There’s never a good time to say “good-bye” and nothing really makes it easier. Even when it comes to the last “so long, pal” for a horse that had already disappeared out of my life before. I grieved his loss for 15 years and when I came to terms with the fact that he was likely already dead, I finally moved on and allowed myself to heal. I didn’t get to say it to him in person when he left the first time but when my heart started to feel better, I whispered it to Knight in the dreams he visited me in. Not a day passed that I didn’t think of him and silently think to myself all that I had accomplished because he had touched my life. He was my angel. He taught me to spread my wings, how to fly and in the end, how to soar. Because of him, I’m still here. (read our story by clicking here)
After he magically reappeared in my life last month, I tried to prepare myself for the inevitable, the thought of losing him again. Surely it wouldn’t be as difficult. I’d already learned to live without him, I could do it again. Especially since I had one last chance for closure, I was given the gift of time to say that “good-bye” that I never got to say before. Tonight, I can honestly say that closure was not what I was looking for. What I needed was eternal life. I needed an old, decrepit horse to live forever.
When I got the call at 11:30 this afternoon, I left work and rushed to the barn. I made it there by 11:45 or so and the vet was there soon after. Knight’s vitals were checked and his breathing was labored, his head bobbed, he dripped sweat, his heart raced and he was in obvious pain. A rectal examination found that he had a severe intestinal blockage about 90 feet into his intestines. He was tubed with mineral oil and treated for colic. I asked the vet if we were doing everything we could and he said that surgery wasn’t recommended due to his age but we could try a “belly tap”. I agreed and the vet inserted a needle into Knight’s stomach. He explained that the fluid he would be drawing out should be a wheat color and any other color would show signs of other problems that could have led up to the intestinal blockage. When he pulled back on the plunger, the syringe filled with blood. Knight had bled internally for probably quite a while. The vet said that the gut is one of the first things to fail when a horse is bleeding inside and that was the case with Knight. An IV was administered and Knight received injections of a pain medication equivalent to Morphine and injections of sedatives to try to calm him down. The vet left and after about an hour, I got worried and I thought he should come back out and that maybe we should put him down so he wouldn’t suffer. While I thought that I had come to terms with it, the vet thought otherwise and he said that he just couldn’t stop when I wasn’t ready and he didn’t think Knight was yet either. He hung more bags of fluid and left again.
Around 5, I finally left the barn and Larry stayed with Knight while I went to get the boys from school. On the way to the barn, I tried my best to explain what was happening and that I thought it was time for the boys to tell Knight “good-bye”. Paris was heartbroken and refused to leave the barn. He just kept saying over and over, “I’m not leaving so you might as well get it out of your head. I’m sleeping here with you and Knight.” After much struggle, we finally got a bawling Paris to leave the barn.
I settled in my chair, right inside Knight’s door, resigned to my post until the time that Knight got better or he left me. I would not leave him in his time of need, I planned to see this through, no matter where it was going. That horse never left me when I needed him and it was about time that I paid him back for saving me all those times.
Just after 8, one of Knight’s former owners came to the barn to see him. She had seen my post on Facebook and rushed out to the barn. Thankfully, she was there or I would have been all alone. I was blessed to have her there for Knight and I, all the way through the end. Some may think it odd that I had a perfect stranger sitting with me but this wasn’t about me, it was about Knight. She was a part of his life just as much as I and she loved him just as much.
At 9, Knight became listless and he began to back around his stall. At 9:30, I was at my wit’s end and I thrust a carrot at him and told him, “You HAVE to do this! Eat this and get better right now!”. He looked at me like a scorned child and he leaned out and reluctantly took the carrot and ate it.
By 10, exhaustion had set in and I had finally come to terms with the fact that the situation wasn’t improving, it was getting worse. Knight could barely keep his eyes open and he was starting to fall against the stall. I made the horrible decision to end his suffering and I called the vet back out. He said he’d be at the barn in 40 minutes.
I guess Knight was paying attention and he was waiting for me to come to terms with what was happening. Within minutes of me calling the vet, he moved to the front of his stall, directly in front of the door and as close to us as he could get and he laid down. He rubbed his head across his soft shavings one last time, he closed his eyes and stretched out his legs and then he was gone. He took his last breath as I held his head and stroked his face and as his former owner stroked his neck. Both of the little girls that he raised were with him when he left.
