Borrowed Time

g6XuJI4HSVOSmkQfqdnHZAI have been wanting to write about my friend Ridley but I have been putting it off as I have been with ALL my writing ideas. If I keep putting off writing about Ridley it might be too late as Ridley is living on borrowed time. Ridley isn’t a human friend he is a canine one – and sometimes they are the best friends to have.

Ridley came to us at the ripe old age of 10 – he turned 11 just a couple months after his arrival. I love to adopt senior dogs. I have a heart for them.  Ridley never has acted like an old dog though. It is a breed thing I think. I should mention Ridley is an Old English Sheepdog (OES)- likely backyard bred. I say this because he is a big gangly guy – all legs that splay out in awkward positions when he lays down – and lets just say he is not bright- but he is affable and funny and loving.

Ridley is now almost 15 years old and he is failing.  His back legs are to a point where he is unable to get himself up – though once in a while something motivates him and he gets up on his own. He takes meds to help with any pain issues – and aside from his hips being sore when he goes to lay down he doesn’t seem to be in pain. He is having issues with pottying.  He wears a belly pad and that helps some. He just was diagnosed with whip worm and is being treated. Let me tell you that is not something you want your dog to get! Food goes right though them.  Last month it was a skin bacterial infection. His immune system is likely not what it once was.

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One of his last beach walks. We try to get him out to the bay each trip. Kevin carries him up and down the walkway steps.

We have thought a million times – this is Ridleys last trip to the beach, last walk to see the chickens, last this and last that- but we have been wrong.  Ridley is tenacious – and alert- still funny- and it is for these reasons he is still with us. He is involved in life. But it is getting to the point where we may have to make a hard choice to let him go even if he is still happy and engaged. If he can’t hold himself up at all that will be a problem. I can’t lift him really- I do it but it can flare up my pain.  But at least once up he can motor around ok. He can also motor on his butt and scoot along. People think it is sad- I think it speaks to his determination and his engagement in life. It tells me he is still in the game. He doesn’t want to give up. And that is what makes knowing when to let him go so hard.

Kevin and I are Rid’s prime caretakers and we can’t really go anywhere and leave him with someone else. Our son can take care of him for a night or two- but forget it if we wanted to travel for longer. Believe me, we don’t want to put him down for our own selfish reasons.  I am trying to let him squeeze as much time in this life as I can. But I also want to be a good steward to him.  But there is that self check where we have to make sure we are keeping him alive for him and not for us. Once the scales tip towards keeping him alive to avoid feeling the grief of his loss then I know its time. We aren’t quite there yet but its closing in. I never want to be selfish with his life.

Sadly this is likley our last sheep dog. We are trying to downsize our dog population (we have 5 and mom who lives with us has one) so we wont be “backfilling” when we lose one of the gang we have now.

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The Gang- Rudy, Pierce, Ridley, Reese, And Lemon

The significance of Ridley coming to our home will always be an important part of his story.  He was preceded here by an amazing OES named Dave. Dave was my heart dog..he was part of me and he took part of me with him when he left. Dave was sheepdog through and through…he was stubborn and he never listened but somehow he mostly did what you wanted him to do- but it was always his choice. Dave bit me and bit Kevin on a couple occasions when we went to retrieve some item he shouldn’t have that he was trying to ingest. Mostly it was napkins but once he got a plastic baggie- unbeknownst to us – that was a pricey vet visit and an uncomfortable few days as we waited for it to pass.

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Dave and Rudy years ago

Dave had those OES traits and many good ones. I became his job. I was his person and he was my friend. I loved that guy. Before he left he trained my Golden Rudy about how to take over being my companion.  Rudy has done a great job – he is always at my side-  and  welcomed Ridley  – maybe with some jealousy . Ridley also decided I was his person so is with us most of the time – and Rudy has shared me.  So most of the time in my office it is Me, Rudy, and Ridley. It will feel empty  -literally and figuratively – when he is gone.

So back to the significance of his being here. I told you about Dave- but there was another OES after Dave. We had an OES for 4 days. We got him from a NC rescue group who basically had no idea what they were doing and they allowed a dog that had bitten his foster carer to be adopted.  Long story short- Kevin was attacked by this dog when he went to put a leash on -and the dog went after him. There was no warning growl – nothing.  I had stepped away for just a minute and I heard Kevin yell and ran to see this dog biting and biting my husband. No growls – just an attack. Kevin got away and had significant wounds- he has a hand disfigurement still to this day. He was ill with infection for days- almost was hospitalized- probably he should have been. It was awful. And the idea of ever getting an OES again was shattered for both of us.

But I knew some good people in the OES world. Betsey, the woman I got Dave from who was not doing rescue anymore (which is why I got a dog from NC) was so upset for us. She and two other wonderful women who run rescues in New England and North Carolina (a different rescue than the one we got the biter dog from) encouraged us to take time to heal from this and regroup.

