(with all due respect to my pal, Brandi, of course. Who is not a chicken vet by the way.)
I made yet another trip to the vet with Myrtle on Monday. This time for a check-up post 2 weeks of her most recent cocktail of drugs.
The last time I was there the vet was very pessimistic as both her red and white blood cell counts were as bad - if not worse - than when we started this whole merry go round of the Myrtle health crisis.
I pointed out to the vet that she seemed much perkier, was walking pretty well, and had even laid a couple of eggs in the last week.
He attributed that to the care I was giving her - which I would have loved to have given myself a big pat on the back for - but I had been giving her the same care before and it hadn't made a difference then.
The vet said we could try exploratory surgery, or go see a specialist and hour and a half away, or...
Reading between the lines he seemed to think it was time to make the call.
I went home with tears in my eyes figuring we'd spend a few more days with Myrtle and then bring her back for the final visit.
But after partner and I talked we figured hey, she's doing okay, and seems happier and more active, so why wouldn't we give her some more time? Especially since we still needed to keep Dominique inside for at least 2 more weeks to let her wings finish healing.
So I called the vet back and said I wanted to continue with the meds. We agreed he'd switch one of her medicines to a different one, continue for another 2 weeks, and check her again.
The next day I opened their cage as usual and took their waterer into the kitchen to clean and fill it. I turned around to walk back to their cage and saw only Dominique. While my back was turned Myrtle had hopped out of the cage and was now happily strolling around the sunroom and then into the kitchen looking for treats. A practice that has now become a daily - if not multiple times a day - event. Along with Dominique.
They've become quite the house chickens.
They stroll into the kitchen, following me around until I give them some yogurt or cheese or apples or popcorn. Then head back to the sunroom and hop up on the chair for some preening and naptime.
Yesterday I put them outside for the whole afternoon and they both walked around, eating grass and pecking at bugs. No more lying around as they used to when they were both more under the weather.
So I'm thinking, hey, Myrtle's definitely getting better, right? Her color's better (she's had very pale comb and wattles due to the anemia), she only mouth breathes once in a while (a sign of the respiratory illness), and she's much more active. There's clearly still something wrong with her leg, but all in all she's much improved from her lowest point.
But no, not according to the vet. He says her white cell count is slightly better but her red count is still really bad.
When he showed me the latest x-ray there was clearly an egg in line to be laid (kind of cool to see it in the x-ray). Which I saw as a good sign - if she's laying clearly her body's in better shape, right?
Not from his perspective. His thinking was that now she was egg bound and that if she didn't lay that egg within 2 days that was it. And her ovary seemed large so now he's thinking she has an ovarian cyst, or some form of cancer, and that's affecting her breathing and maybe her leg.
Or it could just be a sign of egg production.
Every time I go in there's a different diagnosis and it's always that she's at death door. Yet, I have a chicken who - although clearly not well - is way better than she was. (And let me just point out that she laid that egg 20 minutes after we got home from the vet.)
Again I was left with the view that her days are numbered and we should probably be making the call.
Now, let me just say I like this vet. And I think he's good. Particularly with birds. And I think he's very caring and very good at walking that fine line between offering options and making you feel okay if you don't choose to take advantage of all of them.
But where's the hint of optimism over her improvement???
Where's the idea that maybe, just maybe, she might pull through???
I really don't have my head in the sand - I'm well aware that our days with Myrtle are very likely numbered, but where's the glimmer of possibility???
But I guess I've got to have some empathy for a guy who's doing his best to figure out what's wrong with her, and do whatever he can to fix the problem, and is still - functionally - shooting in the dark.
In reality, it's not much different from the craziness we've had to deal with with partner's ongoing foot issues - every doctor has a different view and a different idea of what should be done. And some new dire prognosis.
In the end, there's a whole lot we don't know. With chickens and humans.
But, for now, I'm going to operate on the side of animal behavior.
If Myrtle's acting happy, and is able to function fairly normally, she gets to keep going. When it comes to my Myrtle we're going with the glass half full for as long as we can.
In other chicken health news, Dominique is now bandage free and - hopefully - after 1 more week of indoor convalescence will be able to move back to the coop.
Which will present all sorts of new problems - what do we do with Myrtle? Keep her inside - alone - not a good thing for chicken mental health, or see if she could be re-integrated also?
And how will we deal with the bigger issue of chicken division? And I don't mean math. Because of their long separation, the big chicks out in the coop no longer see Myrtle and Dominique as their mates. So when I let them all outside together - under supervision of course - Red and Easter attack Myrtle and Dominique.
Meanwhile, Myrtle and Dominique, who have been living next door to the babies all this time, attack the babies when I let them hang out in the kitchen together. And when I put the babies outside with the coop chicks, they also attack the babies.
And they're all supposed to be living together in the coop soon???!!!
And, finally, due to Dominique's injuries, although she is no longer in pain, she won't ever fly again. So I have to rebuild the perch in the coop to be handichicken accessible.
I don't remember seeing any of this stuff in all those chicken books I read...