Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way.
We cherish memory as the only certain immortality,
never fully understanding the necessary plan."
I took a great horse for his final trailer ride yesterday.
Colic. I had no Banamine, so I gave him Bute, which roused him to his feet. Then I remembered a magic bullet. With great hope of providing a glowing testimonial, I administered the appropriate doses of a product that had come highly recommended ~ We Stop Colic.
Big Cloud was a high-strung Thoroughbred who normally danced when the hose came out, but he stood quietly as I rinsed his sweaty body. I wish I had found him sooner. The boys didn't recognize the signs.
We went for a walk at Traylor Ranch as we waited for the magic potion to kick in. He whinnied and whinnied as he hated to be alone. Stop, listen ~ no gut sounds. Return home and call the vet to say we're coming. He loaded into the trailer with minimal resistance, as well. Not himself.
Dr. Jill Higgins of Loomis Basin Equine Medical Center performed an ultrasound that revealed intestinal impaction, most likely caused by pedunculated lipomas, a condition common in older horses that requires surgery. I had never heard of this until July when Rachel lost her 30 year old Breezy. Surgery was out of the question for several reasons, not the least of which was his age of 35. Thankfully, this disorder comes on quickly so his discomfort was minimal. Dr. Higgins was warm, compassionate and understanding of my decison not to subject him to further procedures. Big Cloud was clearly uncomfortable and my primary concern was to ease this. This was "Goodbye."
Cloud had been given a sedative to facilitate the ultrasound and readily laid his head into my chest. I stroked his beautiful grey face as the technicians prepared braids of his mane and tail for me. How I have always loved that unusual face. I kissed his muzzle and spoke softly to him. He peacefully and easily walked to the designated area. Help at last. The Greek meaning of euthanasia is "goodly or easy death." He certainly deserved that.
I spent a fair amount of time researching the disorder and average lifespan of horses. In general, life expectancy is defined as 20-30 and a horse is deemed geriatric as early as 16. The median age for horses with this disorder is 19.
Cloud was with us for almost three years. During that time, he clearly thrived, especially after quality dental care. For nearly half of his residency, Daisy was his love. Cloud stood by as Daisy was euthanized in April 2009. Because this happened late in the day, rendering could not pick her up for 36 hours. He never left her. He nervously watched as her body was loaded and looked for her after the truck was gone. I was certain that he would grieve himself to death.
Cloud never took another girlfriend, but instead became tight with Prince, another mid-thirties TB. I spoke with Prince tonight as he stood alone by the gate.
I threw myself into physical work when I returned, raking six muck buckets of mess from alongside our drive. It helps.
Intellectually, I know that Cloud's life ended as well as it could have and that the end will always arrive. Reasoning does little for my heart. Cloud was never an affectionate horse, but his enduring spirit and revitalization captivated me. He was always the first to bang the gate as mealtime approached. I adored him from afar. Just Wednesday night, I attempted to put a fly mask on him. He took cookies from me, but as soon as he saw the rope, he began RUNNING around the pasture. I marveled at how easily and well he moved. Okay, no mask.
He never slowed down.
Four Months Later
June 2008, Beginning to Amaze Me
With His Beloved Daisy
Spring Sheath Cleaning Hit Itchy Spots
Just Last Week
I don't want to end on a sad note and there has simply been inadequate blog activity. So, on a lighter note, I'll tell you about Angel.
She has required her bladder to be manually expressed since her abandonment. Often, this was not an easy task and I never felt as if we emptied her bladder completely. I was aware of a slightly unusual odor, which we hoped would clear up once she had a good dental. It did not. We tried a few prescription drugs, but there seemed to be little if any improvement.
A few weeks ago, we were bewildered by an awful odor in the house. I easily determined that the dog beds were getting soiled, but it took a little bit to realize that it was Angel. I put one of Izzy's diapers on her. Shortly thereafter, the diaper was filled with the most awful smelling bloody urine. She filled three diapers before we got her to Animal Medical Center in Auburn.