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I loved this and had to take a photo

In my heart I knew I wanted an OES-but I was scared too. They can bite- because they are stubborn – but I knew from having Dave who was a hard head that biting isn’t first on their agenda. I knew the attack I saw on my husband was not a breed thing it was because the dog wasn’t right in the head. So getting another one was an idea that I tabled for a while – I could not quite nix the idea entirely. So I kept in touch with my OES rescue friends.

Belinda Lamm of TOESR (Tarheels Old English Sheepdog Rescue) kept checking in on us. She was so upset by what happened and knew how awful the situation had been for us – the rescue where the biter dog came from was awful to us- and she did not want us to be disillusioned because of that experience.

One day she told me about a senior dog name Ridley that had been in the owners backyard and uncared for and someone had called animal control. The owner willfully gave up Ridley who by then was a matted mess – he couldn’t move his head.  Belinda’s group went and got him and put him in a foster home – once they had him cleaned up and vetted she wrote and asked if we might like to adopt him. I was skeptical – as you can imagine- and I asked a ton of questions. But in the end I trusted her – and Kevin trusted me. So we said yes we would take him.

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Car Ride!

Ridley restored our love of the breed. He is annoying and funny and so many things. He has no boundaries and likes to lick your hair if you bend down or sit on the floor. If you don’t close the door to the potty you will have a visitor. He nags and nags you for a bite when you eat, he drools puddles of slime, he thinks he is the leader of the pack and it has gotten him bitten a couple times too. He loves to ride in the car – he will just lay in zen mode anytime he is in the car- he is the perfect rider. He is not bright but he knows how to love. I think at some point Ridley had lived inside his home and he was cared for as his demeanor says “I like people- they are my friends”.

I will always be grateful to Ridley for reminding me not to judge a whole community just because of one bad apple.

I will miss this guy. I don’t when goodbye will be – but it will be sooner than later.  I try to enjoy the time. Having to care for a dog in their declining days builds a tight bond. I try not to sit and cry as I wait for the day to come. I would be wasting precious time with him – but I cry a little sometimes.  For now, we just love and care for him the best we can – we have frustrating moments for sure he is a lot of work now- but we love him- and we want to enjoy these last borrowed days.

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Car Ride

The day will come soon where Ridley will be laying in the van – going for a ride to get a special treat. Maybe a McDs burger or some other greasy human feast. In that food there will be a bit of tranquilizer, and after his meal we will drive around the country side chatting with him until he falls asleep. Then we will go to the vets and open the side door of the van where the vet will meet us. In that van – that is a calm place for him- is where we will say our goodbyes as the vet helps him to slip away.  Kevin and I will be holding him and loving him as his spirit takes flight to it’s next job.

Ok now I am crying. It gets too real sometimes.

Anyway – thanks for letting me tell you a bit about Ridley.  He is a good guy- and a good friend. There will be a big gap in our lives when he is gone.

Ok I think I am going to grab him a treat because he’s a good boy….

Hover over photos to see who is who!

Hair eating!

On the ground with Ridley!

That Cat

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My barn cat Ziggy died yesterday. A hit and run.

I was outside yesterday morning with my very old sheepdog- letting him pee out front because he can’t get down the back deck stairs anymore- when I saw a young teen get out an SUV that had pulled into my neighbors driveway across the street – she went up and knocked on the neighbors door.  I know the neighbors don’t have teens so the SUV and the teen seemed out of place.

Her knock was not answered and she turned back toward the car.  I think she had seen me when I first stepped outside a minute before but I had stepped back behind the tree in my yard not wanting to be seen bc I was snooping. Yes I admit I was. But I wasn’t hidden well. The teen began walking back to the car.  I had called my dog to come in and I as I turned to go in I glanced over to the SUV and I saw that she was not stopping at the SUV. She was passing it and heading my way. I pretended not to see her. I am not a morning person – and I am not big on conversing before I have some food and my tea. 

 It was 7:30am -I thought she must be selling something. But it was way too early to be selling things- so that theory made no sense. Then it dawned on me as I heard the low ring of our doorbell that she wouldn’t be selling anything – something else was up -so I went to the door.

Maybe they were lost I thought. Some homes on this stretch of road are hidden down long driveways with their mailboxes on the opposite side of the road. So I opened the door and I was definitely not expecting to hear what I heard this young lady say. 

“We-my mom and I-wondered if you knew who owned the cat we saw over there. It was killed by a car.”

“Oh f*ck”. Were my first words. Then my apology for such words. Then I say to this young person – Oh well well you’ve heard them before. I was rambling.

Then my questions – is it black? Yes. Did it have white. I think so. She said – but we aren’t the ones who hit him. No. No I know.  Then I am saying I can’t handle picking the cat up I’ll get my son. (Kevin was out of town). She said –my mom says it has a collar. Oh my cat doesn’t have one. (Later I realize that she misheard her mom most likely).

