The Equine Practice - A ghost town on the plane

Ghost Town

(Above image – the plane showing over half the 1st class seats empty in orange as is the rest of the plane – a ghost town)

Here I am again at 41,000 feet in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner going 600 MPH on the second leg of my travel from Seattle, WA to Newark NJ.  I woke up at 3 am and traveled south on Interstate 405, a usually very crowded interstate.  Today there was only a handful of cars and no one passed me except for one speeding Charger who almost missed his exit.

The attendant at the Avis rental drop off was asleep in his car.  The bus that carries up to 40 packed in travelers to the terminal was empty except for me and one other.  The driver was cordoned off with a rope and a sign for indicating that his safety was protected by a “social isolation zone.”

No one was in line for my baggage check in.  The TSA line was empty except for me and a few others.  The plane was filled and ready to go 30 minutes before its scheduled time because it was about a third full.  My transfer to the second flight in San Francisco was no different – a ghost town.

Now as I travel over the snow capped hills and mountains of Northern California I am witnessing the extremes of dense cities and desolate wilderness. The world is massive and I realize I am stuck in a space between the telescope and the microscope.  On one hand is the infinite vastness of space with countless stars and hundreds of millions of universes beyond our own Milky Way.  On the other hand is the unseen world of bacteria, funguses and viruses all waging a vicious struggle of survival.  All I am is a collection of cells fighting off attacks from nefarious unseen villains while accepting with gratefulness all the good guys that help me survive.

Why I Do This

I was asked this week why I continue to travel across this country visiting horses in light of the risk to my health.  One answer is that every horse shows me gratefulness in one way or another after I remove the sharp enamel points and remove the pain they cause.  A question I will have when I meet my maker is why are horse teeth this way, but for now I only know that they are.  Another answer is that with each day I get to contribute not only to the horse but to the owners.  I love to teach others about horse care.

Almost without exception horse owners are welcoming me onto their farms through this time when social isolation seems to be the normal way of the day.  Thank you for thinking of your horse and your willingness to put them ahead of any risk to yourselves.  You are not alone.  I want to also thank the pilots and flight crews (attendants, mechanics, traffic controllers, baggage handlers, ticketing agents), the shuttle bus driver, the car rental people and the hotel people all of which I could not travel without their help and courage.  Thanks to all restaurants willing to greet me at their door with food, the gas station attendants (no Tesla rentals) and the numerous Port-A-Potties I use as many rest rooms are closed.

I think that having some bit of normalcy in our days is important for our sanity and one of these events is having me come to your farm.  But normalcy is virtually gone for so many of us.  Having children at home, a spouse laid off, uncertainty of income, or being a care giver for a special needs family member is very stressful.  I have fortunately also seen something beautiful these past few days.  In the spring warmth and sunshine so rare in the state of Washington I observed countless scenes of families interacting on local streets and on pathways with bikes.  More people are now walking their dogs.  People are actually outside NOT with their faces buried in their phones but are actually WALKING or jogging because they have nothing more important to do.  

A Silver Lining

If there is a silver lining to all of this it may be that we all actually come together more deeply because of the forced isolation.  We are social beings.  Isolation is not in our DNA and I, as well as many other very credentialed people, believe that the stress of isolation and uncertainty is worse than contracting this disease.  And with stress comes immunosuppression which only favors the virus.

Veterinarians are considered by the Homeland Security Administration as essential people allowed to not remain isolated in locations where isolation has been mandated.  As long as you are willing to have us come to your farm we are willing to go because this helps in creating normalcy.  However if there is an immunosuppressed person at your farm and you do not want us there please don’t hesitate to tell us. The infrastructure to help us get there are filled with brave people willing to risk their health and for them I am very grateful.  I am also very grateful for the health care professionals and first responders who are there on the front lines when the virus gets the better of any of us.

Remember that the best way around this and any disease is 1) 8 hours of solid sleep, 2) low sugar diets, 3) stay hydrated with water and 4) smile and laugh (and stop listening to the news and social media every minute).  Our prayers and thoughts are there for every one of you who are struggling now.  I hope this letter brings a moment of reflection for all the things we are grateful for.  COVID-19 doesn’t stand a chance against gratefulness.  No prescription necessary.  Doc T out.