Every once in a very great while a truly remarkable horse comes into our lives. For the truly fortunate, this event may happen more than once. I consider myself to be one of the truly fortunate. Those of you familiar with the previous “George stories” may understand why.
In the few years I have known him, George has rescued a runaway, defended his home & herd from invaders, and become a dear and trusted friend. As is not uncommon for extraordinary individuals, I recently realised that I might have to expand my regard for George even more.
I was so enamored over George that when I learned his full brother, Kootenay Affair (Kooter) was available I quickly seized the opportunity. After a whirlwind trial period, I agreed to purchase Kooter and he came to live with us, and be reunited with his brother.
A lot happened during those first months after Kooter came to live with us, not the least of which was a frightening experience with colic. Just before leaving for work one morning, I looked out into the paddock to see Kooter laying down in front of a full manger of hay. I hopped over the fence & tried coaxing him up, only to have my urges refused. My first thoughts were of colic, and after walking him for a time I realised that he was not improving, so I called the vet.
Bob Moats came out right away, looked Kooter over & together we decided to try a shot of Banamine to ease his discomfort. I stayed with Kooter for a couple of hours afterwards, during which time he steadily improved. After seeing Kooter eating well, having good gut sounds and being active, I figured it was all right for me to go to work. Besides, Sherri was going to be home soon, and if he had any relapses she would be there to look after him.
Less than an hour had passed when my cellular phone rang; the urgency in Sherri’s voice was palpable. All she said was, “How fast can you get home?” All I said was, “Real fast” (my apologies to everyone else on the freeway that night)
In the short time I’d been at work, Kooter’s condition had deteriorated to the point that Sherri could no longer keep him from rolling & thrashing. She had called Bob out again, to which he responded with incredible speed, and he was concerned enough to ask that Kooter be brought up to his office. We loaded Kooter onto the trailer & broke a lot of laws heading for Clover Valley Veterinary Hospital.
Bob met me in the driveway with his arm gloved & ready. As soon as I walked Kooter off of the trailer, Bob did a speedy rectal examination & grimly announced that there where only two choices, and we had but a matter of minutes to choose. I couldn’t bare the thought of losing Kooter so soon, and waved off every consternation & caveat Bob offered. He simply nodded & said, “Then you’d best be on your way & let me get to work. I’ll call you the moment we have something conclusive to say.” Needless to say, there was little sleep in our household that night.
A little after 2 AM, the phone wrenched me from an uneasy slumber. I picked up the receiver and heard Bob’s exhausted voice on the other end saying, “We’ve corrected the twisted intestine. He’s resting now and should be up & around by daybreak.” Daybreak that morning found me parked in front of the Clover Valley Veterinary Clinic.
Kooter had to remain in post-operative care for another week; initially to ensure his recovery from the operation itself, and later to monitor the condition of his incision, water & feed intake, and overall condition. By the end of that week, we were all ready for some serious rest! Not the least of which, was George. During such emergencies, we often forget about the stress level of the remaining “family” members. What I had not counted on however was the degree of George’s perception. The first morning I went out to feed George, I found him standing in one corner of the paddock, staring off into space. I chalked this up to him not understanding where his brother had gone. Subsequent mornings found George continuing to stare off into the distance. I watched him each day, knowing that something prompted his vigil, but missing the power of that which is often lost on us. It wasn’t until the fifth day that a faint glimmer of understanding crept in.
On the Friday morning I let George out, and as usual he crossed the paddock to stand motionless in the same corner as the previous 4 days. On a crazy whim, I headed up to the house and grabbed a compass & a map. I realised that every morning George was staring not just into the distance; but to precisely the same point in space every time. I walked quietly up behind George, as he stood transfixed. I took a quick bead from the dock of his tail & between his alert ears, and then consulted the map with my bearing. The “hunch” I had had before walking out there did little to prepare me for the shock of realisation that sped through me at that moment. For the past 5 days, George had been looking precisely in the direction of the Clover Valley Veterinary Clinic, over 11 miles away. I re-checked the bearings twice again, only to find that if any mistake were possible it was most likely mine. George’s gaze was fixed within 1 degree of a true “as the crow flies” heading for where his brother was.
We trailered Kooter back home later that day, and arrived amidst a cacophony of whinnies & snorts from George. I went out a short time later to check on the boys, and walked around the corner of the barn to see that George had grabbed everything that wasn’t nailed own (and a few things that were!) and deposited them neatly in front of Kooter’s stall door. Either he was so glad to have his brother back he was giving him presents; or he figured that if he piled enough stuff in front of the door we couldn’t take him away again.
Kooter was in for a minimum of 60 days’ stall rest, to allow for his incisions to heal properly. During this time we left George’s stall door open 24/7, as well as the gates into the paddock, arena & back pasture; in other words, George had free run of the entire property for over two months. During that entire time George never left his brother’s side. When we fed him, George would flip his hay out into the aisle, so he could eat while “guarding” his brother. Even his “bathroom breaks” were abbreviated, never taken more than a few yards away, and always in full view of Kooter.
We could only hope for such devotion ...