At that moment I’m still not sure what I’m feeling. I’m not upset – it might not be our cat right? I’m just there bumbling my words -but I know I can’t handle getting too close. I walk over to my driveway and look past the car and I see a black leg with a white paw laying still on the other side of the road. Oh shit. I’ll get my son I say.

Get a trash bag I tell him. Get the dead cat across the road. I think it’s Ziggy. I don’t even know what he said- but my almost 19 year old son went outside and got that cat in a bag- our much loved barn cat. Though at that moment I didn’t want to believe it was him. Then I wonder if he thanked the girl for stopping. Then I think how this could have unfolded had we not answered the door. Would I have found him hours later when I went to get the mail or when I took my mom to the doctor that day? 

The things that go through the mind.

Even after my son had done this terrible chore. I’m asking him was it Ziggy? Can we be sure? He didn’t know for sure. He went back to look. Maybe he couldn’t bring himself to look again he didn’t say. When he came back in he still wasn’t sure. I was upset and irritated. How can you not know know your own cat I asked him? But shock is shock. And his was not wanting to know it. And there is his mom in shock wanting so hard to believe it was someone else’s cat. I even texted my neighbor that lives up behind us. Checking- Is Jafar at home? But he doesn’t wander far. He’s bigger than Ziggy. She confirms quickly -Jafar is at home..

It was Ziggy, Ziggers, Zigman, Zig….he is gone…as I write this I still can’t believe it.

I talk to my husband on the phone just before he has to go to a meeting. He told me to have my son take Ziggy to the vet – drop off his broken body. They will take care of him.  I was in shock. I didn’t know what I was feeling. Anything?

But then the like a sheet being slowly pulled off my body reality waves over me. And the tears came. So many tears.

F*ck, f*ck, f*ck. Why?

Just moments before the biggest worry I had was picking up poop on the bedroom from my old dog. But things can change in an instant.

The other day Kevin and I were going to a town nearby to shop and just as the road widens to 4 lanes a groundhog jumped out onto the road. Kevin had little room to do much bc of the traffic and sadly we hit it.  I bent over in my seat and held my ears yelling – no, no, no, no….- on and on. Kevin was rattled- and I am sure my reaction didn’t help. I cried – but calmed enough to shop for the few things we went out for. We were so upset about the groundhog we took a different route home. Since that day last weekend I had been really shook up about that incident. I had been trying to figure it out- look at it. See what it meant. 

But then Ziggy got killed on the road. 

As that sheet of shock wore off the tears burst forth for this sweet cat. For that groundhog too. For the son who struggles in rehab in Florida. For my guilt. Guilt over taking a cat from a nice lady who couldn’t keep him and making him barn cat. But he was born to be a barn cat – he took to it in days. I feel so much responsibility to my animals- and you can’t really control a barn cat. They are enigmas. But still I feel I failed in my responsibility.

I cried and cried. This was why the hitting of the groundhog hung on to me in such a way. I was needing to grieve things I had been holding in. 

There have been so many tears. Guilt and sadness about that and other things. Tears that have needed to come out – not all about this cat – this sweet cat. Tears I have hidden behind a wall that I build in order to be able to walk into each day with my armor on. Those tears clawing to come out and it took the loss of one sweet cat to break the dam.

The cloak of grief over a sweet cat and so much more. That cat that made us smile and laugh. That cat that hunted like no other.. who left us many gifts of dead prey in the barn. Rubbed up on our legs, followed us all over as we did our chores or I rode my horse. That cat who played with his buddy Jet in the barnyard. (Jet has been missing since last week- but I am hopeful he returns.) That cat that went too close to the road. That cat who died and now I grieve for so many things – and maybe in his leaving – in my finally breaking open- because we can only hold things in for so long or they become toxic to us- maybe that cat gave me a final gift. 

Thank you Ziggy- for being our cat…your job with us was complete and on you go to whatever is next. We will not forget you….

 

Thoughts on my youngest son’s 18th birthday.

Today my youngest son turns 18. I was putting together a collage of photos from over the years and I began to feel a little melancholy. Time has gone by so so fast. It floors me.

There are so many things I would like to to do again and many things I would do differently if I could. I like to spend short periods of time in the past. But when they begin to make me sad I know I need to pull back to the present.

To stay in the past can make us miss the joys of the present time. I don’t want to get caught in a cycle of sadness over things I can’t go back to nor change. But it’s ok to step back for a moment and it’s ok to feel the joys in the memories and the sadness over the quick passage of time. I don’t want to forgo looking back in the past because it’s is the framework of what has been my life. I just don’t want to get lost there.

I know today with my youngest son turning 18 – who also was my first child (I know puzzling- but we adopted out of birth order)- there will be memories that will bring laughter and some tears. To just hold that little boy one more time – I know he’s still here to hug but it’s not the same. His hugs are quick and awkward. Appropriate and expected for a teenage guy. I am not the one he would run to for a hug anymore after scoring a soccer goal (he used to)- and good lord he shouldn’t be! But that is why sometimes it’s just nice to remember those times where you were their world.

