The next morning, we cleaned up from the Open House before going to Charlotte and Ben's for Julie Anne's first birthday celebration. They were just having us and family over as the child was still too young to really know what was going on. She did know her Uncle Julian, though, and she squealed with delight when she saw him. I think he bought out Toys R Us when he went shopping for gifts for his namesake. Of course, he also got a couple things for her brothers so they wouldn't feel left out.
It was a fun time, but I was exhausted, so we didn't stay too long. Before we left, Charlotte asked us if we'd like to take Julie Anne for a weekend after we were back from our honeymoon. Of course, we said yes.
Back at home, Doc insisted I lie down for a bit. I did not fight him as I was too tired and sore to stay up. I fell asleep almost as soon as I hit the pillow and didn't wake up until he came upstairs to get me for supper. “We are clear of commitments now, hon”, he said to me as he sat down on the bed. “You can rest up and recover from the busy fall we've had.”
“Doc! I have to get out to the barn to feed the horses! I can't believe I slept through supper feeding!”
“It's taken care of, hon. Alex and I did it.”
“Yes. Don't look so shocked.”
“I *am* shocked!”
“I wanted you to get as much rest as you could. So I got Alex to help me – it wasn't hard, their hay was already in their stalls. All we had to do was let them in and give them their grain, which, thanks to your system of having it ready in cans, was a piece of cake.”
“Who gave Nell hers?”
“Alex did. He doesn't mind her head butting his hand.” I laughed.
“I'm proud of you, Julian.”
“I showered downstairs when we got in”, he said sheepishly. I had noticed he had changed his clothes but just assumed that was because he'd worn a suit to Ben and Charlotte's.
“Doc, that does not surprise me. I know you will likely never get over that need to shower after being in the barn. Like I've said before, it doesn't matter – I still love you and always will.”
At that moment, Scruffy came running into the bedroom and jumped on the bed, followed by Jessie and Heidi. Julian had kept them all downstairs while I slept so they didn't disturb my rest. I picked her up and put her on my shoulder. “All right, girls”, I said to the dogs, “If you want to play 'chase the squirrel', do it downstairs.”
Scruffy made a noise as if to say to the dogs “Nyah, nyah, you can't get me now!” and Doc and I both laughed. It was good to see him laugh. He seemed to be getting over Jane's latest stunt, which had affected him so greatly. I was glad to see him almost back to his old self.
A few days later, Alana from the horse rescue organization called me after supper. “Meredith, your wedding was fabulous. You looked beautiful and I love the song you sang. It was so good to meet Julian, I could tell right away how much you two love each other.”
“Thanks, Alana, I'm so glad you could come. Julian enjoyed meeting you, too.”
“I hate calling you when you are still 'honeymooning', but I've tried everyone else.”
“What is it, Alana?”
“A gelding, about two hours from you. He's severely emaciated and has open wounds. The neighbours who called it in to the Humane Society said they saw the owner beating him with a tire iron.”
“Oh my god, Alana. Of course I'll go get him. I take it their vet thinks he has a chance?”
“A chance, but not a very big one.” I got directions from her and ran upstairs to change clothes. Then I went down to the living room where Doc was chatting with Alex and Deanna.
“Going somewhere?” Alex asked
“Yes, I have to go pick up a horse.”
“At this hour?” Doc questioned.
“It's a bad case of abuse. They don't want him left at that farm a moment longer than necessary.”
“Where is it?”
“A couple hours from here.”
“I'll go with you, hon. I know a long drive like that will be hard on you. I can drive back if you need me to.”
“Let me go, Julian”, Alex said. “I'd like to see a rescue pick up. And I can drive if need be.”
“Do you know how to drive hauling a trailer with a horse in it?” I had to suppress a laugh at Doc questioning Alex on his horse hauling experience when he – Doc – was such a newbie.
“Yes, Julian. I've driven Steve's horses for him.” Doc was looking disappointed.
“Why don't all three of us go?” I suggested. “That is, if Deanna is okay with staying behind as there's only room for three in the truck.”
“That's okay with me, Meredith. I'll get a stall ready while you're gone.”