My angel left me for the last time tonight. At 10:15, he laid down and was gone. I think that even in his final hours, he thought of me and he tried to protect me. He fought hard, I think to give me time to be ready. And when I finally thought I was, when I had finally made up my mind, he spared me the pain of following through. He waited until I was ready and when I was, he was gone.
The heart doesn’t forget and mine will always remember a beautiful, black stallion who kept angel wings hidden under his mane.
I think my son said it best. He said,
“You know mom, when Knight dies, it’s never going to be dark again.” I asked him why and he said, “It will be impossible. When he’s in heaven his star is going to shine too bright.”
I’m already looking to the heavens and searching for the brightest star where I know my old fella will be shining brightly and watching over me for the rest of my life. Guess I’ll have to be investing in a telescope. How else will I solve all of life’s problems?
While driving the boys (8 & 7 years old) home from school today, we happened upon a conversation that started innocently, just to pass the time, but it ended up to be a serious conversation that I think all parents should have with their children if they own a pet.
Our initial topic was the fact that we are going to a horse show tomorrow. Paris (the 8-year-old) was excited but Bristol (the 7-year-old) wasn’t really interested. When Paris asked Bristol why he didn’t want to go, Bristol said that he would rather go to the animal shelter and help the animals. For those of you who know me personally, you know that volunteer work, especially for the shelters and animals, is extremely important to me. I’ve tried to raise my children to respect and understand the full realm and responsibilities of pet ownership. I’ve shown them the great moments and sadly, the really depressing outcome of bad decisions. Anyway, while Bristol lamented, somehow the conversation went to Biscuit, a dog that Paris found at the shelter in January and who he deemed “Biscuit”. The name came from a book about a dog, one of my child’s favorites. Paris said that he wanted to go back to the shelter so he could see Biscuit and because he really hoped that the dog was still there. I explained to Paris that he really didn’t want Biscuit to still be at the shelter because that would mean that he hadn’t found his “forever home” and that he had no family to call his own. (I didn’t dare tell him that dogs don’t live that long at the shelter) Paris just responded with, “Well, someday Bowser will die and then we will get a new dog and we can save Biscuit then. We can be his family.” I told the boys that yes, someday we would have to deal with Bowser dying and that eventually, we would get another dog but that I didn’t know how long it would take me to get over the loss of Bowser. Then the conversation took another turn…
Paris said that when Bowser died, he would still be with us, he’d just be in the yard all the time. This is when I brought up the subject of cremation. At first, Paris was outraged and offended and he screamed at me. He said that he wanted Bowser to be in the back yard so that he could give him kisses and talk to him every day. I asked Paris what would happen if we moved and he said that he had never thought of that. Then I told Paris about “Rainbow Bridge” and the fact that when Bowz dies, he will leave his body and go to the heavens and there he will wait for us. Without hesitation, Paris said, “”Okay, we can do that. As long as I have my good memories, it doesn’t matter. You aren’t supposed to think of the bad memories anyway. I will remember him as he lived and not as he died.”.
Death is not something that we want to talk about with our kids. But shouldn’t we? Shouldn’t they understand that when someone or something passes, that it’s never truly gone as long as we let it live on in our hearts? Shouldn’t our children understand and have a say in what happens to them when they are gone? At my boy’s age, they only understand 2 things. When you die, you get buried. Unless you are a fish, then you get flushed. But is burial always the right answer? When I think of Bowser leaving us, all I can think about is that memories will not be enough for me and that I always want him by my side (I do have a tattoo as a living memorial in his honor). I had decided years ago to cremate his remains but what I still haven’t figured out is exactly what I want to do with them. As macabre as it is, I really think I want to carry his ashes around with me until I am gone and then, I want to be cremated and reunited with my best friend. Yes, the Rainbow Bridge and thoughts of heaven are great but I want to be back with him, body and spirit. My strangeness factor is through the roof. I better not talk about the other thought that I had of using his ashes to create a diamond…
Regardless, my kids now know of another option and I think they understand the meaning behind why someone would cremate vs bury. The biggest thing for them to know is that although those we lose are not here in body, they live in our hearts and through our memories of them.
Amazing to think that even though I am supposed to be teaching them, I still have a thing or two to learn myself. The love of a child knows no bounds.