Friday, October 14, 2016

Ethical Dilemma

As a forewarning, this is going to be a somewhat scatter-brained post, given the nature of the content.

I haven't been posting for a multitude of reasons - namely due to the fact that I have been ridiculously busy fitting into my role at work, helping the BF winterize the house and finish up left-over summer chores, and balancing back into somewhat of a semi-normal life. The horses haven't taken a back-seat - I've been visiting them and interacting with them almost daily.


It's been pretty boring though - things like hand-walking and grooming aren't really things I feel compelled to blog about, so I revert back into some semblance of radio silence.

I have, however, immersed myself into thinking about Ms. Red Mare lately.

There have been quite a few changes in the land of All Things Suzie.

Her arthritic knee has gotten worse over the last few months. It has become difficult for her to bend her joint - she can lift it about 6 inches from the ground before it locks up and she pulls away. As one can imagine, it makes things like shoeing, lying down, and cantering a difficult task.

She seems pretty good at knowing which way to bend it when she goes down for a good roll or to laze about in the sun. I had first noticed the extra effort she had to take whilst laying down back in August when I had brought her home. It hasn't seemed to stop her from getting down and getting a good back scratch in the dirt, though.

Since coming home from my month-long workstint, I've poulticed away a lot of residual swelling in the knee (she mostly just puttered and stood around during my absence), re-introduced BOT therapy, the previcox (boyfriend was not comfortable giving meds) and even had a friend tape her up with kinesiology tape.

The farrier came out at the beginning of the week and was pretty understanding of her limitations and worked quickly on her difficult leg. She was definitely a bit more sore coming out of the appointment, which was to be expected, but it made my heart hurt a little.

Aside from consulting with her vet (who I believe will want to initiate Osphos into her pain management regime since I don't think the Previcox is touching it anymore), I've had to really buckle down and consider a lot of things and quality of life has become a forefront topic.


To discuss things as personal as euthanasia and death, I think it really turns a lot of people off. It is such a sensitive and inconsiderate thing to talk about in a lot of people's minds, especially if that animal is still... y'anno... alive. I don't intend to drag out my thought process, but I feel that I need to write it down and discuss it. If not just for the therapeutic feeling it gives me, but to also share my own journey and story for someone who may be going through similar circumstances.

There is a lot to be considered and at face value, it really seems overwhelming and bleak when you put it all out on paper.

But, I do have to be realistic and fair to Suzie.

As she ages and her body changes, I have to be aware of those changes and focus on her morale. She is an accurate depiction of how she truly feels, and I need to respect that.

Currently, she is sassy (perhaps a bit too sassy), healthy, and happy. She hurts, yes. She creaks, yes. But she also nickers every time she hears my voice or her grain being dished up. She also sneaks past me through the barn doors and gleefully trots away, headbobbing and limping along to the green grass on the front lawn. She has even refused to be caught several times and at one point, bucked out at me because I was trying to put her back in the paddock.

A friend who was visiting during the kinesiology taping session mentioned that although her lameness has worsened, her spirit certainly has not changed. She is still the same fiery soul with that glint of mischief in her eyes.

Angry mare because she had to go back to the pasture.
 And when I witness the good moments, and I hear the affirmation that she is happy, I am filled with my own contentment. You see, she doesn't owe me a damn thing. She is 23 years old and has logged more miles than any horse I have ever ridden.

But when I see the difficulties, I worry. I worry about how fast things will progress, how much longer I have left, if she knows how much I care for her and love her...

And when it all comes down to it, my only true worry in all of this, is that she will not tell me in a clear and concise way that she is ready.

My arms bubble into goosebumps just thinking about it.

I have had some wonderful friends who have told me several times that horses are pretty damn good at communicating things. And what gives me this weird sense of hope is reading about it first-hand from someone who was so wonderfully explicit and documented every single aspect of her loss. I truly appreciate the entire documentation of both Gogo and old Darby mare.

I suppose the weird thing is that I keep saying that I need to make that decision and that I need to be prepared to make that call, but in reality the final decision isn't really mine to make - it's Suzie's.



And whenever she is ready, I will be there.

32 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry you're having to consider all this, but I'm also happy Susie has such a good owner looking out for her :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's an unfortunate reality when owning pets... I truly wished they lived forever.