“Thanks, we can get going now. I usually do up a stall before I leave. Do you know where everything is?”
“Yes. Do you want me to put hay in the stall?”
“Put a bale down by the stall door. I'll take a flake with us and see how much he eats on the way back. He will have to eat more frequent but small meals to get his digestive system used to eating again. No grain until Steve has checked him over and lets me know what to give him and how much.”
I looked at Doc and Alex. “I'm going to warn you right now. The horse likely looks awful, by what Alana said. If you can't handle that, then don't come.”
“Hon, if *you* can handle it, then so can we.”
“Doc, I've done many of these pick ups. You haven't. I don't know what Alex has seen.”
“I've seen some pretty bad cases from going around with Steve. I know how hard it is on you and the least I can do is come along and support you.”
I hooked the trailer up to the truck and we piled in, me in the driver's seat, Doc in the middle beside me and Alex riding shotgun. I entered the address we were going to into the GPS and compared the directions to the ones I'd been given from Alana. They were pretty close. I pulled out of the laneway onto the road.
Two hours later, I turned into the laneway of the farm the horse was at. I drove a quarter mile to the house and stopped behind a Humane Society van. As I got out of my truck, a woman got out of it and started walking toward me. I stretched my legs and back. The drive had taken it's toll on my joints.
“I'm Meredith Richards”, I introduced myself. It felt a bit weird saying Meredith Richards instead of Meredith Kingsley, but in a good way.
“Barb Morrison.” I shook her hand and turned to Doc and Alex, who had got out of the truck after me.
“This is my husband, Julian and our friend, Alex.”
Once introductions were made, Barb said, “I'll take you to the horse, his name is Robbie. He's in the barn.” As we walked to the barn, Barb told us about him. “He's a sixteen year old quarter horse, broke to ride but he hasn't been ridden in a while. The current owner has had him for a year and claims he was feeding him. There's hay and grain in the barn.”
“Parasites?” I asked.
“Possibly. Our vet suggested you get your vet to test for them.”
“I will, for sure. Do his teeth need floating?” A horse's teeth never stop growing. Due to the way it chews, the back teeth get pointy and when that happens, the animal can't chew it's food properly. It needs to do that to fully absorb the nutrients. Weight loss is a classic sign that the teeth need to be filed down with an instrument called a float. A tidbit of information – horses do not have feeling in the roots of their teeth. Hence, a tooth can be pulled without any anesthesia. Lucky buggers!
“He tried to look in his mouth, but the horse wouldn't let him and he was in a hurry to get to another call.”
“I'll get Steve, my vet, to check.”
We had arrived at the barn door. Barb looked at us. “Before we go in, I will warn you. Robbie is extremely thin and has wounds from the beatings. There are a couple bad ones. The vet stitched up a nasty cut on his leg, but the one on his thigh needs to stay open to heal from the inside out. If you can't handle it, don't go in.” She seemed to be looking at Doc, who, as usual, was dressed in slacks and a nice button down shirt. Alex was wearing jeans and a flannel shirt.
“Alex has seen horses in bad shape before, but Julian hasn't”, I told her.
“I can handle it”, Doc said. “I saw some people beat up pretty badly on my ER rotation.”
“Are you a doctor?” Barb asked him.
“Yes, an ob/gyn.”
“I just wanted to warn you so that you could stay out if you want.”
“I'd see the horse at home anyway, if I hadn't come.”
“Okay.” Barb opened the door and led us in.
“Where is the owner?” I asked as she led us to the stall.
“At the police station. It's a husband and wife. I believe they are both going to be charged with animal neglect and cruelty.”
We approached the stall and Robbie stuck his head out of the open top to see who we were. “He's friendly, but a bit wary of people”, Barb said.
“Can't blame him for that”, I replied as I reached my hand out to pet him on the nose. I looked in the stall. He was bone thin, I'd never seen a horse that emaciated before. I could see him tremble as I petted him. He seemed to want the pets but was afraid of human contact.
