Yesterday (Tuesday, September 5, 2006), Anne and I planned a day of R&R for ourselves. We took care of business issues in the morning, went to lunch at noon, and made arrangements for Anne’s assistant to feed the horses at 5:00pm.
We were to be off to Plattsburgh NY to return an item we had purchased at Lowe’s Home Renovation Center. The trip had more to do with getting away for a few hours than it did with returning the item.
It was to be a plain no frills getaway. But life gets in the way of having fun.
After lunch, at about 1:30, Anne and I came back to the property (in separate vehicles) to tie up loose ends and collect Scot our Sheltie, who was coming with us for the ride.
Moments before I arrived, Anne and one of our neighbors saw one of our horses down in the paddock. She and he ran to the horse with a halter and lead.
I sprinted from my truck through the muddy soil to the downed horse. And within seconds, I was able to get him on his feet. Within minutes, Anne was on the phone with the veterinarian who lives 45 minutes away.
What caused the horse to go down was colic, an obstruction of the intestines. This condition is generally caused mostly by poor food, stress and aggressive rolling.
We grow all of our own hay which is the best you can get. And we never let our horses get stressed-out. But shit happens.
Colic is incredibly painful. And if not treated right away, it will cause death if it is severe enough. Unlike people, dogs, cats and other mammals, horses can’t vomit. So, if there is a gastro problem, it can only travel in one direction.
And if that direction is blocked, you can imagine the pain.
Very often walking the horse is enough to get the intestinal system working again. But sometimes it is beyond that. Other remedies include separate injections of a pain-killer into the bloodstream of the horse and an injected tranquilizer.
Once the pain and anxiety are controlled, the vet will slide a long flexible plastic tube into the horse’s stomach through his nose, and through this tube he pumps in warm water.
After ample pumps of water into the stomach, the vet allows the water to drain out of the horse into a separate bucket in the hope that whatever is bothering the horse will come out with the flush.
This procedure is repeated quite a few times until the water coming out is as clear as the water that was pumped in.
The vet then puts on a very long glove (past the elbow), gets behind the horse and takes out whatever manure he can reach. And if none of this does the job, and if the horse seems very dehydrated, the horse receives a very large IV bag with a saline solution.
We did all of this. We literally walked the horse for hours. We put in three saline bags. And we kept him as comfortable as possible until it looked like he was coming around. So the vet left at around 6:30.
By 8:00 o’clock, the horse took a turn for the worst, and the vet was called back. By 9:00 he could no longer stand on his feet, and by 9:30 we ended his pain.
This horse was named Mitzvah, because Mitzvah in Yiddish literally means an act of unsolicited kindness. We saved him from being put-down a year earlier because no one wanted him, because he was a very unattractive horse.
He served as a great companion horse to our thoroughbred who was in desperate need of a friend. That was a Mitzvah too.
By taking him into our family, we helped our friends who took care of Mitzvah, but couldn’t keep him as a pet since horses are their livelihood, meaning that every animal has to somehow earn its keep.
And when you have about 65 horses on your property, you can imagine how much it would cost if you kept unwanted non productive animals.
So, Mitzvahs were done all around. And at 9:30 last night, Anne and I did one of the biggest Mitzvahs of all.
We kept back our tears, made sure he wasn’t alone as we held him, said goodbye, and put him down.
It’s remarkable how we can care so much for an animal not to let them suffer. But we can’t do it for beloved humans.
The time now is 9:00am Wednesday. The service that takes away large animal carcasses just left. And I’m about to call the JNF (Jewish National Fund) to plant a tree in Israel in Mitzvah’s name and memory.
The epitaph on the card from the JNF will read:
September 5, 2006
In Memory Of Mitzvah:
Even though you’ve come into our lives for just a year and a bit, you made your way into our hearts forever.
You were indeed the embodiment of what a Mitzvah should be.
We and your paddock friends Slate, Miata and Jeb-Stuart will miss you.
May Your After-Life Be A Mitzvah Too.
With Our Love And Fond Memories
Anne And Howard.