Friday, June 24, 2011

Explaining Myself

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.


  1. I am so very sorry...And I do understand. No judgement here. I have always felt one of the greatest things we can do for our furry friends, is to be able to let them go when it is time. No suffering like we have to do with so many *human* loved ones.
    I am thinking of you today.
    xo, misha

  2. You made the decision you had to make. Don't second guess it. Your reasons are quite legitimate.

    Good luck in moving the other animals to Virginia.

  3. Dearest Grace, I echo what Misha said. You made me remember my beloved Tashes, who suddenly was paralized in her whole back end. We took her to the vet. Took her home for one last night. She was such a trooper - pulling herself along with her front feet, and at night, trying to climb up into the bed. I hoister her up and cuddled her all night, then took her to be euthenized. It was so hard because despite everything, her little spunky spirit never wavered, and I felt like she wasn't ready to go, but I couldn't handle an incontinent cat 24 hours, working as I was, and yes, not willing to devote that much time to cleaning up after her. When they gave her back to me I buried her in the garden after photographing her. She was still looking serene and has a smile, even in death. That photo is a blessing, as seemingly she's forgiven me and understands. Just know I'm sitting here crying with you. Love, Linda

  4. Grace, you did the right thing but you don't need me to tell you what you already know. When I had to make the decision to put my beloved Sam down it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do and I have had to do some very hard things in my life. Even if I had unlimited funding trying to prolong the inevitable would have only meant more suffering for him. I was with him as he drew his last breath and the look in his eyes told me he knew I was with him, he understood what was happening and he was ready to pass on.

  5. I don't believe in putting animals through stressful situations that they can't understand or won't handle well - especially if it just prolongs an inevitable unhappy ending. I am truly sorry for your loss. I feel your pain and angst, but I think you did all you could without causing him more stress.

  6. I'm so sorry Grace, but I can relate to what you had to do. Don't second guess yourself. I remember when Jet (The Flat Coat) had to be put down. J.D. & I spent the day before playing "Throw the ball" with him. It was lots of hugs & treats day. I almost changed my mind... He could hardly breathe, drink and wag his tail all at once. We made a good decision so that he wouldn't suffer. Years before when I was barely an adult I had to end the suffering of my beloved Morgan horse, Blaize. I had had him my preteen and teenage years rolling on in to a third year of my married life. He was trained by Corky Randall (He trained The Black Stallion Movie Horse) and I had accompanied him to many movie sets. I enjoyed his presence in my life and I seemed selfish to not let him go when he began to suffer. He was buried on "The Place" with green pasture around him. I know it is hard to let them go, but I know it also takes love to let them go... XoXoX Ellie

  7. Grace, it's always a sad day when a pet owner - of any size animal - has to have it put down. Letting the animal linger and suffer would be the least humane alternative. You should feel better in time knowing you did the best possible for Bree.

  8. You're so right, sometimes it stinks having to be a grown up and do adult things. Nothing from me except a hug and saying you did the right, hard thing.

  9. We had to make that same decision three times over the past three years with dogs. Just sucks to say the least and it really does make a person feel guilty. You did the right thing.... and yes, being a grown-up is just hard!



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