“Let me get him out.” Barb clipped a lead on Robbie's halter and opened the stall door. The horse stepped out into the aisle. I heard Doc and Alex gasp. The chestnut gelding had a blaze down his nose and a white sock on one of his legs. His bones were protruding. It looked like he hadn't been fed in months, even though the owner claimed he had been feeding him. His left front leg was bandaged below the knee. There were a couple small cuts on his thigh. I walked around him in front to look at his other side and gasped. There was a huge wound on his upper thigh and a few smaller cuts along his side.
“That's where he was struck with a crowbar and we think it was dragged along to make the wound bigger”, Barb said when she noticed my reaction. I looked at Doc and Alex. Doc was white as a sheet and Alex had a disgusted look on his face. “You are going to need to tend to this two or three times a day.”
“That's okay, I have done this before.” I petted the horse on his neck and promised him this was never going to happen to him again. Doc went to his head and stroked his nose, talking to him. I couldn't hear what he was saying but I saw a tear or two in his eyes. I nudged Alex and pointed to Doc. He smiled. “I tell ya, Alex – I'm gonna get him to learn to ride some day.”
“I heard that”, Doc said. “You did get me to ride, remember?”
“That doesn't count, Doc.”
“How can anyone do this to such a beautiful animal?” he asked me.
“Alex would be the one to ask about that, honey.” Barb gave me a quizzical look. "He's a shrink", I explained.
"Meredith, there are psychological reasons, and we can talk about it sometime, but let's get him home", Alex said to me.
“Ready to load him?” Barb asked.
“Yes, we best be getting on the road.” I looked at my watch. “It's almost 11:00, it will be 1 in the morning by the time we get home. Julian is off, but Alex has to work in the morning.” We got Robbie into the trailer and said good-bye to Barb.
“Thank you so much for taking him”, she said to me through the open window of the truck. “I know Alana had a hard time finding someone who would do it and I know you'll drive carefully, he may be a little wobbly on his feet as he doesn't have the strength he should have.”
I rolled the window up and put the truck in gear. Doc had offered to drive, but even though I'd taught him about hauling a horse, he had not done it on a pick up yet and I knew Robbie needed a smooth ride. I didn't know if I would make it home, but I was determined to drive as far as I could.
Alex insisted on sitting in the middle for the trip home. He said he wanted to talk to both of us and it would be easier if he was between us. “If you are thinking of shrinking me …. don't”, I warned him.
“Why don't you want to talk about it?” he asked, referring to the condition Robbie was in.
“Because I'm driving, Alex. It's best I don't talk about it right now. Besides, I'm fine. This isn't the first time I've picked up a horse in bad condition. Worry about Julian, he's never seen this before.”
“You are not 'fine', Meredith. I can see it in your face.”
I almost slammed on the brakes, then remembered I was hauling an emaciated horse that was in no condition to cope with a sudden stop. “Do you want to walk home, Alex?” He got the hint and turned his attention to Doc. “Alex, you aren't working right now, why not just sit back and enjoy the ride?”
“Because I see how this is affecting you two. You are very good friends and are doing Deanna and I a huge favour letting us stay with you until we rebuild our house. I am qualified and want to help you get through this.”
“You don't owe us for that, Alex. You've both been pulling your weight with helping with household chores and the cost of groceries.”
“I know, Meredith, but we care about you and Julian. Tell me, how do you usually cope with a pick up like this? What do you do when you get home?”
“I put the horse in it's stall and then go inside and flop down on my bed and have a good cry. Which I will be doing tonight.”
“After a shower”, Doc piped up.
Just then, I looked in the rear view and saw a car behind us. It was weaving in and out of our lane. Thankfully, traffic was almost nil at this hour of the night. I thought maybe the person wanted to pass us, so I slowed down a bit. The car stayed behind me, but continued to weave in and out of the lane. I was worried that it would hit the trailer and harm Robbie. “I think there's a drunk driver behind us”, I said. “Could one of you call 911 and report it?” Doc got his phone out and made the call. I heard him talking to the person on the other end. He was trying to tell them where we were. We'd just passed a sign saying 10 klicks to Kersley so I had him relay that info. For those readers who don't know, “klicks” is Canadian lingo for “kilometres”.
