Friday, September 30, 2016

Grief: The Price of Caring

I had to put Jazzy down yesterday. She rests in peace next to the other two horses I’ve buried over the past six or eight years. 

Euthanizing her was a difficult decision. Other than her front feet, she seemed so healthy. I could see the strain beginning to show in her eyes, but she hobbled along valiantly until the end.

Jazzy's last meal
She appeared to be doing better the last week of August, so much so that I was letting her graze a few minutes each morning while I cleaned the stalls and enclosure. But she took a turn for the worse while I was out of town the first week of September. She developed an abscess at the hairline of her right foot. It may have been a result of putting so much pressure on that hoof while favoring her left one. My vet  gave her a shot of antibiotics, and instructed me to soak the abscessed hoof in a mixture of Epsom salt and iodine twice a day, and to continue the twice-daily doses of bute. He showed me the outline of the coffin bone, which was pressing on the bottom of the right hoof. He said if there was no improvement in the next few days, we would have some hard decisions to make. 

Four days later, she seemed a wee bit better, so I gave her the second shot of antibiotics. I guess I was just seeing what I wanted to see, because the abscess refused to heal. On Monday (September 26), my farrier showed me the thin bit of tissue remaining between the coffin bones and the bottom of each front hoof. I knew the end was near. I wept bitter tears that tasted of sadness, physical and emotional pain and self-blame. But I knew what had to be done.

I had three appointments on Wednesday, and would be tied up Thursday and Friday, too. So I lined up Dr. Coe and a track hoe for Monday morning, October 3. When one of my Wednesday afternoon appointments was cancelled, I decided that was the day. I knew I’d be a basket case if I waited until Monday. She would have been a mess, too, as it turned out.

With the sound of the track hoe digging in my woods, I fed Jazzy some carrots and hay and gave her two grams of bute to lessen the pain of walking on the hard ground between my barn and what has become my equine cemetery. I let her graze a few minutes on the brown stubble of grass in my pasture. It felt like a Death Row inmate’s last meal.

“I don’t have to ask how you’re doing,” Dr. Jason Coe remarked when he arrived. He took one look at Jazzy’s abscess, which was weeping almost as much as I was, and shook his head. When he picked up her right hoof, he saw blood. “The coffin bone has pushed through,” he said. Ditto on the other foot. It was the sign I had prayed for, the one that told me I was doing the right thing.

We led her to the grave, and Coe gave her the lethal injection. In less than two minutes, she went down. It was that quick. I stroked her, clipped some of her mane and tail, and went back to the house. I had wanted to be with her until the end, but couldn’t watch the burial.

Angie Osborne, one of my horsey friends, came over to my house that night with a bottle of wine. We drank a glass, ate leftovers, and talked about death and grief over a new cocktail I invented. As I told her, death came so swiftly it was eerie, a harsh reminder of how fragile life is. One minute you’re grazing happily, the next minute you’re 10-feet under (the depth for horses). 

This is my second animal loss in two months. I’m so tired of grieving, but it’s the price we pay for caring so much.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Sympathy Pains?

The good news is, Jazzy's feet are  improving.

The bad news is, my right foot is killing me.

I'm convinced there is a connection.

About two weeks ago, as I was praying myself to sleep, I asked God to take some of the pain from Jazzy's feet and put it in mine. It was a sincere prayer. I was deeply concerned about her condition. (See recent blog for details.) I was anxious. "Please God, " I begged. "Let me have some of her pain. I can take it. I can pop an Advll or Tylenol. I can prop my feet up. She doesn't understand what's happening to her or why she's in such pain."

The next evening, when I took off my boots after feeding and watering both horses, the bottoms of my feet hurt. It wasn't much, just the feeling that I'd walked on rocks with thin-soled boots. And that's exactly what I had done. Next morning, that pain was gone. 

Two days after my heart-felt prayer, I rolled out of bed and put my feet on the floor. Ouch! A pain shot through the top of my right foot. With every step I took, it hurt.

That morning, when I went out to feed, water and clean the stalls, Jazzy seemed slightly better. Remember, the vet said progress would come in small increments. This was a small one, but a positive step in the right direction. I called him that evening with the news..

My foot keeps getting worse, and Jazzy continues to improve. She's able to graze for half an hour or more in the mornings. I went to the doctor to get mine x-rayed. Normally, I'd just ride this out, but I have a trip to Wichita coming up and didn't want to be hobbling around unnecessarily. The x-rays showed no stress fracture, so the doctor took some blood and is testing me for gout. Really?

I'm reading a book about the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Most of them suffered from gout, and some died from it. Gout is caused by a build-up of uric acid in your system, and it goes to your joints, like arthritis. It often settles in your feet. It's associated with eating too much rich food: red meat, organ meats, beer and and high-fat dairy products, according to one web site. I don't eat much red meat, no organ meats, don't drink beer, but I do eat lots of cheese. Gout is treated with medication to eliminate the excess urine.

I probably won't hear back about the lab results until I'm in Wichita. I'm not sure how I would get a prescription filled there, unless my doctor can call one in to a chain pharmacy across state lines. Someone told me cherry juice helps, so I could always buy a bottle of that. But that web site I consulted said certain fruits and vegetables can contribute to gout, including cherries!

Many readers will call my sore foot sympathy pains. But I know better. 

Be careful what you pray for.