FORT KENT, Maine — It’s no real secret that it’s all about the critters here on Rusty Metal Farm. Furred and feathered, two- or four-legged, nine times out of 10 their needs, wants and desires trump my own.

Oh, heck, let’s be honest: It’s 10 times out of 10.

Nowhere is this more apparent than when it comes to health issues. As regular readers of the adventures here on Rusty Metal Farm are aware, yours truly has had more than a few mishaps over the years. Most revolve around falling on or off various obstacles, many of which are the direct result of sled dog or chicken shenanigans.

But their care comes first.

Take everyone’s favorite Shusky, Corky, for example.

For nearly a year my local veterinarian, Christiana Yule, and her team at Fort Kent Animal Hospital have used every diagnostic tool, test and procedure in an attempt to isolate the cause of Corky’s chronic nasal infection.

Her nose has been flushed, poked, X-rayed and otherwise examined to no avail. We tested her for allergies in case that was causing the inflammation.

Other than learning she is highly allergic to beef and dairy — thereby radically altering her treat regime — we were no further ahead on a diagnosis.

So, this past week Corky, I and her rather thick medical history file found ourselves at the Lucerne Veterinary Hospital in Dedham, where Dr. Chris Miles would perform more specialized tests.

These, Dr. Miles explained as a technician took Corky’s vitals, involved using two tiny scopes to get real-time images of what exactly was going on inside that long, pointy Shusky nose.

Best case, they would find an actual object lodged in there — say a small stick or a rusty metal chicken — causing the recurrent infection. Or perhaps a poorly healed wound, polyp or cyst.

At the very least, Dr. Miles said, she would take samples for diagnostic testing.

Leading up to the exam, I warned Corky this was in no way a cosmetic nose job, but I did catch her looking at photos of Kim Kardashian and other “surgically enhanced” celebrities in one of the waiting room’s entertainment magazines.

Three hours later a very wobbly and snuffly Corky was brought back out. The results? No stick, no chickens or foreign matter of any type.

Many tissue samples were taken, and now I wait for results as I spend a great deal of time wiping my dog’s runny nose.

Such is the life of a critter caretaker, and it’s not the first nor I suspect the last time what little free time I have is spent in animal health care.

In fact, last winter an extraordinary long period of time was taken ministering to an injured member of the Rusty Metal chicken flock.

I don’t know what exactly happened to the single Silver Wyandotte chicken, but one day I went in to discover her on the floor of the coop, eyes glassed over and her breath very shallow.

Birds of a feather may flock together, but when it comes to an injured chicken among them, they more often than not will turn on and kill her.

I was not optimistic about her chances, given her overall appearance, so I removed her, placed her on a blanket in a box and put her in the basement near the woodstove in a sort of poultry palliative care setting.

After a few days I noticed her eyes were looking less glassy and more alert. I mixed up some electrolyte powder with a small amount of antibiotics I keep on hand for the sled dogs with some water and got her to drink a bit.

Slowly, she began to perk up. After a few days I added a bit of mashed food to her diet.

From there she moved to a larger recovery area in my heated shop, where she had a bit more room to move about and stretch her wings.

In fact, she seemed happy enough in there that I toyed with idea of having a “shop chicken” mascot on the farm.

That notion ended about the time she came flying out of her enclosure, bounced off my head and knocked me off my feet.

Obviously, she was fit enough to rejoin her flock.

I, on the other hand, was left to nurse a rather impressive lump on the back of my head.

But in the end, bumps, bruises and falls be damned. As long as my critters are getting the care they need, all is well on Rusty Metal Farm.

In the meantime, please pass the Advil.

Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award winning writer and photographer, who writes part time for Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by email at

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Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.