I was restless this morning. I could have slept til 6am but my brain was triing to get up at 5. I finally acquiesced and got out of bed at 5:30. As is my routine, I looked out the window down onto the farm…to be sure everyone is roughly where they should be. I am lucky to have a house that sits on a hill and the farm cascades down below it, so I have a view of my creatures from most of the windows in the house.
I immediately noticed Doc. He was lying down flat on the wrong side of a fence. OMG…I thought…he looks dead! I stared at him, holding my breath….willing him to show some sign of life. At last, he lifted his head and looked around. I breathed a sigh of relief and chastised myself for such a morbid thought. I left the window and sat down to my computer and email, then downstairs for coffee.
As I left the house for chores, I glanced down the hill to check on Doc, knowing I would have to…at some point….go get him and put him back with the herd where he belonged. He was still lying down. Odd…I thought….he was in a different spot. I threw hay out to the boys at the barn and hiked out to where Doc lay. Dread filled me as I approached. He was sick…I could see it in his eyes. But he was so calm, relaxed, really. As I approached him and stroked his neck, a neighbor drove by and stopped. “What’s wrong with Doc?” she asked. I replied, ‘I dunno. just got here”. She looked at me with worry in her eyes….’he looks bad’. The feeling I had when I first saw him at 5:30 resurfaced and I could not push it aside. I pulled out my cellphone and called my vet. Then I called Tim…Doc’s owner and best friend.
The events that followed are so common amoung those who own/raise/train horses that I can skip the details. The bottom line is that colic in an old horse, with no history of colic (I’ll bet I haven’t spent a dime of vet fees on this horse, except for routine vaccinations), means strangulation and obstruction. No hope of survival without surgery. And surgery means a two hour drive south, anesthesia and a long post-op course. I was devastated. I knew I could not subject him to that type of treatment.
I’m a surgeon and a good one. Its my gift..to fix living things. But living with horses has brought me closer to being present in the moment. Its where our beloved animals live. They don’t understand….’we can fix this but you have to wait’, like people can. Doc has enjoyed very good health and vitality at our farm. I have a natural instinct when it comes to heath and nutrition. He has absolutely flourished here and I have been so pleased with his state of health..until today.
Tim was able to be here and ultimately made the decision to put Doc down. We sat down next to him and cried, stroking his neck lovingly. As his spirit left and our emotions stabilized, we talked about Doc and his misadventures and about all sorts of other things. Before long we were laughing again and exchanging warm embraces. Doc was gone, but his spirit had already healed us in many ways. It is the gift horses bring to us….simplicity and joy.
What I have learned is that life can change direction in a heartbeat. Its scary…to be honest.
Doc was a treasure and a blessing. His passing has left a hole here…at the farm and in my heart. Its a small hole and will be repairable…but it will leave a scar…as it should for any loved horse.