Saturday, February 21, 2009

WARNING: Graphic Images of a Glider Wound. "Reese's Rehab"

December 2008 was a very difficult month for me, especially right before Christmas break, when I began to get really sick. Although I am "sort of" getting better, I do have a consult with a doctor, again, next week.

I'm not sure why, or how, it happened, but at this same time, my gliders also began to have issues. Each of the problems was a little different, and all I could do was to address each issue at a time until I could get everyone back to health. It has not been easy, and if you are a loyal reader in this blog, you will already know that I lost one: Beaky.

I should say that I went from seven permanent cages to eleven before all was said and done. The full story should have unfolded here, but, instead, it unfolded at Southeast Sugar Glider's board, since I had replied to a post I'd read there, called All three acting odd last night. I read that thread with much interest, because I was having so many similar issues with my gliders. Rather than reply to that thread, I created a new one, since I was having multiple issues with my gliders. I called my thread Odd behavior and glider woes. I am pretty sure you will need to be a registered member at SESG to read the posts, but I will create an excerpt from my post there so that this entry will make sense to those who are not a part of the glider community.

Of course, I will update my thread there, but, for posterity, I need to record my stories here so that each of my glider's stories are all in one place.

This entry is all about Reese and it will serve as an update to my post on SESG, which I made January 18th of this year. I will quote my story, the short version, from SESG below:

" . . . Reese is an older rescue. She lived (until this wound incident) with Oliver, a rehomed male that I'd taken in December 2005. He was neutered January 2006 (he has been referenced in another thread here as well). They have lived together, in perfect bliss, almost right after his neutering, which went very well. January 2006, Oliver was maybe 18 months old, and he had never lived with another glider, ever. He and Reese became the best of friends, until about three weeks ago, when he inflicted a pretty nasty mating wound. We took her to the vet, and it was bad, but my vet managed to get her cleaned up and stitched back together. He used stainless steel stitches, and I placed her in a hospital cage beside my bed, so I could be sure she got the best of attention and care. About a week later, I took her back to the vet to have her stitches removed, but infection had set in. The vet gave me some medication, and I treated her twice a day. Then, her wound re-opened, and I took her back to the vet. He had to clip away more skin, and there was nothing left to re-stitch. He said he'd done all that he could do for Reese, but to keep using the medication. It was horrible to see my girl going through this. When I looked into her eyes, I saw pain, but also resilience, and my Reese is a fighter. John and I have been treating her, but her appetite waxed. She ate nothing that first night. I kept offering her food and plenty of love and attention, and I kept the meds coming. Needing some reassurance, I called Bourbon, and she referred me to TerieK. I'm glad I did this. I spoke with TerieK at length, and she knew when I called her, that this was a wound issue. I've worked with TerieK at A4G, but I had never got to know her until this phone call. She recommended something I'd never heard of before, and she strongly advised me to check this over with my vet before doing it. I did. I asked Dr. Tharp if scarlet oil was okay to use, and he said yes. I asked him if I should use it with the stuff he'd given me, and he said, no. Use one or the other, liberally, but not both. I have been doing that, and I am seeing a tremendous difference. Reese is looking better (she still looks bad, but she is no longer "raw meat"). She is also eating as if nothing is wrong, and she's more like her old self.

She misses Oliver, greatly, but they will never live together again. I will not put her through that. I have placed them, each, in a small hospital cage, and they are side-by-side. She pushes her nose, nearly through the bars, and she talks to him. I place each of their food bowls in the corner of the cages, nearest one another, and for now, that's the way it is . . .

This is a slideshow, which documents Reese's rehab. I am sorry that I did not have a photo of her original mating wound. I wish I had. It was the worst I had ever seen, but my vet, Dr. Tharp, worked his magic on Reese, and she was well on the road to recovery, until her stainless steel stitches were JUST about to be removed. An infection had set in, and somehow, her skin had "died" and she was ripped wide open again (I should clarify, she was in a hospital cage alone. Her wound re-opened on its own). I never thought she could heal, but she did. I have to say that my vet did all that he could for Reese, and he had given her meds, but it was the scarlet oil (used with his knowledge and approval) did make all the difference. TerieK had made the recommendation to use scarlet oil, and I double-checked with my vet to ensure there would be no reactions to the meds Reese was already taking. I was told to use one med, or the other, but not both. I elected to use scarlet oil, again, with vet approval, and it made all the difference in the world.

