Origins of My Novel
A year and six months before Contigo was diagnosed with Kissing Spines, he presented with a hematoma inside his sinus. A hematoma is caused by a tear in the vascular skin of the sinus wall. It usually occurs because of trauma to that area. As with all ethmoid hematomas, the one inside Contigo's sinus was growing and life threatening. The hematoma presented in Contigo's sinus area was just above his jaw. For this reason, I suspect the trauma was training related while he suffered back pain, and occurred sometime while Contigo clamped down on the bit in retaliation to the pain. Contigo didn't just clamp down. He was know for clamping down with a death grip and for very long periods of time. I believe the pressure created from his death grip on the bit broke the skin on his sinus wall and caused his hematoma. One of Contigo's surgeons who is a specialist in injuries and diseases of the sinus says my suspicion is reasonable.
To complicate this situation, early treatments for that hematoma, caused a severe inflammatory reaction and eight bone and soft tissue changes in Contigo's sinus. Many of his vital structures, nerves and organs were compromised so much that not only did some surgeons suggest I put him down, but he barely survived a last effort, exploratory surgery.
During Contigo's health crisis and fight for his life, I spent weeks trying to understand how life had changed so quickly. In one moment I was still passionately trying to athleticism him through dressage training. Then suddenly I was losing the horse I adored. When I came to an awakening, I finally realized that Contigo had suffered most of his life in training systems that were incapacitating, frustrating, painful and adversarial. And above all else, he never even had me, his human, truly partner with him and befriend him the way a friend and partner should. My realization that his precious life experience was the worst it could possible be shattered my heart into a million pieces.
My awakening brought with it another realization: horses are spiritual teachers. Therefore, I came to believe Contigo went as far as he had to in order to stir my sleeping inner self to an awareness and he straddled death to do so. I believe I was his greatest challenge; fixated on emulating the fanciest partnerships in modern dressage rather than learning about and implementing health and wellness. On Contigo's behalf and in the spirit of his mammoth effort to lovingly show me how to love and listen, I dedicate the novel I am writing about his life and recovery to him.
Inside the Novel: A Semi-Autobiography
When Contigo's face swells from a veterinary treatment to an ethmoid hematoma, his sinus tissues react severely. Three top surgeons suspect he has a rare cancer. To prevent further suffering they recommend his owner, Emille Pruit, euthanize him. But there is no positive biopsy. Conflicted, Emille waffles over making a decision for or against euthanasia, wishing instead she could find a surgeon who might suggest surgery to save him.
Suddenly, while contemplating what is best for him, strange things happen: An animal communicator recommends she simply ask Contigo what he wants -- and the answer she thinks she hears clouds her decision even more. She receives an encouraging email from a surgeon she's never met who lives thousands of miles away. And, an audio book she's listening to about astronauts and space travel reminds her of Contigo's bright and shining youth. Emille decides to see these strange things as positive clues that his life is worth trying to save and she schedules his surgery.
For four weeks following the unpredictable surgery the surgical team carefully moves a weary Contigo in and out of his concrete box stall to follow strict protocol with daily post op treatments and invasive but necessary biopsies. Emille, remorseful over having not cared well enough for him, does her part, too. Only her approach is far from clinical. She takes him for long walks near an adjacent park so he can watch the dogs run past. She plays children's audio books, hoping the reader's melodic voices will keep his mind off his pain. And, she gently scrubs his entire body with her human Clairol brush to sooth the onset of physical stiffness. As the days pass and she finds time to look deep into his eyes for answers to how his dire situation came to be, she realizes she had made grave mistakes in his training years and becomes determined to right her wrong.
This novel goes much deeper than the post-op treatments by the surgical team and the loving imagination of a horse owner hoping to spark a spirit. It takes readers deep into a heart-wrenching, heart-warming journey where Emille finally realizes that what she and the surgical team are doing is only the beginning of Contigo's new life and that it will all be in vain unless she truly learns the crucial life lesson Contigo is imparting and become human enough to listening to its call and learn forever from it.