And truthfully I hope my now adult children have the opportunity to look back someday and feel the same. Because that means they have had love in their lives and that above all else is what I want for them.

Right now I’m am writing this while sitting on the beach in Delaware. Nice start to a day. I’m looking forward to seeing my son tonight for dinner. I figure he may be looking forward to seeing us but probably is more excited to see his dog who we brought with us this weekend. That’s ok. I know we come in second or third to the dog.

I’ll take some photos and someday – yet again – I’ll look back on them and have similar feelings that I have today. Then I will make more and more memories .

It’s the circle of life. And what that means is that I’ve had love.

And that’s what matters most.

Harley alone- maybe not for long…

Airy has been gone four days now. Things are quieter. Things still feel off.

Though he has quieted down a lot since Monday, Harley my Tennessee Walker was very upset the day we put Airy down. We had the vet img_5705give him a sedative and he saw Airy’s body. It didn’t settle him down too much. He pranced around the paddock calling to her. He got no answer. He was pushing up against the fencing trying to get to where he last saw her. I feared for his safety – I feared the fencing might give. So we opened the pasture gate- the one furthest away from her body and hoped he would graze.

He would run in and out of the pasture calling to her. Not gonna lie – my heart was breaking for Harley too. He was confused and stressed and I had no way to take it away. The first night was hard on everyone. My initial shock wore off and the dam of tears came flooding out. I could not stop crying. I cried for the loss and the trauma my horse went through leading to her death and I cried for my living horse who was calling periodically throughout the night for a friend who would never answer.

I could not sleep in my bed that first night. I took to the family room couch – it faces the front and side of the property and is furthest from our paddock. I couldn’t bare to hear Harley calling to her. I put earphones in and listened to the oceans waves and read my book and must have dozed for a few hours.  I woke at six and it was quiet. I hoped it would be a better day for Harley.

The truck came to take Airy’s body away. I could not stand to go out so my ever strong husband went.  Sadly Harley became very upset when he saw the truck. I could hear him from inside. There was no way to block his view and I am not sure he knew what was happening or if he just knew someone was near where he last saw his friend. When the truck pulled away Harley went on calling her.

I knew he was under duress and I wanted badly to help him. I had little I could do though. I went to the feed store and got some natural calming paste and I got some probiotics. In times of stress Probiotics are helpful to help alleviate ulcers. Thankfully Harley has been eating and drinking just fine.  I gave him half the paste in the tube and hoped it might help a little. I brushed him and pet him and talked to him.

Wednesday he was much more quiet. He called a couple times and was much more vocal at my approach to the barn. I have been watching him. And he mostly sticks to his stall. Thursday we opened the pasture gate closest to my neighbors horses and I was hoping he would feel some comfort in seeing them- if they venture out in this heat. I normally do night turn out in summer but now I will do whatever I can to make Harley less stressed.

We had six horses and two donkeys between four small farms on my side of the road. All of our pastures close together. Now only three of those horses remain as one of my neighbors lost two of her horses suddenly on the same day a few weeks ago. So it is a quieter place these days. I miss my neighbors horses too as I was “friends” with her equine boys.

Horses are natural herd animals and I feel they need companionship. That is not to say they can’t be alone – I have seen it before and even the vet said Harley may settle in and do fine as a lone horse. But would he miss having a buddy? I am not sure I should put the human term lonely onto an equine- do they get lonely? Is he grieving? I am not sure what it is but herd animals depend on each other for safety, companionship, and even to help keep the flies at bay (horse will stand near each other and swish their tails to keep the flies off each other!). There is a need there.

Since I can’t know what he feels because I am not a horse I can only go by my observations. I think Harley was confused and stressed that his companion was gone. If we had a third horse maybe I would not have seen the same level of stress. Horses do bond and I think when they are separated whether by one horse being moved to another farm, or herd, or through death it can cause stress. But something in Harley’s behavior leading up to Airy’s passing and after leads me to believe he knew it was a permanent parting. Horses may not understand death fully but I believe they feel something that lets them know that something more serious is up.

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Harley and Airy in the pasture

So I am sure Harley is confused- he’s always been in a herd. Maybe he is lonely or whatever a herd animal feels when it is now a herd of one. As the days move forward he will settle down and perhaps he could be ok as a lone horse but I am not sure it would be the best thing for him- and lets face it if I feel this way then it causes me stress so its not the best thing for me. Looking outside and seeing just one horse seems off to me.

So right after Airy died my concern shifted to Harley being alone. What were we going to do?  If Harley were being boarded with other horses or if we had a third i would not get another horse. Part of me doesn’t want another horse. There is the expense and there is the fact that physically I am not the same person I was when I bought my horses years ago. I have limited use of my one arm and at this point I can’t ride.  So I don’t want a horse that requires being ridden – if I can ride Harley again that would be so great but two needing to be ridden would be too much for me. We also considered having a boarder here. We could get some help maybe in exchange for board – but there is liability in this and I wasn’t sure I wanted to take that on.