The original mating wound (I wish I had marked the date on a calendar for easy reference) was sometime in December. I would have to dig out my vet records to get the actual date.

You can click the slideshow to go directly to my Picasa album, where you can read the full captions. I see that they are not all showing in the slideshow.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Stormy Weather and Double Rainbows

Mother Nature has been moody lately. Snow and ice that closed most area schools for a week; then, high winds and heavy rains, and finally "the gift": a beautiful double rainbow. John actually took these photos off the back porch (while I had stopped alongside the road on my way home from work - to capture the exact same images from my cell phone. I was annoyed that I hadn't taken my camera with me that day). I was so glad that John nabbed these shots. He did a fine job. Coincidence? More like great minds think alike. It was a beautiful afternoon. I love stormy weather!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

My Little Beaky Is Gone

WARNING:This entry is difficult for me to write, and it will be even harder for you to read because it is a very graphic description of a glider's passing. My beloved little Beaky.

I started to make a reply to Tammy's thread, about a blind glider. To read that story, you must be a member of Southeast Sugar Gliders. I realized this was too much information to add to her thread about her special boy, and I did not want to detract attention from her post.

Keep in mind, this is all very recent to me, because I just lost my Beaky, at approximately 4:30 this morning.

Though I have not had any blind gliders here, I have had an issue with a glider who constantly overgroomed her little eyebrows/forehead. What I'm about to say is painful, but, for anyone who has an overgrooming glider, while you are going to the vet, ask him/her to really check out the glider's overall health. Beaky was constantly pulling at her eyebrows, too. She had from the time I had her.

Let me explain: Beaky was constantly overgrooming. I just believed it to be a sign of stress, or a kind of nervousness, on her part. She had always been that way, her previous keeper had told me. Other than that, though she was a small glider who came to me as a rescue back in May 2006 (I think it was), but she was always very energetic, spritely, and a tough little fighter of a gal. She and I have been through a lot in our three years together (I got her when she was about 7.5 years old), and she came to me through a ferret rescuer who did not know how to care for gliders. Her previous owner had just dropped her (and her partner off). Her entire story is posted elsewhere, here, in this blog. Simply do a search for "Beaky" in the upper left-hand corner to access my archives.

There, for awhile, after Beaky's cagemate, Peepers, passed away (again, Peeper's story is also documented on in this blog), Beaky had stopped overgrooming. At that time, I thought all was well, and maybe having been with Peepers for such a long time was her source of stress (but since I'd been told that they'd been together for their entire lives, I was hesitant to separate them, given their ages). Peepers was a very gentle glider, though. A jumbo cuddle-bug. I was told they had always been together, and when I took her in, I did so under the agreement that they were to be in a home where there would be other gliders - just in case one would pass - the other one would not be left alone. I kept that promise.

Not long after Peepers passed, then, Beaky started up with the overgrooming again. For Beaky, this was just what I believed to be her normal routine. That might sound bad, but she came to me that way, and even with a balanced diet, plenty of exercise, and companionship, she persisted. I just took this behavior to be just that: a nervous behavior. Maybe it was, but maybe it wasn't. I'll never know, now.

Bad things started happening here just around Christmas break for me and my gliders. Well, this is so hard to discuss (because there have been multiple issues in other areas, too), but we had taken her to the vet, and he checked her out. At first, I thought this problem was an abscess that he just could drain, and then she'd be okay again. I had one glider with an abscess before (my Bill), and it looked exactly the same (by the way, Bill is fine, and he has been, ever since). However, my vet said this was not an abscess: it was an eye infection, and he gave her an eye ointment. We'd been treating her for some time, but it wasn't doing her any good.

