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Beware! You???re Entering the Ear Zone

By Cindy Hale

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

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Wally can certainly be obnoxious about a lot of things. For example, giving him his annual vaccinations requires a small army of handlers to convince him that it’s really all for his own good. But one thing he’s always been good about is tacking up. Although I got him nearly five years ago primarily because he’d been booted out of a show barn for his horrible behavior (his previous owners, a mom and daughter, literally told me, “He tried to kill us!”) he had years of professional training. He’ll stand tied patiently with the saddle on his back while I run back and forth from house to tackroom and back again, grabbing whichever items I seem to always forget before I head out on the trail.

So last weekend when he suddenly declared, in no uncertain terms, that I was absolutely NOT getting the bridle over his right ear, I knew something was wrong. That was simply not Wally.

But I had to use him as a bicycle to get across town. I’d promised a local trainer that I’d work as a substitute instructor and give her Saturday lessons while she was gone to a weekend show. I had no choice but to painstakingly unbuckle the headstall, slide off half the browband, and then slip the bit into Wally’s mouth at the same moment I flipped the crownpiece over his poll. Voila! Of course Wally wasn’t too happy with any amount of leather touching his right ear, but I had surreptitiously gotten the bridle on his head, so off we went.

When we got home again I inspected his ear and saw nothing. Last summer his ears were filled with itchy scabs due to a particular species of voracious gnats that live out here. I figured that was the problem again, even though he habitually wears a fly mask accessorized with bunny ears. But I saw no evidence of that. Nonetheless, he was adamant that I was not going to handle his right ear. Never, ever again.

Naturally I collapsed in my normal state of panic and called my vet, Jennifer, who just happens to also be my good friend (a double duty I’m not sure she always treasures). And thus Wally got the world’s most invasive ear exam ever. At least it seemed that way to me. And probably to Wally, too.

First he was sedated. Then Jennifer looked inside his ear with an industrial-sized ear probe thingy. After she felt around inside, she said the words I didn’t expect to hear: “I felt something.”

Wally's Ear

Yikes! Or yuck, depending on your perspective.

To help dislodge the foreign body Wally got his ear flushed with what appeared to be about a milk carton’s worth of saline solution. When that produced nothing more than Wally shaking his doped-up head, splattering all of us with used saline solution, Jennifer went foraging with a small pair of hemostats. They looked like tiny scissors, but they’d be used to clamp on to whatever it was she was feeling inside his ear. What she pulled out was… A small cluster of square-shaped wood shavings. Somehow, when Wally had rolled in his stall the other night, his big ol’ ears had scooped up some shavings and a few of them had fluttered, like little pine snowflakes, down into his ear canal.

Wally's Ear

Once they were retrieved, Jennifer gooped up the walls of my very sleepy gelding with a thick layer of Panalog, a topical cream consisting of several antibiotics plus a steroid. She also added a syringe full of a syrupy insecticide, “Just in case there are any critters down there,” she said.

Take that, you nasty gnats!

After a couple of days of rest, Wally went back to work, if you can call a few laps around an arena followed by a leisurely trail ride “work.” And just to prove his perpetual Wally-tude, he attempted to raise his head to avoid being bridled, knowing full well that I knew his ear wasn’t bothering him anymore in the least. Trust me, I’d already tested him, and his ear wasn’t the least bit sore.

This means, of course, that I will now have to spend several days “explaining” to Wally that no, he cannot now add a new trick to his repertoire. Head flinging and being dubiously ear shy will not be tolerated, even if he does flatten his ears in defiance and roll those big, ermine-colored eyes at me. I see that look. I notice that mock snarl on his pink lips. But I will not be deterred. He will be bridled in an acceptable manner. I happen to know his ear is healed. I even have a $130 vet bill to prove it.

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Beware! You???re Entering the Ear Zone

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Reader Comments

Skyler    Chino Hills, CA

10/27/2011 4:46:06 PM

Poor Wally! But I'm glad he's feeling better, even if you are poorer for it.

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