Yesterday I drove to St Francisville and left Bree at the family farm of my equine veterinarian in order to be put down. Ears up and perky, he was far from the outward picture of a horse that needed to be euthanized.
As much as I'm telling myself that it needed to be done, I still feel like a heel. I've put to sleep a good many beloved pets over the past 35 years of my adulthood, but in every case, I'd exhausted all medical avenues and it was done in order to end suffering. It wasn't so clear cut with Bree.
He's had a large swelling in his laryngeal area for most of the spring and the vets at LSU were willing to overlook it giving their attention only to the flaring eye. Two weeks ago, my personal vets became alarmed (Sr partner's first time to see it) and suddenly other "experts" at LSU, who had been feeling on this lump for months, were viewing his larynx as more important than the uveitis in his eye.
The short story is that the swelling was a mystery to all concerned and after being neglected for several months had apparently calcified the cartilage around his larynx and was causing his trachea to be restricted when he needed to draw in a deep breath.
I was still hanging in there with him, but realizing that it wasn't looking good for being able to do much if any riding. Then last week, actually the night that I was pulling the painting all-nighter, when I went to the barn to treat his eye and feed, I removed his fly mask and there was his "good" eye: swollen, weepy and light sensitive.
Uveitis in the good heretofore unaffected eye. My heart sank to my toes.
Some horses with uveitis only have it in one eye and will never have a problem with the other. We were hoping that was the case with Bree since I never remembered any episodes in his right eye. But now there was no point in doing the cyclosporine implant in only the left eye if both eyes were potentially affected. Doing the surgery on both eyes was both financially unthinkable and it didn't have the rate of long-term success that seemed necessary to save the sight in both eyes.
So I now had a horse who had lost a significant amount of sight in one eye and was eventually going to be losing his vision in the other. And then there was the calcification around the larynx. I called my vet on Monday thinking that I knew what had to be done, but not sure that he'd agree. However, he was of the opinion that I'd eventually be putting him down; it wasn't a question of "if" but "when." He encouraged me to be preemptive and do it now and offered me the option of having Bree buried up on his family farm in St Francisville, so I said Yes.
I've only got 2.5 acres of pasture... not enough to have three horses and keep one around as a pet whom I can't ride. When we move the horses to VA, boarding an unsound blind horse isn't something that we'd be able to do long-term. If Joe is going to ride, he wants a riding partner. Three horses isn't an option for us. I know that someone reading the blog will want to tell me about homes for blind horses somewhere... yes there are one or two, but try getting a horse accepted there and really what kind of life is that for a high strung active horse? And then a blind horse who can't take a deep breath?
"T", my old "rescue" half Arabian was blind in one eye and I rode him, but he had a different mental state. Bree wouldn't have been trail worthy with one eye.
So I put down an otherwise healthy horse that I had taken care of and loved for 10 years. Yet he was now a horse who was partially blind in one eye, might have had a year or two of partial vision in the other eye and who couldn't take a deep breath when exercising. In short, I couldn't ride him and there was no cure.
On Monday, he was shiny, alert and looked like a million bucks. But it was coming. I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and it was a train. So I moved toward it and I'll say it.... I gave up. I was worn down after throwing time and money at his eyes for 4 months and I just gave up. Not something that I usually do readily. Maybe it wasn't giving up but seeing things for what they were.
If I had unlimited money and many acres of land, could I have kept him hanging on for longer? Yes. No question about it. But I've got minimal pasture (soon to be boarding) and a limit to the discretionary spending.
I waver between thinking that I was selfish and knowing in my heart that doing anything else was just postponing the inevitable. This is one of my more rambling posts, but I don't even feel like rereading it to trim it down. I have to keep telling myself that there are no easy answers and I did what I thought was best. Sometimes I hate being a grown-up.