      Delete
  2. This is one of those things that we all have to consider. I know that I've faced it with Irish and always reached the same conclusion- that he's still okay. We don't want them to have a horrible and frightening end. Having them close and being able to monitor makes it easier. I think that you are doing right by her and she will tell you. I do believe it. Also, I think that horses are pretty damn stoic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. oops. hit publish too soon. I wanted to say that I love how you are putting Suzie in the forefront of your thinking and not pushing it away. ((hugs))

      Delete
    2. I think I am in the same boat as you - Suzie is still happy and spirited. If that glimmer or spark in her eye beings to diminish, I'll have to take that as her signal that she is done.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Delete
  3. Ugh such a hard subject, I'm sorry Cathryn. Horses do find a way to communicate tho, and I have no doubt you have always and will always treat Suzie with the utmost dignity. Sounds like she's quite happy and satisfied with herself right now!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Emma. It's not the greatest topic, but it's something we all have to face eventually, I suppose.

      Delete
  4. It's obviously something no horse owner ever wants to contemplate, but my thoughts on it are that I'd rather put my horse down when *I* know there's something horribly wrong with them, but they're still outwardly happy instead of waiting until they're in serious pain and miserable. Of course I'm NOT saying go out and put Suzie down!!! That's just my overall feeling about euthanasia. I hope you still have a whole lot of time left with your sassy mare!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I see your point, Carly.

      I think in my situation, things aren't "horribly" wrong. She can still motor around, be hand-walked, and isn't suffering in other aspects of her life (ie eating, drinking, etc). I don't intend to wait until these degenerative disease completely cripples her or strips her of her sparkling personality, but I do realize that outwardly, she is not ready to go yet.

      I am not arguing or anything - I do respect your opinion and I think I am along the same thought process. If things like walking around were becoming too difficult and she could no longer lay down or stretch or be shod, it'd be a rather different story.

      Of course, the other thing to consider is Winter is coming and with that means snow...

      Delete
    2. I'm in the same boat as Carly. I could have probably eeked out several more months of existence out of Carlos, he was healthy, but he was in pain. He was confined to a stall because of what was wrong with him, I took him out for controlled exercise all the time but for who he was, I knew it wasn't enough. I let him go when I did because it made sense to not wait until I got called up one day and he needed to be put down immediately, instead I was given the chance to say goodbye.

      Delete
    3. I hear ya.
      It's tough when you know they aren't living life to their full potential. I am still glad that Suzie is able to be as mobile as she chooses, and still go on hand-walks and the odd-pony ride with my nephews.

      Delete
    4. She sounds like she's in a good spot for what her physical limitations are! I know I've said it before, but she definitely lucked out to get you as her final home!

      Delete
  5. This is a serious and challenging topic to put thought in to, but the fact that you have done so early and are considering how Suzie's decision plays into this process speaks volumes. I hope that the decision is peaceful when the time comes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your kind words, Nicole.

      I hope so, too.

      Delete
  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  7. It is an incredibly difficult decision to make...horse, dog, cat, whatever animal it is, it sucks. I've made the decision and watched many people make it and no part of it is ever easy. With horses especially, I think, it is better to think about it early because there is planning that has to go into it with a large animal. Sadly, I've seen people give no thought to it at all or be in complete denial, wait until it was an absolute emergency, and be completely unprepared. Those are the worst circumstances. I'm a firm believer that it's better to make the decision a week too early rather than even a day too late. I know it's hard but you are doing the right right thing by thinking about this now. Thinking of you guys.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your kind words.

      I agree - a lot of what is making me think about it is the entire process is the aftermath.... such as, burying a body (which actually sounds super horrific and awful...) but once the ground freezes, there is no way to bury a horse. So a lot of my thought process is coming from the fact I don't want to be stuck in a position where I know Suzie needs to be let go and there is no way to bury her. It opens a lot of doors and Winter-time for any farmer or horse-person is a time to really reflect on things.

      This particular winter will tell me a lot about if she is able to maintain a second one. If this winter is particularly difficult, I will know that my choice to let her go will have to be before a second winter.

      If that all makes sense?

      Delete
  8. Saying goodbye is always so hard! and while I think we would all love to have them go peacefully and painlessly one day in their sleep, it doesn't always go as we had planned. Hugs as you put Suzie first, and have a plan in place in case of the worst-case scenario...here's hoping that sparkle in her eye stays for a while :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a touchy subject - mostly because everyone has their own ideas and thoughts about how they would handle things. And I think that is fair.

      For now, she is happy and healthy, and that is all that matters.