Dr. Brockman went above and beyond for the sweet girl. Angel had a raging infection in her bladder and we nearly lost her. She spent a week in the hospital and will be on antibiotics for the rest of her life. Angel's bladder is stretched and has lost some nerve function. A catheter is used to keep the bladder small while the new medication works to restore function. We were so grateful to bring her home with a catheter that we were to use to drain her bladder several times a day. Somehow, before we even left the parking lot, it was out. This particular catheter had a bubble on the end to keep it in place. She didn't make a sound as that pulled through. Crying, I took her back inside and Dr. Brockman put it back and assured me that there is so much scar tissue in her urethra that it isn't painful.
The catheter was made for humans and designed to last up to 90 days. This was so much easier than expressing her. Once home, we pinned the end of the catheter to a t-shirt and put a diaper on her to contain it, away from the other dogs. We tried to keep her quiet, secluding her, but she felt better than she had in a long time and wouldn't stop. Two days later, out again. Even after passing another bubble, urine would not pass when we tried to express her. This part baffles the vets, too.
This time, they added stitches to help keep it in place and used a shorter length. Even with a diaper, this lasted just about four days. The bubble was twice as big.
At this point, we are simply inserting a cather, draining her bladder, then removing it. I'm getting good at this and she is so incredibly patient. Through experimentation, I have learned that once the flow stops (and this is abrupt and solid), if I continue to apply light pressure to the plunger of the syringe as I slowly remove the catheter, I find one or two more 'pockets' of urine. Doesn't make sense to me, but...
This may possibly be our routine for the rest of Angel's life. I am cautiously hopeful for returned bladder function. Regardless, she seems to feel better than ever and it is comforting to know that her bladder is being fully emptied. The odor is gone.
All in all, this is very good progress. Angel has been through a lot and it is great to see her feeling really good.
I will end on a very high note, an example of what drives us.
Grace was picked up from a kill shelter near Houston, Texas on May 7. Her Petfinder page read:
"Dear, sweet Grace came to us from a kill shelter, where she was picked up as a stray. Not only is Grace blind and deaf, she has also been diagnosed with having cancer cells and what appears to be a prolapsed rectum. Grace also has a medium-sized tumor on her side, but due to her advanced age and compromised medical condition, she will not be a candidate for surgery. Instead, we will keep Grace as happy and comfortable as possible for as long as she is here on this earth. And shower her with love!"
The sweet girl also turned out to be heartworm positive.
As luck would have it, friend and Boston supporter Jana Whiteside was coming to California on business and offered to transport Grace. I was doubly excited as I was fortunate enough to meet Jana in 2005 when I traveled to Houston to pick up Ebenezer. On June 15, the ladies arrived at our door.
Dr. Rich Jackson of Animal Medical Center in Auburn said that he doubted Grace was as old as we thought and removed her polyps, gave her a good dental and removed some excess skin just above her tail. She recovered quickly. Then it was time to address her eyes.
Since she could not see, anyway, and the eyes were likely painful, we opted for enucleation to prevent further painful injury. Dr. Jackson was more than happy to handle the procedure, but we also got an e-mail from Dr. Lauren LaRue of UC Davis and Dr. Danielle (Paglia) Connor expressed interest, as well. Dr. Paglia was with Animal Eye Center in Rocklin, but was moving to Austin. She adores Boston Terriers and together we agreed that Grace's procedure would be the last thing she did before she left. Lucky Grace. Unfortunately, Grace had a reaction to the sutures and her eyes took a bit longer to heal.
Now, however, she is one fesity chick! She tries desparately to get the other dogs to engage her and sometimes Joy will. Grace seems to have a special affinity for Joshua and, increasingly, Paddington. Usually very reserved, I see Paddington beginning to open up to her. Paddy has also had both eyes removed.
She requires usually two serious rounds of "blanket monster" each day and you've got to make sure your hands are padded ~ she can be TOUGH! We adore her girlie bark. She climbs like a brave little monkey on the sectional and has the house and yard all laid out, coming and going as she pleases.
We're both, admittedly, wrapped and hope she stays for a good, long time. Here's a poor quality video of Amazing Grace.
Big Cloud left having known love, companionship, above average food and, incredible for his age, at the top of the pecking order. Grace is stepping into a renewed body with a sense of permanence and belonging. And so our fragile circle goes round and round (and somehow, Odie is still here.)