and i agree, you should make his story into a BOOK!!!

Pony Girl said...

So amazing, how far Argus has come. Thanks for sharing these details. I am sure it inspires others to not give up on rescued and neglected horses. You have done wonderful things for this special boy. His journey is just beginning. Happy holidays!

Sandra said...

Thanks, Katie for A Merry Christmas for me! Have not peeked since the loss, but happy to see these heart-warming posts of Argus and his herd.Wish i could hug him in person. You are all so special to so many!