I know there are tons and tons of horses out there in need of homes and I know there are plenty of horses just looking to be companions to other horses. Ones that can’t be ridden due to health issues or age. But I still don’t want to own one. The other day soon after Airy died I began my search to see if my needs for a horse could be met so I could meet Harley’s need for a companion. There are a vast number of horse rescues in Maryland but there is one in particular that I was pretty familiar with. I looked on their website – Days End Farm Horse Rescue  – and I saw what I was looking for – a guardian program! Ingenious really.

With the Guardian program a person take possession of the horse – typically these horses are not ridable but can be great companions “pasture pals” to other horses-  and Days End retains ownership of the horse. As guardian we would provide for all the horses needs but these expenses can be written off on the our taxes.  We could return the horse to the rescue if the need arose. This sounds like it could be a good fit for us.

Saturday we will go out to visit a prospective Guardian Program horse named Yukon. A quarter horse Gelding about 18 years old. Chestnut in color (coincidentally the same as Airy was). He is said to have a great temperament and gets along well with his current pasture mates.  We have to have a couple visits with him and one of the trainers at the rescue. If we all think he could be a fit for our farm then he will come here soon after.

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Harley and me- selfie

We need to restore some balance here. I am still grieving the sudden loss of my horse and that will ebb in time but life has to move on and the focus must be on the needs of the creatures that are still living here.

Maybe Yukon will be one of those creatures.  I will let you know how our meeting goes!

 

 

 

 

On the loss of a horse

 

 

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Arizon – or Airy – Arab – she was 26 years old. This is one of my favorite photos of her.

There is a time for everything

    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance…..

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

Authors Note- I want to thank every person who messaged me, commented on my Facebook post about Airy- your support and care means so much….. and thank you Kirsten W. for the muffins ❤

 

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This past Monday  I had plans to go out to Tractor Supply with my son Luke to grab some needed feed and bedding for the animals.  I was ready to go – purse on the counter- I was filling up my water cup..one of the ones that keep your water cool all day. It was a regular day. Then it wasn’t

We had returned from the beach the evening before. -we had been gone for almost a week. When we went down to the barn to check the horses  we found some things that were not done the way we would have wanted them. It seemed like our caretaker cut some corners. We fixed the mistakes. I put the horses out on pasture. They seemed fine- no worse for wear. We headed back to the house.

So back to Monday. Earlier in the morning Kevin brought the horses in and grained them and set out hay for them .  Later as I was readying to go to Tractor Supply and I was filling up that water cup  Kevin was looking out of the back slider at the barn. I asked him what he was looking at. I thought the cats. We have one elusive kitty we only see from a distance. Kevin said , “Airy was just rolling, then she got up and pooped but now she is down rolling again.”  For some reason my internal alarm went off. I just had a bad feeling. You just know your horses and mine will roll but they never roll get up and then go down right away to roll again. We needed to get down to the barn.

Our day just went from normal to super stressful in 30 seconds.

When I got to the barn Airy was down.  Sweating, covered in dust and mud. Her eyes were far away. We tried to get her up but couldn’t. I could see she was very bloated. Oh crap…

I said or maybe yelled “Call the vet – she has colic – hurry”. Kevin ran to get my phone in the house – neither of us grabbed ours as we went out the door. When Kevin went in Airy got up walked a ways. I could not get to her fast enough before she went down again. Rolling….

I should explain what it means when horse colics. I have heard colic as being called  a horse stomach ache – and I guess it is that because there is pain – but it can turn to a deadly situation when the intestines twist causing a blockage that can only be fixed through surgery. It is very painful even in a less serious case. Horses cant vomit- they have a one way in and out system.

Wikipedia describes colic as” abdominal pain, but it is a clinical sign rather than a diagnosis. The term colic can encompass all forms of gastrointestinal conditions which cause pain as well as other causes of abdominal pain not involving the gastrointestinal tract. The most common forms of colic are gastrointestinal in nature and are most often related to colonic disturbance. There are a variety of different causes of colic, some of which can prove fatal without surgical intervention.”

During signs of colic, I have been taught try to get a horse up and walk them around and not let the horse roll. As it can make the gut twist up (but I was told differently after the vet got there.). So we had to try to get her up. At one point -when Kevin ran in to grab the phone- I was holding the lead rope that connected to her halter and i was pulling on her with all my might (with my one good arm)as she lay on the ground trying to writhe from my grasp. I screamed “Stop you are going to kill yourself…stop stop! ” But somewhere inside I wondered if it was already too late. But I couldn’t go there. She had gotten colic maybe five years before this episode and we had the vet out and she was good as gold after they put a tube up her nose and put oil into her stomach. Oh and they gave her pain meds too. Surely they could get her straight again. But this time she seemed so much worse than before.

