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Adventures of the Horse Doctor’s Husband

Justin B. Long

Publish date: September 13th, 2019


When he wedded a veterinarian, chasing horses down the Interstate wasn’t in the vows…

Bestselling author and painter Justin B. Long never dreamed he’d become a horse person. But marrying a passionate vet plunged the self-confessed numbers nerd into the wild world of equine emergency care. And just when he thought he had a handle on his new life, his close-knit community gained Internet fame with a daring freeway horse rescue.

This outrageous collection of uproarious exploits will tug at your heartstrings and tickle your funny bone. Through Long’s vivid accounts, you’ll meet a whole host of new friends, including a blind horse stuck in a sinkhole, mayhem-causing rescue kittens, and Highway, the famous I-75 Miracle Horse who cheated death four times!

Adventures of the Horse Doctor’s Husband is an engrossing memoir-style compilation of four-legged antics. If you love animals, you’ll adore this hilarious, delightful, and sometimes heartbreaking behind-the-scenes look at life in a rural vet clinic.

Buy Adventures of the Horse Doctor’s Husband to gallop into bales of chaos today!

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The following excerpt is from Chapter 15 of Adventures of the Horse Doctor’s Husband. 

I stretched out in bed, exhausted from the day. I considered reading for a few minutes to help my brain unwind, but considering such things with one’s eyes closed generally doesn’t work out, and this time was no exception. I didn’t even realize that I had dozed off until Erica’s phone rang. Her current ringtone is Staying Alive by the Bee Gees, and I can assure you that it will bring you out of a dead sleep. I looked at the alarm clock as she answered: 10:32 pm. I had only been asleep for about twenty minutes.

“Hello, Dr. Lacher.”

I listened to her side of the conversation, trying to determine if I could go back to sleep or not.

“Okay, if he wants to lie down, I’m okay with that, as long as he isn’t flailing,” she said with a chuckle. Her calm demeanor and faint humor almost always soothed the stressed-out horse owner on the other end of the phone, and it also told me we were about to go to work. “Just let him lay quietly, and we’ll be there as fast as we can.”

I groaned as I sat up. “Where’s this one at?” I asked.

“High Springs, on the other side,” she said. “Mary Denmore’s new gelding, I think his name is Flash Gordon.”

“Well, at least it isn’t an hour away.” Dressing as quick as I could, I glanced longingly at the bed one last time. “Goodbye pillow, I miss you already!”

Out in the kitchen, a line of eager assistants waited at the door. Both dogs, of course, and three of the five cats. They didn’t actually want to go with us, they just wanted to go outside and prowl around in the dark. We did the weaving dance of squirming out the door while keeping them all inside with a foot and a hand.

I drove, as I always do. Erica sat in the passenger seat, laptop open. She always looks over the patient history to make sure she’s up to speed with the animal’s health. Despite being deprived of my anticipated bedtime, I always get a rush of excitement when we have an emergency. You never know what’s waiting for you. I turned up the radio as we bounced down our long driveway. It’s almost a mile to the asphalt from our house, which is generally a good thing, but when you’re in a rush, it seems like it takes forever.

Twenty-five minutes later, we pulled into their driveway. Erica gave me the gate code, which I entered on the keypad. As the gate opened, I looked around. The barn lights were on, but I could also see a flashlight bobbing around in the field off to the left of the barn. We eased up the driveway to the barn.

“Go to the left,” Erica pointed. “I think there’s a gate in the fence over there by that tree.”

I switched the headlights to bright as we pulled around the barn. We bounced up and down as we crept across the field, and I finally spotted the gate. There was someone standing by it, probably one of Mary’s kids. He opened the gate as we approached, and I rolled down the window.

“Just head towards mom over there,” he pointed. “It’s safe, there ain’t nothing to run over out there.”

“Okie dokie,” I replied. We finally neared the flashlight, and I switched the headlights back to dim as the downed horse came into view.

“Stay back a bit so we can keep the headlights pointed that way,” Erica directed. “Don’t point them right at him, but just off to the side so we can see.”

I parked, and we hopped out, leaving the engine running. As soon as I got out of the driver’s seat, a black lab appeared out of the darkness and hopped into it, surprising the hell out of me.

“Booger, get outa there!” Mary whistled, nearly shattering my eardrum. Booger hopped back out onto the ground, immediately disappearing into the darkness.

Erica went over to the horse, talking to Mary. I grabbed the flashlight out of the door pocket and went around back and opened the lift gate. Booger appeared again, sniffing everything, his tail swatting my legs. I gave his ears a quick scratch.