The car was beside me now. I let up a bit more on the gas to slow down even more and let it pass. A split second later, I felt the impact as it hit my truck smack dab on my door. A horrendous pain went through my leg at the hip. Using every defensive driving tactic I knew, I managed to keep the truck and trailer upright as we were pushed off the road and onto the grass. “Are you guys okay?” I asked Doc and Alex.
“I'm fine”, Alex said.
“Same here”, from Doc.
I tried to open my door, but it was smashed in. The car that hit us was still beside me, right up against my door. The driver was gunning the gas, presumably trying to pull away but the force of the impact caused the vehicle to get stuck in the dent it had made in my door. “I'm going to have to get out your side”, I said to Doc. He and Alex got out and I tried to slide over. I cried out in pain and looked down. I saw blood seeping through my pants. “Dammit”, I cursed.
“Are you okay, hon?” Doc asked me.
“Looks like I'm cut”, I answered. “Help me outta here.”
“Not until I look at it.” He was back inside, trying to get at my leg.
“It's too cramped in here, Doc. Help me out and then you can look at it – after I've checked on Robbie.”
“Robbie is fine!” I heard Alex call from inside the horse trailer. Oh, thank God, I thought.
Doc grabbed me under the armpits and pulled me over to the passenger side. “Keep your legs on the seat, Meredith. Let me get the first aid kit.” He had insisted on getting a top of the line first aid kit for my truck – and my minivan – and he'd put his medical bag in before we'd headed out tonight. I swear there's an umbilical cord connecting him to that bag.
He reached over and started cutting my jeans with medical scissors he'd gotten from the first aid kit. “Doc! Don't cut my pants!”
“I have to, to see the cut, hon. It's only a pair of jeans.” Doc doesn't like jeans.
“You could have at least cut on the seam so I could sew it up without it being so noticeable”, I sulked.
“Your leg is more important than a pair of pants, Meredith.” I sighed. For once, he didn't comment on that. He looked at the cut. “It definitely needs stitches. Let me put some antiseptic on it.” I could hear Alex talking to the driver of the other vehicle, who'd given up on extricating his car from my truck's door. Alex was yelling, which is very uncharacteristic of him. Julian opened a bottle and started pouring the liquid over the cut.
“Doc! you're getting it on the seat!”
“You can get the seat cleaned. This is an old truck anyway, take the insurance money and buy a new one. I don't know why you drive an old beater when you can easily afford a new truck.” While Doc isn't an elitist or pretentious, he does want everything to be practically new, including his vehicle. Growing up, we did not have a lot of money. Consequently, I am so used to making a dollar stretch that I use everything until it can't be used any more. I've never been able to shake that. But tonight, I was in too much pain to argue, and the pain wasn't from the cut.
“Owwww!” Doc had lifted my leg to get the gauze wrapping he was putting on underneath it.
“I didn't touch your cut, hon.”
“Get me out of here, Doc. I need to check on Robbie.”
“Alex said he's fine.”
“I need to see for myself.”
“You don't trust Alex?”
“It's not that. The horse is my responsibility. If he missed something, it's on me if something happens to Robbie.”
“Let me finish this, hon and I'll help you get out.” He finished bandaging my cut and pulled me out. I put both feet on the ground, but my left leg buckled and I went down. The pain was excruciating. “Meredith, what happened?” he asked as he squatted beside me.
“I don't know, Doc. My leg just buckled as soon as I put weight on it”, I answered through clenched teeth.
Doc ran his hands over my leg, checking for breaks, then felt up around the hip. “Oh, hon, I think your hip is dislocated. I should have checked for that before pulling you out of the truck.”
“It's not your fault, honey. I wanted out.” He took his phone out of his jacket pocket. “Who are you calling?”
“I need to get an ambulance for you.” I groaned. “Are you okay, hon?” He set his phone down without making the call.