I was in utter panic inside but I was trying to keep my mind straight. I called the vet and tried to talk as Kevin and I worked on getting her up. If anything we wanted to move her from the hot sun. But if we could get her up we could get her walking.

Thankfully they said the vet was able to come right away but it would take time. We were able to get Airy up but she was not happy about it. We kept her walking in the shade and put wet towels on her. Kevin leading me following behind with a crop. I texted my neighbors to see if they had any pain meds. My neighbor, Nora, gave us oral Banamine- an NSAID.  I gave it to her as best I could and we kept walking and walking. My son Luke helped by bringing us water and watching for the vet. Airy is normally somewhat feisty and there was none of her spirit there as we walked on and on.

Walking and walking

We thought the banamine was working because she pooped and passed gas. Later we came to find out thats not a sign of improvement. She seemed to pick up her gait. But soon she was slow and hoping to be able to get down and roll.

It seemed like hours that we walked her around. It was likely only 30-40 minutes. The vet – Dr. Engle – pulled in and immediately he told us to stop making her walk.  Thats when I learned that we didnt need to make her walk and later I googled about it and found this.  Walking can be good but in other situations you are just tiring everyone out. How do you know when then to walk? In our case we all were exhausted. Now I know in her case it wasnt making a difference and now I know to stop walking a horse that is so tired.  I now feel very regretful that in her last minutes of life I was making her maybe more stressed. It hurts my heart.

After Dr. Engle gave Airy pain medicine by injection he then examined her and listened to her stomach sounds he said it was” quiet in there”. So he did a rectal exam and that is when he gave us the news I had not wanted to hear..maybe somewhere I knew what he was going to say but I had packed it away in some far reached area of my brain. He said her intestine was turned some. Not all the way. He didn’t look hopeful. I asked him the question. “Does that mean we have to put her down?”

“It looks that way…but we aren’t there quite yet” He said.  What options did we have? There was surgery  10k.  It doesn’t make sense on a 26 year old horse and he wasn’t recommending it.They also said they could find tumors during surgery and still she might not make it. I knew that wasn’t an option for us – for her.  I began to cry. I tried to hold i together but it wasn’t working.

Tubing Airy – I was in the stall with Harley.

We went on to talk a bit further about trying to stick a tube up her nose and send some mineral oil through her to see if that might help. This is what they did when she had colic before and it worked. So we decided to try this as a last ditch effort on saving her life. I stepped away to try to compose myself.  I went into the gym  which is attached to the barn and  our young friend Kirsten was there  – she was so sweet trying to comfort this very sad lady.  I grabbed kleenex. I headed back out.

My son Luke was running all over the place trying to help. Moving Harley out of the way, grabbing me more water. I can imagine how stressed he was. I could see it on his face. He felt for me and for the horse. Part of the time I didn’t even register he was there but then I would need him and he would be nearby. I am so thankful for him. And there is my husband – Kevin- who is always ready and willing to take on the hardest tasks form cleaning up the grossest of messes to leading a dying horse around in circles hoping she might recover so his wife wouldn’t be heartbroken. He is always amazing but in these situations he is stellar.

Time was standing still or it was my brain – I didn’t want to know what was going to happen next.

I stood with Harley in the stall hugging on his neck. I knew if Airy didn’t pull out of this colic and we put her down he would suffer too. Horses are herd animals and Airy and Harley were very bonded. I hurt for him.

After the vets (there were two of them here now- another showed up while I was somewhere in the barn) finished giving Airy her intubation of mineral oil I walked out and waited with them to see if she perked up. Kevin walked her around the paddock and I asked the vets what were we looking for with her. They said just any change in demeanor. Which mean she needed to perk way up. Her eyes were listless, her demeanor was not good.

I then began to ask the tougher questions because I knew we were at the end of a rope. I wasnt going to let her suffer any longer. What do we do with her body? How do you euthanize a horse? I got the answers as I watched this lovely beautiful animal struggle. She had been such a good horse. A companion to Harley and friend to us. It was my duty to not let her suffer any longer.

Kevin with Airy some years back.

…I had tried to ride Airy years ago. She was all Arab- proud and sleek.  She had a wonderful gait. Nice trot you could sit easily to. But we would get only so far in her training and she would spook or be “on her toes” too much and I became nervous to ride her- I feel off her once but I got back on but it scared me – I didn’t feel experienced enough to handle her –  and then I got Harley.   Airy’s training was put on the back burner. At that time the horses were boarded at Windsong Arabians not far from where we lived back then.  So sometimes I’d tack her up and ride but most often I rode Harley. Then in 2010 we moved them here to our farm and she became the pasture pal that we needed for Harley. I worked with her some while she was here but I never rode her – and I think she was just fine with that. She was the beauty in the field.

