Saturday, September 1, 2007

Saying goodbye with dignity on Craigslist to the first kill buyer!

Winter's coming, whether we like it or not, and this is a good time for a blog entry about being responsible.

Early this year, my friend placed an elderly Arabian mare into a light use lesson horse home. It was perfect for her. She did beginner walk-trot lessons and got endless quantities of love and carrots from the kids. The barn was upscale and lovely and we couldn't have asked for a safer spot for the old girl. She absolutely loves children.

But time passed, and she started stumbling, and finally had a fall, so they stopped using her. Age had caught up with her. Her hind end was losing its ability to work in tandem with her front end. She is in her late 20s. She was scheduled to go on a slaughter truck about two years ago, and has instead had two excellent quality years of life.

She is being put to sleep on Tuesday.

The first reaction most people have to seeing a horse who is still perky and bright and good weight scheduled for euthanasia is "can't you find a home where she can just live out her days?" I understand that reaction. Really, I do. But the idyllic picture of the mare grazing in a field isn't based in reality, it's based in emotion. In reality, an icy day - or just some bad luck - is likely to mean a bad fall, perhaps into fence, perhaps with broken bones. We all have jobs, and no one wants to come home from that job to find a horse who has been down all day, struggling frantically to rise. Can you imagine how it feels to a horse - a prey animal in nature - to go down and be unable to rise, unable to protect herself? I have seen people let animals go way too long, and I will never do that to a horse. When the legs are's time to go, peacefully and quietly, with carrots and a veterinarian, and that is what will happen on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, it's not an outcome I see as often as I'd like. Instead, you see people dodging the D word as fast as they can, either by allowing the horse to suffer and fall until finally it dies on its own or just can't get up at all, or - worse yet - giving it away on the Internet so that dealing with the scary D word can be someone else's problem. This just fries me, as you can probably imagine.

This poor Paso gelding was sent to me by alert reader "Texas." Texas' comments are in blue. I couldn't agree more. Those of you who have been reading the blog will recognize this right off as an advanced case of DSLD. This horse has to be in a lot of pain.

Paso Fino Gelding...(which I'm sure is evidenced by his lovely gait which hasn't been hampered by those pasterns) Aged Good O' Boy.. Needs Medication, (and may I suggest it should be prescribed by a real VET not uncle Dick with his bag of tricks?) Honest Fellow.. Needs Good Home... Free To A Good Home. (would they know one if they saw it?) We told the owners that we would try to find him a good home........Please Contact [redacted] Please, you jack asses, delivery this poor boy to my place. The vet will be waiting to calmly and quietly put him down so that he might have an end to his obvious suffering. Come on, what do you think the future holds for this tortured animal? Stop being so damn cheap, borrow the $100 bucks and call a vet!

FHOTD: Amen.

I know you've all heard this cliche 3000 times, but death is a part of life. Any animal owner should be aware of the fact that they are very likely to outlive their animal. At a certain point - may be sooner, may be later - you are probably going to have to euthanize them. I had to do that this year...she was a great horse, she was perky, bright and fat - but shot full of melanomas and falling. It's not right to make a horse suffer because you can't emotionally handle watching the pink stuff go in. For god's sake, most vets will let you drop off at the clinic and then you can leave if you can't handle it (or you don't want the kids to see - perfectly valid point!) (And seriously, I don't think the horse's last dying thought is going to be "what a jackass, she didn't even stay with me!" They are not that evolved. Really.)

So winter's coming. If you have one that's falling, or one that can't handle the cold no matter what (this assumes you are graining, supplementing and blanketing and teeth are done), or one that is so arthritic you know perfectly well walking on ice is going to be a the right thing. Call the vet. Don't let your emotions keep you from doing what's right. Don't evade that responsibility and put your poor old horse on Craigslist to be picked up by a smiling killer buyer with his wife and kids pretending they want a pet. Just don't.