I called my vet back to see if he could give her some kind of shot - something stronger - because she would fight like the dickens when we tried to give her her medicine. However, he said that given her age and her condition (he said she seemed emaciated on her last visit) that he was hesitant to do that. Emaciated? My Beaky? That little thing ate like a beast, every night. She was always a small glider, but she was always up and ready for her food, first, every night. He said he was too afraid that he could overdose her. I respected his opinion (because she was an old girl), and he has treated all of my pets, very well, since I was 16, but her eye got worse. I called him back, and I asked if we could just remove her eye (because it was beginning to swell). That was risky, he said, but he said he wasn't sure if she could withstand the anesthesia, and also that he wasn't sure if her eye would properly heal (seal itself), and that it would be a difficult operation. He wasn't entirely sure that it could be done, but I told him that I had heard of one-eyed gliders (and I remembered Bourbon's "One-Eyed Jack"). I just couldn't remember Jack's details, if that eye loss was a result of trauma, or a surgery.

Anyway, I tended to her the best that I could, but finally, it was just too much. Her eye ruptured last night (her right eye), and I held her, cupped in my hands, to keep her warm, and right until the end, she was my feisty little girl. I kept her warm. I offered her water (as just droplets), as she could process them, and a little bit of HPW when she could take it. I never forced anything on her. I just followed her lead. Allowing her to decide when, and if, she could take anything. I just carefully fed her last night, with a syringe. Just droplets at a time. There, for awhile, she wiggled free (she was laying cupped in my hand), and she'd crawl up my arm, and I'd place her back down on the coffee table, where she'd wiggle her little butt over to her food bowl. She was weak, but she loved her food bowl. I wanted her to know that it was there for her, as always. I also squeezed out a bit of corn "goo" and let her taste it. Then, after some time, a little pea "goo" - and she held it in her mouth (almost defiantly), as if she were saying, "My food!" However, I removed it, very carefully, so that she wouldn't choke on it when I saw that she couldn't chew it. She was trying, but she was so weak. All told, she had about 3 cc of HPW last night, over an extended period of time.

Again, after some time, and we did this off and on all night, I offered her some water, and she was fighting so hard to stay with me. She wrapped her little arms and legs around my thumb, where I kept it, lightly placed, on her tummy (to help keep her warm). She held on as long as she could. Cuddling. Her little hands were holding onto me.

In the end... she passed, cupped in my hands, where I tried to keep her warm and as comfortable as possible. It was all that I could do for her.

Now, I wonder, all of this time that she had been overgrooming, was there something in, or behind her eyes, that was troubling her? Something the vet could not see? I will never know. I've thought about a necropsy, but I don't have the funds for that at this time. I have a surgery coming up, soon, for myself. However, Beaky is not buried yet. She is prepared, though. The ground outside is frozen solid. It's going to be hard to do. We've been out of school for a week because of the bad weather. Still, it must be done, somehow. If the vet had been open last night, I'd have had her there, but I know there wasn't anything else that he could have done, short of putting her down, so that she wouldn't have suffered any longer. We had already discussed all of the options that we had available to us, here, in a small town.

Beaky was a tough old girl, and she had a good life while we were together, but, hindsight is 20-20. Maybe she knew something that my vet and I didn't. He had carefully examined her before giving her the ointment. Maybe that is why she was constantly pulling at her eyebrows - maybe that is why gliders overgroom. There could be something "beyond" - or deep inside them - that bothers them - something that can't be seen.

I don't know if Beaky's story will any other gliders or not, but I owe it to my Beaky to share her story with others whose gliders may face a similar situation.

I will miss Beaky. She was a tough old girl. She was my girl.

In a related post, one that will be forthcoming, at one point, I had tried to introduce Beaky & Peepers to another pair, my Reese & Oliver. Oliver attacked Beaky (and that story is posted here in my blog, too). However, Reese "adopted" Beaky, and one of my favorite memories is of Reese taking little Beaky "under her wing" and letting Beaky "ride in the wheel" as she, Reese, powered the thing.

Those two were buddies. Had Reese not receive that nasty mating wound, my plan was to move Reese back into Beaky's cage (with Beaky's new partner, Snitch, who is another rescue that I had taken in some time ago - so that Beaky would not be alone). Again, I was trying to keep my promise to Beaky's previous caretaker.

*deep sigh*

That's all I have for now.