I think you know how the story ends here…once we saw no improvement in her demeanor and Dr. Engle did a rectal exam and found that he no longer could get  in as far as he had when he arrived which means things were not getting better and I could see that she continued to be in pain…I called time. It was her time. We took her out of the paddock to a place where she could lay down on grass – out of Harley’s site – and so the person who would pick up her remains could get to her easily.  She did lay down on her own which was better I think. She took a bite of grass- how fitting- she loved her grass. They gave her more sedative and I said my goodbyes. But there are no words that seem enough. I told her it was ok to go. She was a good girl. But the words are flat… but the hearts… they connect. She knew what I felt.

I left Kevin with her and I went into the gym. I wasn’t sure I could see her slip away. I didn’t want to see her if she was afraid…I didn’t want to convey any of my distress to her in what should be a peaceful passing for her. After she was gone I went to her. I knew her spirit was gone – I could feel that-but I pet and kissed her a final time.  She still had some grass in her mouth.We covered her with a sheet and towels and Kevin snipped some of her tail hair for me to keep. She had the most beautiful mane and tail.

The vet checked out Harley as he was distressed even though he couldn’t see Airy. They gave him a sedative. They led him over to see her.  They hoped it might help him to see her. He sniffed her body and then began eating grass. They led him back. Later he began to call for her….that has been hard.

In the end it is a blessing that we can be merciful to our animals. We can hasten their deaths- we can keep them from suffering. We have to make hard choices. In this case the choice was clear…but it was hard.  As my friend Jon Katz writes often- we have to be stewards to our animals.

A farm has a heartbeat of its own made up of all the beings that live here and for the moment the heartbeat is off.  Airy’s death doesn’t just make me sad it effects my other horse as well – which I will write about later. Everything just feels off. One less horse to feed. One less soul to connect with. There is an emptiness- I feel it..Kevin does too.

I am crying my tears now- many of them. My heart hurts but it will heal. I have my regrets. Why did I let her out into the pasture that night when we got back?  Did anything that was off from when the caretakers were here effect this? Should I have been on the lookout for more signs she wasn’t right? She seemed good Sunday night.  Did she just eat too much grass? But hindsight won’t help. She is gone. I just have to process this and grieve. The vet said this is just a case of bad luck. Her age- 26- the fact she had colic before- all were things against her. Dr. Engle did not want me to beat myself up.

After Airy died, Kevin came into the gym and he told me she was gone. We both cried a bit but then he showed me a picture. It was of a beautiful butterfly on Airy’s leg. He told me the butterfly was there through the entire process of her being euthanized. The vet said he had seen spirits leave before but never through a butterfly.

Well Miss Airy you flew away on butterfly wings….Fly free girl … and thank you….it was wonderful knowing you….

 

 

choices and boundaries

Sometimes the wind gets knocked out of us. Sometimes literally like when we take a sudden fall – then you get that awful feeling that you cannot take a breath in for what seems like an eternity. Then you gasp and take the sweet air into your lungs- things begin to seem more clear  – less frightening.  Then sometimes the wind gets knocked out of us figuratively – some news or event might trigger this syndrome – while your breath is really there you still feel like you are drowning. You don’t know when you can come up for that deep breathe.

Sometimes I feel like I am in waves getting pummeled and then getting up and drawing breath in only to be pummeled again. 

Its been a time- feeling like the wind is constantly being knocked out of me- me trying to come up for air. Me wanting to write about things but feeling like I can’t or shouldn’t or both. But I think I can write now- but should I ?  I need to.


Sometimes people you love make terrible choices. People you love ignore your advice and offers to help.  Sometimes it is just too hard to watch.

Thats where I am. I can’t watch.  Someone in my family has made some very bad and risky choices.  I have confronted this person and they don’t want to stop and they don’t want help. They want me to accept their choices and I can’t – they are not safe choices.

In this “you do you” society (which has been created by the millennial genre) we are called upon to accept everyones choices.  Hey if you are into it then it’s ok.  To a degree I love this philosophy – I want people to feel empowered to reach for the stars, find your voice, live your truth. But the philosophy gets dicey to me if it becomes a way to enable bad choices. Hey if you are into it then its ok. Nobody is supposed to question anyone or warn them if their choices seem to be dangerous of even illegal.  We don’t want to hurt anyones feelings.  You Do You can be taken too far.

And I am not a person to enable anyone when I know their choice is harmful to them or illegal.  But what do you do when someone doesn’t want to hear your advice or offers for help?

I think there are as many answers as their are situations that we may encounter. It depends on the nature of the relationship  and I suppose the degree to which we each are able to watch things take a tail spin.

I just cannot watch.  I realize how little I know this person. That saddens me.