“No, I'm not okay, Doc. I just got hit by some idjit, my leg is killing me and I have a cut on it a mile long. Plus, I'm worried about the abused horse I just picked up. Ask me again if I'm okay.” I instantly regretting being so crabby. None of this was Julian's fault and he was just trying to help. “I'm sorry, honey”, I said, my voice changing from pissed off to contrite.
“It's okay, Meredith. I know you are very stressed right now.”
At that moment, Alex came around the trailer and approached us. “The police and a couple tow trucks are on their way. Is Meredith all right?”
“No, she has a dislocated hip as well as a pretty deep cut on the side of her thigh. Is an ambulance coming?”
“I didn't realize she needed one. Let me call back.” He took his phone out of his pocket and dialed. When he was finished with the call, he said “It's going to be a while. Kersley's one and only volunteer ambulance is on a call. It has to take the patient to William's Lake and then come back here. That's a two hour round trip once they get on the road.”
“Dammit.” Doc swore for the second time that night. “I don't want to wait that long to get that hip back into place.” He thought for a moment, then began feeling around my leg again. “I've done this, but not since my ER rotation when I was an intern. How about you, Alex?”
“Same here, Julian. I did it as an intern but not since.”
“I'm going to have to do it. Hold her still, Alex. Meredith, this is going to hurt and I mean hurt. I don't have anything with me to knock you out.”
“That's okay, Doc. Just do it.”
“It will feel better once the hip is back in place.”
Alex held onto me and Doc popped my hip back in. “Holy shit!” I yelled. “You weren't kidding, Doc.” He was right, though. As soon as it was done, most of my pain abated. The cut still hurt, but that was nothing compared to the pain my dislocated hip had given me.
I got up. Doc steadied me. “Sit in the truck, hon.”
“I need to check on Robbie. I can walk now.”
“You need to take it easy. You don't want that hip to pop out again. Besides, putting weight on that leg will cause more bleeding in the cut. Until it's stitched up, you need to stay off it.” I sighed.
“Robbie is okay, Meredith, “Alex said to me. “I checked on him and he's doing fine. He kept his footing and is not injured. So relax and wait for the ambulance.”
“I don't need to go to the hospital now. Where's my phone? I'll cancel it.”
“You need to have that cut stitched up. And you should have the hip X-rayed to make sure it's in right and that the socket isn't broken.”
“I can walk on it so it must be okay. You can stitch the leg up. Come on, Doc. I just want to get home and go to bed.”
“I don't know how we'll get home, hon.”
“The truck is still running. I just need that dickhead's car to be pulled off the door.”
“It may be running, but we don't know if it will run.”
The driver of the other car chose that moment to come around and see us. He was staggering and had a lit cigarette in his hand. Doc glared at him. “Are you okay, ma'am?” he asked, slurring his words.
“No, she's not fine”, Julian said to him in an angry voice. “You dislocated my wife's hip when you hit the truck, and she got a nasty cut on her leg which will need stitches. It's going to take an hour for an ambulance to get here and another hour to get to the hospital. Fortunately, I am a doctor and I was able to put the hip back in. But she still needs stitches in that cut. Thank God it wasn't worse. This could have been prevented had you not chosen to drive while drunk.”
The man looked chastised. Doc had a way of doing that. “I'm sorry”, he said to me.
“The police are here”, Alex called from the other side of the truck.
“Oh good, the tow trucks should be right behind”, I said.
We were in luck. They were able to separate the car and truck and my truck still ran. The cops weren't overly thrilled with me driving it back without it being looked at by a mechanic but they knew it would be a couple hours before I got home if I had to call someone to come get us. I promised them I would drive carefully and once I got home, the truck would not leave my property except to go to my mechanic's. They had taken our names and info and said they'd be in touch in the next day or two to get statements. The driver of the car was facing charges for impaired driving and careless driving.
I started to slide over to the driver's side, but Doc stopped me. “Oh, no you don't”, he said. “Alex or I will drive back.”
“I can drive, Doc.”
“No, Meredith. I'm putting my foot down on that. And we haven't determined where we are going – home or the hospital.”
He sighed. “If we go home, there are conditions on it.”
“What are they?”
