About six weeks ago, one of my horses began to drop weight quickly. The vet and I both thought it was probably tooth related, but she found his teeth were in good shape. With that ruled out, she told me that there was little or no chance that anything else that would cause that kind of weight loss was treatable. “The drastic weight loss shown without any other overt clinical signs would be consistent with lymphoma or a systemic neoplastic process with internal involvement.”
She told me that he does not appear to be in pain. His eye is bright, and he has energy. He is still the boss of the herd. He picks at hay, but likes the grass and supplements I give him. Twice a day, he eagerly meets me at the gate to come out and have his supplements and graze on the lawn. Then he walks to the gate to let me know it’s time for him to rejoin his friends in the pasture.
I have decided to give him some time to enjoy the warm weather and spring grass unless he begins to show signs of pain or starts letting the others boss him around. My heart bleeds as I prepare for the almost certain outcome of releasing him from his pain when the time is right.
This morning, two SPCA officers arrived at my door to investigate a cruelty complaint against me because of the thin horse in my pasture. There are seven others in the same pasture in good weight. He asked what I had done for the horse, and he told me he had no concerns and would be closing the file.
I am left to process the emotions. I am so sad that my equine friend is preparing to leave this life. I am hurt that one of my neighbours believes I would deliberately let an animal suffer and saw fit to report me to the SPCA without contacting me. I am glad that they are keeping an eye out for those animals who may truly be in distress.
The most difficult decision we ever make when we become custodians of our animal friends is in knowing that we will probably outlive them and need to say goodbye. It is never an easy decision. In this case, it is made even more difficult as I deal with feeling that my neighbours are sitting in judgement of me. I hope that the report of the SPCA office will stop any gossip. I fear it won’t and I will have a reputation of not caring for my animals.
This particular situation triggers me as I, too, was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago. The disease was nowhere near as painful and exhausting as the treatment. There were times throughout the process when death seemed an attractive option, but no one made the determination to end any chance of healing. I struggle with whether that experience makes me more or less equipped to make this decision for my equine friend. His condition is not deteriorating. He is alert and energetic – but painfully thin.
“Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart’s intuition”. – Steve Jobs
My horse has not indicated to me the time is right, and I have given him permission to cross over if he is finished. I am at peace with waiting for his decision, and every day I grieve his imminent departure. I pray that I am open to the answers that arrive.
UPDATE: For the first time this morning (May 14, 2018), he was not interested in food. He has spoken, and the vet sees him at 1:00 this afternoon. Please think of him and help send his spirit to the place where there is no more disease.