You spend these last hours right by his side, watching the clock as the minutes tick by -Trying to take in all the things you will miss, embedding in memory his beautiful eye.
I run a boarding facility and just because of the sheer number of horses I encounter, there are bound to be a few horses that will cross that infamous Rainbow Bridge while on my watch. It is a tragic event in a horse lover’s life to have to say “goodbye”. I know, I have witnessed it more than once. What I didn’t know or realize is that I only thought I knew what they were going through. I am the kind of caretaker who gets personally involved with each and every horse under my care. I truly love them all. Even though my heart ached, sincere tears were shed, the dread and horror of the moment was overwhelming, I still had no clue – until it almost happened to me. What an awakening! When my horse suffered a bowel displacement, I was suddenly thrust into the horrific position of being the one to have to make those decisions for my horse. For four of the longest days of my entire life, I moved through a haze of disbelief, sadness, panic and fear that I might lose him. I teetered precariously between optimistic hope and despair. His only viable chance was that it would correct itself if we starved him. It was a living nightmare to have him know I was feeding every other horse but him. The look he would give me of “Why are you doing this to me?” was as clear as if he was screaming those words at me. As hard as it was to not slip him just a little something, I had to do it. His only chance depended on it. I couldn’t eat myself during that time. I felt guilty putting something in my mouth and denying him anything.
My insides felt like giant hands were just squeezing the life out of me. I couldn’t sleep for fear that he might go back down in writhing pain and I wouldn’t be there to give him relief until a vet could get there. I couldn’t even breathe. Everyday and every evening the vet would come out and sedate him, run a tube down his nose and pump oil and water into him. Then he would do rectal to feel if his intestine was still lodged between his kidney and his spleen. Everytime, I would stand there, holding my breath and praying, please, please, please. Everytime the vet would just shake his head and those hands inside me squeezed tighter while a little voice whispered “there is still a chance – maybe tomorrow”. I knew the morning of the fourth day that this would be the day. It was either working or it wasn’t by that time. That was the day to determine if he lived or died. I anxiously awaited the vet and played out the possible outcomes over and over in my mind. I tried to be ready and strong if I needed to be. Easier said than done. This time there would be no tubing. They gave my horse the sedative and began the rectal. I stood frozen in fear and hope staring at the vet’s face for any sign of my horse’s fate. Not a single flicker of emotion crossed his face. He pulled his arm out, took off the glove and turned to me. “I never would have thought it, but he is fine”. I think I cried more at that moment out of sheer relief and gratitude than I had during this whole ordeal. I could breathe again. I was keenly aware of how easily we could have went the other way. I finally grasped what kind of a loss one suffers by losing a beloved horse. At least a taste of it, albeit a small one in comparison to actually having to let go. I think I know now why the good Lord chose not to give me children. I couldn’t bear it to watch them suffer and if I lost one, I don’t know how I could ever get past it. Nothing like a good lesson in appreciation, empathy, priorities and the possibility of miracles created by willpower.