Do you know what starts as a little bump under the skin and turns into a hideous glob the size of mule mama’s fist and red as a baboon’s behind? None of us did either, but mule mama didn’t hesitate to find out. In March 2012, mule mama noticed a little bump on my right shoulder, about the size of the end of her pinky finger. She kept a close eye on it and mentioned it to my veterinarian, who called it a nodule. He said to make sure to let him know if anything changed with it over time and mule mama kept watch over it like a hawk.
One day in May of that year, while I was rough-housing a bit with one of my draft horse friends, I took a nibble to the right shoulder. After that, it seemed like that nodule just exploded and each day it got a little bit bigger and redder. Suddenly there wasn’t hair on it anymore and it was really red. Mule mama and Mr. Vet kept notes on the changes and in August they did something called a biopsy. WOW! That was a weird thing to go through! I won’t lie, I have never been a fan of needles and at that stage of my life, I still was not a big fan of men.
I have never told mule mama or my girl, and likely never will, but they’re fairly certain it was a man who put fear into me before I came to live with them. That’s my secret to hold onto, though. What mule mama did that day, though, was assure me that Mr. Vet was not a bad man and he was only there to help me. She held my face, covered my eyes and whispered ever so sweetly to me during that biopsy. Mr. Vet put a needle into the middle of that bright red, ugly as sin lump on my shoulder and cut out a chunk of it to send to a laboratory to find out if it is something called cancer. That word really scared my mama pretty bad. I didn’t know how to act around her for the next week while she waited to find out, she was so teary-eyed when she was with me and would just whisper to me. We didn’t work much that week, just snuggled. And at that time, I still wasn’t a snuggler, but I tolerated it.
My girl and I, though, we kept working on my halter and showmanship skills because our county fair was quickly approaching and she wanted to show me off again! The biopsy results came back and it seems like that ugly red lump was exactly that, just an ugly red lump called a sarcoid tumor. It was just something that grew in my skin. Mule mama did a little research and found that I was kind of doubly blessed with a chance of getting them, since I was part donkey and part Appaloosa and both of those critters are more prone than others to get these things. And I might get other ones in the future. Since this particular one wasn’t causing me any harm other than being icky looking, we all voted to wait until cooler weather to have it removed so the flies wouldn’t bother it so much.
I competed at the county fair with some hoof black carefully painted over that hideous lump. The judge asked my girl about it and she was very honest and knowledgeable of my condition, which the judge told mule mama later rather impressed her. Having that blemish didn’t keep me from being a rock star during that show, but I’m sure it mostly had to do with my girl giving me confidence.
In October, mule mama took me to see Mr. Vet and that gross thing came off my side once and for all. He said it was all in the skin and had it sent to the lab again just to be sure everything was ok with it. All of a sudden, I felt like this huge weight was lifted off of me. I sure didn’t like being in a stall for all that time, but I became a new man after that operation. I definitely am not as scared of men and strangers. I guess they aren’t all out to get me like I used to think. Needles and snuggling don’t bother me quite as much anymore either. Mule mama and my girl certainly didn’t lie about not letting anything bad happen to me. As much as they push me to do new things, I’ve survived it all safely. They’ve truly made me a better mule, and I’m sure happier for it!