In light of the risky choices being made I had to create a boundary to not only draw my line in the sand but to also help save my sanity.  I knew I could not live day to day chatting with this person knowing what I knew.  Getting together and sharing space would just be too awkward now.  And they liked their choices and found nothing wrong with them. That is their prerogative I guess.  Sadly, they did not want to stop the behavior even in the wake of not being in contact with me and as it turns out other members of the family. I couldn’t watch the train going down the wrong tracks. I don’t want to see it crash.

What is left is heartbreak. I call it collateral damage. The family member assures us that there was no intent on hurting us. But sometimes our choices bring on damage that you can’t imagine.

The breath is knocked out of me. I am sad and angry. I promise myself I wont let this persons choices wreck my day. But it permeates it when I allow it too. It has effected our family unit. What a heartbreak.

I keep asking why? Why these choices? I have always been a why person. I have been to therapy and I have been told that sometimes there isn’t an answer to a why that makes any sense. And I suppose that is true.  I know this person has some buried sadness and pain. But even with all this I can’t figure out why these risky behaviors were chosen.

I know this person needs help but they have to really want it. When they shut out that possibility its so defeating for those who want to help. I want to shake them, I want to hug them, I want to scream….I want to help – but I can’t – not now.

For now,  I am not engaging in contact with this family member. I have made it clear that I need a break. I cant have daily interactions with this person knowing what I know – and frankly I think they feel the same.  A boundary is a consequence and a choice. Its my choice to set the boundary.  It is what I need in order to try to cope with this hurt.

I am sure some people reading this can relate- they may have been on one side or the other of this wall.  I know there will be a time where I can check in with this person but not now.  My open hand is always there if they want to accept help.  Always. Anytime.  I haven’t shut my phone off or blocked this persons number.

When you love someone it is so hard to see the person choose something that can hurt them and even others. It is hard to see the wall go up when they feel their choices are being questioned.  It is hard to not want to try to control it all. It is hard to know you have no control.  I know that the consequence of my boundary isn’t enough to make this person stop their behaviors and I am afraid of the the real consequences that may await them.

So I try to let go and live my life. Sometimes I wonder if I can ever forgive this person for the collateral damage they have caused.  The air of sadness that has permeated us. The feeling of rejection. That we aren’t important enough – that their bad choices are better and more important than the family that loves them. It hurts a lot and it angers me too… and then there is the need to help them that pulls at me – nags at me like itchy wool. Sometimes it all blows my mind and thats when it feels like the wind is knocked out of me.

But I get up again- brace myself and wait for the next wave.

 

 

 

 

Those little empty spaces- leaving them be.

I haven’t been to the barn since our barn cat Mango was hit and killed by a car last Wednesday. I’ve been recuperating from surgery. Sadly I can already feel in my heart what it will be like when I go down there -and Kevin has corroborated my thoughts -there’s an emptiness. He said it. This little cats death left an empty space.

No more will she come trotting down from the hayloft -her voice preceding her. Nor will she play chase with my horse crop as I flick it along the cement floor of the barn aisle. Nor will she try to bite me if I wanted to stop petting her (she wasn’t perfect:)). It’s just a dusty mess of emptiness. The barn is little more hollow. There’s a vacancy.

This isn’t a post about our little cat that we lost. I’ve posted many pictures of her and shared her over the years. She was a great barn cat. Freedom was hers and sadly that freedom is what also left her with more risks like busy roads. But what this post is about is those sad little empty spaces that beings that we love leave when they die.

We’ve had a number of those empty spaces this last year. They hurt. They make us feel off kilter. While there is -for me -no comparing the losses of my beloved humans to our loved cat- it is a loss. Human loss for me sweeps itself under my feet and pulls me up over myself and then scorches my heart. The loss of beloved pets scorch my heart but don’t render me as dislocated as human loss. But they are still losses that leave empty spaces.

I am so uncomfortable in this emptiness. My first inclination is to fill it up. Because to try to fill it up is easier than facing the sad empty spot head on. With my loss of Mango I’ve sped through the thoughts of “let’s get another cat” to “I’m never going to have another barn cat.” I’ve learned not to listen to any of these thoughts in the wake of loss. I’ve learned that you just have to visit the empty space and eventually in time it won’t be so uncomfortable.

With human loss it is the same but on a way bigger scale. We can’t replace the person we lost with another. Some will try. Some of us will attempt to replace that chasm with anything that can make that space seem so much less empty. But inevitably there isn’t anything to fill those spaces. They never close but they become less sad and uncomfortable.

Kevin said he thinks if we are supposed to get another barn cat it will happen. We will know. And I like that thought. It allows me to face head on the discomforting empty spot Mango left.

I am learning. I don’t always have to try to quell my discomfort. I can learn to just let it be. I can let myself feel what I need to in the time that I need to.

So when I get to the barn in the next few days I think I’ll stand and listen not for what Mango took with her -the little steps and the loud meows- but instead I’ll listen to the silence that she left in her wake and I’ll be thankful that I knew a being like her that left that empty space. Bc those empty spaces we feel really come from loving another – and how scary can something that came from love be?