About three weeks ago, I noticed that Sterling the llama was very underweight. It can be tricky with fiber animals, because their fiber covers up their body so well. I happened to pet him while he was eating, and that's the only reason I knew he was having a problem. I brought him into the barn so I could monitor his food intake and pooping. I treated him for parasites and coccidia since his poop was sometimes pasty. He didn't improve. And a few days ago, I realized he was hardly eating his hay. I did a little research and took him down to the University of Illinois vet hospital yesterday. We learned that he has an abscessed tooth, which will cost $600-800 to remove.
Apparently, you can't just pull a tooth in the back of a llama's mouth. There's an access problem because their head is too long. The vet would have to go through the bottom of his jaw bone and push the tooth out of its socket and into his mouth. He'd have a hole there forever and could dribble saliva and stuff.
Is it worth it to spend that much on a 16 year old llama? He'll never produce that much fiber in the rest of his life, and he's a gelding, so he's not producing babies. From a strictly financial point of view, the answer is no. But I hate making decisions like this.
While driving home yesterday and thinking about this, a Miley Cyrus song came on the radio and I recalled a recent conversation with my daughter. She said she quit liking the singer after she heard that her father got mad at her when she spent tens of thousands of dollars on clothes one month. Now she's on a budget and can only spend a few thousand dollars a month on clothes. Maybe Miley Cyrus could give up a couple shirts or pair of pants and pay for my vet bills?
Sterling isn't the only animal that needs expensive vet care. There is also Trouper, the dog that someone dumped out here, who was then hit by a car. His broken pelvis has healed to the point that he can run again, but he has some kind of serious nerve damage, because he is completely incontinent. He dribbles all the time, and when he lays down, he makes a puddle. He also has no awareness of where his right rear leg is. He stops walking with it completely stretched out behind him, and sometimes he sits down with it twisted behind him. I've spent nearly $300 on this dog already, and he has not even been neutered or vaccinated. I'm hesitant to spend another hundred dollars in an attempt to get a diagnosis of a problem that I can't afford to fix.
He can't live in the house because of the incontinence, and he can't live outside because our livestock guardian has attacked him both times he's come in contact with him, even though they should be separated by fencing. The LGD is finding a way to get out. He hasn't escaped from the pasture in at least six months, so I'm sure he's doing it now because he perceives a threat. It took three of us to pull them apart the last time. What if there's a fight when only one person is home? Living in our barn office is no life for a dog.
And then there is the horse that was deserted here by his owner. He's been here on free pasture board almost from the beginning, and a couple years ago, after my daughter's horse died at the age of 30, I emailed the owner and asked if she'd like to take Merlot somewhere else, because he was lonely without other equine companionship. She sent me a very rude email saying that she couldn't afford to do anything with him, and if I was going to desert him, I should just have him put down. That was a decision I didn't want to make. But now, he's losing weight. I'm sure he needs to have his teeth floated, but that's at least $130, if they find nothing wrong with his teeth. But what if there is something else causing him to lose weight? What if he has other health problems? I know he has arthritis in his hock, which is so severe that the muscles in that hip started to atrophy a couple years ago. He also has EPM, which is a neurological problem that makes it impossible for him to be ridden, so he's not here for any reason, other than his owner deserted him, and I haven't had the courage to put him down or send him somewhere. I've heard the horse rescues are full anyway -- probably like the pit bull rescue that I contacted when we found the injured dog. What financially-strapped, over-worked rescue wants to take on an animal that they know has expensive health issues and will probably be unadoptable?
And that ignores the two cats that were dumped out here last summer. I wanted to get them neutered so that they'd stay here, safe in our barn, rather than venturing out looking for a girlfriend and getting eaten by coyotes. I haven't been able to get them fixed because of Trouper's vet bills.
It would cost thousands of dollars to take care of the vet bills of all five of these animals, four of which I never asked for. They were someone else's problem -- someone who was cowardly and irresponsible. I could never desert an animal and pretend that all is well.
But I do not have thousands of dollars to deal with all these problems. I don't want to see the llama and horse waste away. I don't want to see Trouper get killed by the LGD or live a lonely life in our barn office. I'm sick of seeing intact male cats fighting, and I hope I never again find the remains of a cat that was eaten by a coyote.
But I'm not rich enough to deal with other people's problems -- people who are blissfully ignorant of the pain and suffering of their former pets.
It boils down to some very uncomfortable, painful decisions for me, decisions I never wanted to make.