Sunday, July 5, 2015

Thinking About Having to Say Good-bye

After a night of loud, explosive fireworks shot off just beyond the tree line of my horses' field, I breathed a sigh of relief after counting noses this morning to find that they were all present and unharmed. I'm sure all pet owners know that feeling--holding one's breath while the vet conducts his examination or opening the medical test results with a whispered prayer... Sometimes the news is a relief and you exhale that breath you didn't know you were holding. But other times, it's not.

I'm facing a battle with one of the best horses I've ever owned. The battle is to keep him alive and it's being waged on two fronts. My beloved Clyde/TB, Paddy, has been diagnosed with Inflammatory Airway Disease (IAD/RAO) and at times during the hot, humid summers here in Maryland, his respiration has zoomed up to seventy respirations per minute. The oral steroid treatment caused a bout of laminitis, but the inhalant therapy gives him a large measure of comfort. That comfort comes with a huge price tag. (One inhalant can cost over $300 and only lasts a week during a severe flare up.) The second battle front opened recently when he was also diagnosed with Insulin Resistance (IR).  His diet was immediately modified to eliminate sugar and starches as much as possible and his time out on grass was cut down. He also can no longer be fed his beloved apples, carrots, sugar cubes and peppermint treats (although I did find some sugar-free mints). I feel guilty that I may have contributed to this by "killing him with kindness" and over feeding. Unfortunately, the recommended treatment for IR is to get him fit and to lose weight, but that is a challenging task when he can't breathe! Thus, the war on two fronts.

I have fought a good fight.  I've purchased a Haygain hay steamer, his stall is dust free, his food is weighed and I've done my best to get the weight off and improve fitness. Time will tell, but I'm not deluding myself---he could have to be put down if we can't get a handle on his problems. No pet owner wants to contemplate, let alone carry out, that task but it is our ultimate responsibility for each pet we take on.  It never gets easier. Moreover, if you do have to take that step, as an owner, friend, and partner, you don't want it to be for financial reasons.  Where horses are concerned, however, it sometimes is the case. I just don't want to look in Paddy's eye on that day and know that I could keep him alive if only I had a money tree. Believe me, I have taken the high road and done whatever was necessary in the past to prolong his life and keep hope afloat. I've nursed him through Potomac Fever, Equine Protozoal Myloencephalitis (EPM), and orthoscopic surgery before this latest affliction. Still. I wish I could wash my hands of this responsibility for life or death, but I can't. No owner can because they are depending on you to do what's right, no matter how hard it is.

Meanwhile, hope is still alive and I look for small signs of improvement. I take joy in every day I have him, whether he is rideable or not. I am eternally grateful for the past we shared,  I do what has to be done one day at a time, and try not to worry too much by peering into the uncertain future.

The passing of a beloved animal is a powerful transition for those who are left to mourn. It is no wonder that some fragments of these experiences have found their way into my stories and therefore have provided some measure of eternity for those departed friends.

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