“Hey buddy-buddy,” I whispered. “Give me just a minute, and I’ll give you a good fuss.”

I quickly grabbed the tray out of the top left drawer of the vet box, which is a huge box that fills the whole back end of the SUV. It has lots of drawers, and holds most everything a veterinarian needs, except for really big items. I pulled out the head lamp, the stethoscope, the lactate meter, a syringe to draw blood for the lactate meter, the thermometer, a sleeve (which is a disposable glove that goes all the way up to your armpit), and a bottle of lubricant.

“Okay, we’re going to try to get him up,” Erica said as I walked over. “He’s been down for a while, so he may have trouble if his legs have gone to sleep.”

I sat the tray down on the hood to keep Booger out of it and went over and took the lead rope from Mary. Erica got behind the horse and grabbed his tail.

“Okay Flash, let’s get up,” she said, giving me the nod. I tugged on the lead rope as Erica lifted his tail. All this really does is irritate a horse, mind you. You’ll never lift one up by hand. Flash shook his head, and I gave him plenty of slack as he extended his front legs. He didn’t quite make it up on the first try, and didn’t seem interested in a second effort.

“Hey buddy-buddy,” I said softly, trying to keep him calm. “Let’s go, you don’t want her to get the pliers out.”

It was too late; Erica was already opening her Leatherman. A slight pinch with the pliers on the sensitive area at the base of his tail was enough to give Flash a change of heart. With renewed enthusiasm, he reared back, and with a mighty shove on the rear legs, he made it to his feet.

“Yay, that’s a good boy!” I cheered for him, patting his neck. “We’re going to get you all fixed up, don’t you worry about it.”

Erica grabbed the tray off the truck and began her exam. She listened to his heart, then his breathing, and then moved back to his abdomen and listened to his gut sounds. Satisfied with what she heard, she came up and lifted his lip, checking the color of his gums.

“Okay,” she said to Mary, “his heart rate is low, which is good, and his breathing is pretty normal, considering how hard he worked to get up just now. I can hear some gut sounds, so that’s a good sign too. I’m going to give him some drugs, and then palpate him and we’ll see if we can tell what’s going on.”

“So, you don’t think he’s twisted his guts up?” she asked. “I’ve been afraid to let him lay down, because I didn’t want him to get twisted up.”

“Oh no, he definitely hasn’t twisted anything,” Erica replied. “If he was twisted, he would be throwing himself all over the place, screaming, flailing, and you wouldn’t have any doubt about what was happening.”

Mary relaxed visibly. She was short and round, and had one of those faces that doesn’t hide a thing, framed by short, dark, curly hair.

“And just so you know,” Erica continued, “that’s not how that works. When a colic turns into a twist, the twist happens while they’re standing. It has to do with gas, distension, and internal spasms. When they start rolling and flailing, they’re in serious pain from that, and they’re trying to make it stop hurting. So, the twist isn’t caused by rolling; rolling is a result of a twist.”

“I didn’t know that,” said Mary. “I always heard the rolling caused it.”

“Nope,” Erica grinned, “that’s just an old wives’ tale.” She disappeared around the back of the truck to pull some drugs. I stood there holding Flash, and scratching Booger, who had reappeared.

“Don’t feel bad,” I said. “Most people are under that same impression. And hey, it makes sense, right? Horse rolls over, guts get twisted. Until it’s your horse rolling around, it’s not something you think too much about, anyway.”

“Sure,” said Mary. “It sounds reasonable, so I never questioned it.” I could tell she was relieved. Erica has that affect on most people, which is one of her superpowers. “This is the first colic I’ve ever had. I’ve had three different horses over the last twenty years, and none of them ever got sick. I guess I panicked a little.” She grinned. “I’m so glad you guys came out here. I really had no idea what to do.”

“Hey, this is what we do,” I said with a laugh. “That’s why you have a vet.”

Erica came back around into the light, pulled some blood, and then gave Flash two shots in the vein in his neck. I pulled the lactate meter out of its case and stuck a test strip in the top. It looks just like a blood tester that diabetics use, and functions in basically the same way, only it tests for different things in the blood. Erica put a drop of blood on the strip, and we waited.

“Two point three,” she announced. “That’s great, that means he’s going to be fine. Anything under three is good. Colics that have a serious problem like a twist, or a section of intestine that’s lost blood supply, those guys will have a lactate of five or six, and that means they need surgery immediately. Flash doesn’t have any of those symptoms, so he’s probably just got an impaction, and a little gas built up. I’m going to palpate him, and we’ll see what we’ve got.”

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Justin B. Long