      Delete
  9. It's so hard to have to start thinking about when is it time for our beloved old friends, especially when it's a quality of life issue and not a sudden major medical emergency that forces the decision on you. Of course we are never given enough time with our pets, but I can say that personally I've never regretted letting one of my pets go- just that I didn't do it sooner. I know you'll make the right choice when the time comes, and hopefully there will be plenty of happy and sassy mare moments spent together until that time does arrive.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really is never enough time.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Delete
  10. It's good to think ahead and be prepared for what ever comes concerning our animals. Suzie seems to be just as feisty as ever right now and she is enjoying her life and time with you and Spud and BF. When the time comes you will know because she will tell you. In the mean time just do as much as you can to ease her pain and enjoy every day you have her. Winter can be hard on the the older ones but I'm sure she can handle it right now. And I'm sure she appreciates the love you show her and how you take care of her.

    I noticed in the comments you mentioned about the ground freezing and burying etc. in the winter. Have you considered cremation? That's how we usually deal with our horses remains. It's a good option and you can then bury them anytime you want. I know this all sounds morbid but it's better to have a plan in case of emergencies.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I actually was hoping you would comment, Grey Horse, because I know you have quite a few older horses adn have had to deal with this before.

      She IS happy. I know she is. I hope that for her sake, she will tell me or show me that she is ready to go before things get worse or unmanageable.


      As far as cremation goes, we don't really have a crematorium here set up for horses. I know you don't mean to sound morbid or anything, but I appreciate the thoughts nonetheless... I did talk to the BF about it (because while I think Suzie will do just fine this Winter, you never know when an emergency will occur) and he mentioned lighting a fire over the area where we'd bury to soften the ground, so that's another option.

      Delete
  11. Just hugs. This stuff is hard. <3

    ReplyDelete
  12. I admire your open honesty about this subject. I'm currently facing a very similar situation with my old man, I just haven't blogged about it publicly (you're braver than me).

    In the past 5 years between my mom and me we've had to let 3 go due to degenerative conditions or disease and I can confirm that they are exceptionally good at communicating. With my grey mare, I went to visit one day and I just knew. She was tired and ready to go. I could feel it deep within my heart. She was stoic and reserved right up until the end, her behaviour never changing, only her demeanor.

    My mom's gelding with navicular was very similar. She had him for two years where he was only a pasture pet and his condition was managed with Previcoxx until one day she came out to feed and turned around to go call the vet. He was still moving around but he was telling her he was ready to go.

    It's so hard when we love them so, but I agree with Mare, better a week too early than a day too late. When I was in high school my step-mom's horse was a day too late and I will never forget the horror of coming out of the house and finding Max grazing on her knees because she couldn't take the pressure on her ankle.

    I'm sending you and Suzi only good thoughts!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw, I am so sorry you are having to go down the same road. I don't envy anyone and I wish they lived forever... Blogging about it may be like shooting myself in the foot or asking for unwarranted opinions, but I do trust the blogging community, and I trust my own judgement in all of this.

      I appreciate you sharing similar stories and giving me the peace to know that horses are able to communicate and give us pieces of information through their soul.

      ANd perhaps I didn't word my post correctly when I said I wanted her to tell me when she is ready - I don't want her condition to deteriorate to where she is unable to move or otherwise - I want her to remain much like your grey mare, right up to the end.

      Delete
  13. I think about this a lot, especially since I am also a senior equine owner. I completely understand feeling as if it's a slightly taboo topic - I'll say things in passing such as "when Kai kicks the bucket" and I get shocked looks from friends and they shush me, saying "don't talk like that". When you own a 20+ year old horse, it's a reality you face every day. I have no idea when my last day with Nakai will be. It could be years from now... or it could be tomorrow.

    Talking about it, planning (if you can) takes away the fear. I echo the sentiments others have - I would much rather make the decision a bit early than a moment too late. You always hope that one day, they'll find a sunny spot to nap in and just never wake up.

    I did this with my other animals and plan to do this with Nakai - but I choose 3 things he loves to do and is a source of his happiness. He loves to run, loves to roll, and he is always eager to 'work'. When he loses the ability to do 2 out of his 3 favorite things, I'll know it's time. When he can no longer roll comfortably or keep up with the herd, I'll know. Maybe it's something you can think about with Suzie, to help you feel more prepared. It's a source of comfort for me, at least.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your kind words, Lindsay.

      I know it's kind of a taboo topic, but it's a harsh reality, esp when one owns an older horse to begin with.

      I think the idea of choosing 3 things she likes is a good idea. I'll keep that in mind - thank you.

      Delete
  14. Thank you for sharing this. Suzie is so, so lucky to have you as her person.

    ReplyDelete