California Creatures

In 2001, my wife and I decided to go on a little adventure. We found veterinary jobs in rural northern California. We ended up living down there for three years and had many great experiences.

From a purely medical perspective, it was interesting because we got to see many things that we do not encounter in Canada. For example, there are rattlesnakes in California and we kept vials of anti-venom stocked to treat animals that were bitten. There were also unusual parasites such as ear ticks. These are soft-bodied ticks that truly crawl into the ear canal and reside there.

When we returned to Canada, I said goodbye to the snakes and ear-ticks and did not expect to see these creatures again.

In 2009, we took our horses on a trek in the Cascades. The Northwestern States have a superb network or backcountry horse trails and we chose to drive to Winthrop to explore the Pasayten Wilderness. We had our two riding horses, Gabby and Grubby, plus our faithful donkey, Pancho, as a pack animal. Except for a minor bucking mishap with Grubby that ended up with my gear strewn over a mile of brush, the trip was enjoyable until our last day. We ended up on the spectacular Pacific Crest Trail and then descended into a valley that would take us back towards our truck and horse trailer.

At one point, the trail winded along a south-facing slope of rock fall that turned out to be ideal habitat for sunbathing rattlesnakes. The horses were good at spotting them and were very wary and spooky. I can testify that the rattle of a rattlesnake does put your hair on end. Anyway, we did manage to walk out of the valley unscathed where we found a sign at the trailhead. It read “Rattlesnake Trail”.  I would have appreciated a similar sign at the opposite end.

A few weeks later, Sacha noticed the horses rubbing their ears excessively. This seemed very odd as ear infections in horse are very rare. I sedated Gabby and examined her ear canal where I found…..yes, you guessed it – ear ticks!