“First, that you do not go to the barn and you let Alex put Robbie in his stall. Also, you do not unhook the trailer or clean it, you go directly into the house.”
“You sleep downstairs tonight – I don't want you going up the stairs. And thirdly, you go to the hospital tomorrow to get that hip X-rayed.”
“I'll agree to the first two.”
“No, hon. You agree to all of them, or we wait for the ambulance to come and take you to the hospital tonight.” I knew there was no bending him.
“Okay”, I said reluctantly.
“Oh, there's a fourth condition – that if I think of something else, you do as I say.”
“All right, Doc.”
“I love you, hon.” He kissed me and backed out of the truck. “You need to get out so one of us can get in.”
“I'll drive, Julian”, Alex said. “Meredith needs your attention.”
“I need to sleep.”
“We all do.”
A little over an hour later, we were home. I kept my word to Doc and went straight to the house, after Alex unloaded Robbie and I saw that he really was okay. I asked him to write a note on the chalkboard to let Karen know that there was a new horse and to just give him a flake of hay and no grain. “Give him a flake now, please. Oh, and tell Karen that Julian and I are in the downstairs bedroom and need to sleep in. And, Alex, I think you should take the morning off and sleep in, too.” I looked at my watch. It was almost 4:00. “Holy crap, it's morning. I need to call Steve in a few hours.”
In the house, Doc stitched my leg up, then went upstairs and got the shower seat. He helped me into the tub and we took a shower together. When we came out of the bathroom, we could smell coffee brewing. We put our robes on and went out to the kitchen. Deanna was up. “I thought you'd want a cup of decaf before going to bed. Alex is calling in to work and taking a personal day. It was a paperwork day anyway.”
“Maybe”, Alex said.
“No maybe about it”, his wife responded. Now, this was interesting. I filed the info in my brain for when it might be needed – that Deanna wears the pants in that household - well at least part of the time.
Doc and I sat down and she brought us each a mug before sitting down again. “Alex told me what happened. Are you okay, Meredith?”
“I'm fine, Deanna. Julian put my hip back in at the scene and and he stitched me up before we showered.”
“She's going to the hospital later to get the hip X-rayed to make sure it's back in right and there's not other damage such as cracks or fractures.”
“After Steve comes and checks Robbie over.”
“Depending on what time he comes. I would take you right now if I thought I had a chance of convincing you to go. But I want you to see Adam Beckett and I don't know if he's on call.”
“I'm too tired, Julian.”
“I know. Which is why we're going to bed very soon.” He got up from the table. “I'm going to go get your wheelchair. You shouldn't be walking around. Your hip needs time to heal.”
“It's healed, Doc. You put it back in, remember? Sit down. I am not using a wheelchair this close to Christmas. I have things to do.” I saw Alex watching us intently. Doc looked like he was going to say something, but then he turned and disappeared down the hall. I heard the back door open. The wheelchair was on the back porch. He better not bring that out, I thought.
A moment later, he came back to the kitchen with my crutches. “Since you are adamant about not using the chair, please use these, hon”, he said as he handed them to me. “At least until you see Adam. I don't want that hip to come back out. And neither do you.”
I took the crutches from him. “Okay, Doc. I can compromise. I don't want to fight with you less than two weeks after our wedding.”
“Thank you, hon.” He leaned over and kissed me.
“Adam will probably want you off that leg for a while”, Alex said.
“Shhhhh, Alex. I'm doing well to get her to use the crutches for a day!”
“I know, Julian. But I also know Meredith doesn't like surprises, so I don't want her going in tomorrow thinking she won't need them after the appointment.”
“You two can fight all you want, I'm going to bed.” I made my way down the hall and crawled into bed. Doc was right behind me. I guess he felt sleep was more important than arguing with Alex.
“Let's not go to bed mad, hon”, he said.
“I'm not mad at you, Doc”, I replied as I turned over to face him. “I know you want what is best for me.”
“I love you, Meredith.”
“I love you more, Julian. Now, let's get some sleep.” Alex had brought Scruffy downstairs for me and she stuck her head out of her nest and chattered as if to say “Yes! Go to sleep, you two!”