Today was the first normal day in more than a week. It felt foreign and wooden. I went through the motions and followed the routine. The routine of countless other Mondays. The work is the same, but somehow the scaffolding behind it is different. I’m not even sure what is holding it all together. I slowly inched my way into the flow of life again. Missing was the nerves on edge, and the adrenaline coursing thru me. It was a day without horror, or death. It was a normal day. Each animal was fine, nothing amiss. I found myself checking and double checking them all. A simple nap in the sun was met with a long examination and finally a determination that it was, in fact, just a nap. It was nice to have a day like this, after so many awful ones. As we reached the end of the chores I found myself sighing in relief that we had made it through the day.
I guess there is no answer, as to why this week was the way it was. There is no answer, as to why we lost a vibrant healthy mare in the prime of her life. I spent more time searching for any clue. Reading any article pertaining to small intestine disease in the horse. I don’t like questions, I want answers. I hate being unable to answer why. The reality remains there may never be an answer. I hope the pathology report gives us something. I was able to find some rare accounts of perforated jejunal diverticulosis in horses. The presentation and outcome the same. Maybe that is what claimed her life. But, does it really even matter? she is gone, there is no bringing her back. It really doesn’t matter. Though to cling to the academic gives distance, and for me that means not having to wallow in this vast abyss of loss and misery.
The old horse continues to do well. I am happy for him, and for his owners. He is a miracle, for sure.
As I spoke with Virgil today, I talked a bit about all I learned this week. I guess that is the silver lining. I found myself stretched well beyond anywhere I had been before. I did okay. I took care of my charges. They were given everything, be it blood, sweat or tears. It was an endless week. Sleep deprivation praying on each of us. It is remarkable how the mind works, or doesn’t when not given enough sleep. Time seems to stand still. Hours feel like days. Tasks done in the previous hour felt like they had been done last week, or worse not at all. I found myself writing everything down, or I couldn’t be sure what I had done. It was surreal. Eating was an after thought, though our clients worked very hard to keep us well fed. It all just became a weird twilight zone type experience. Much like the movie Groundhog day, each day a repeat of the one before. Always striving for a different result. We made it out of that, but we lost a part of ourselves. The cost was great. I feel so much like a different person. It may just be the last of the adrenaline wearing off, and my nerve endings finally relaxing. All of the same shit is still here, just as it was a week ago. It pales in comparison to this past week. It was as if some omnipotent being reached down and shook everything- as if to say “you think you have it bad? here’s bad!”. Yeah, it was hell. It made the life we have been living a walk in the park. I don’t want to live that again. EVER. I don’t want to spend endless days so far out on the edge. When sleep becomes impossible, because you are so caught in a fight or flight scenario. The brain firing on all cylinders trying to keep everything okay. I would try to take moments to step away, to come down to the house and just lay down for a bit. It was impossible. It was as if someone had hooked up some jumper cables to the mattress. Every nerve fiber in my body raw and painfully aware. There was no reprieve, no rest, no break. As we came into the third day, I was finally able to rest. It still took hours to fall asleep. My mind still racing along, even though my body was beyond exhausted. Sleep was fitful, and uneven. Often times I would wake with a start, staring at the phone. Worried I had missed a call from the barn. Convinced something bad had happened, some turn for the worse.
Midweek there was a shift in the pendulum. The miracle of life for one, the ebbing of life for the other. It was unexpected. In our weary heads we just accepted it. The high degree of care began to diminish. It became a waiting game. Waiting for lab work, waiting for antibiotics to work. Looking back now, I know how hopeful we had been. She’d stabilize for 24 hours, only to grow ill again. We had no way of knowing how bad it was. Horses can be stoic beyond measure. I have seen them stand on limbs shattered beyond recognition. They are a product of evolution. A sick animal would be quickly singled out by a predator. They adapted to hide illness. Some continue like that, others do not. Lilo was a tough mare. She did not ever let on to how bad it had become. Until the final morning, when I ultimately made the decision, she had never once looked to be dying. At the other end of the spectrum, the old horse, gave every indication he was dying. “circling the drain” as the vets like to say. Why one lived and the other died, I’ll never know. Nevermind which one did. It defies logic. It taught me a great deal. I learned how tough my girl was. Right up till the very end. I learned how to never count one out, ever. Everything I thought I knew, went out the window. And I have been doing this a while. I guess at the end of the day, I need to consider their capacity to heal. I didn’t think it was possible. It is.
I have learned a great deal this past week, and that is the lesson learned. Each horse has something to offer. I guess you could say, each person you cross paths with has something to offer as well. I prefer to learn my lessons from horses. Far simpler, and less likely to end in heartache. This week was the exception. This week took my heart right out of my chest. It will take me a long while to come to terms with what happened, and for the loss of our beloved mare. She trusted me. Whether it was putting a halter on her beautiful head, or galloping bravely down the polo arena at my urging. I was there with her to the very last heart beat, I hope somewhere in her mind she understood why we took her life. She did not fight, so I take that to heart. She went swiftly into the darkness. To a place without the pain and suffering she has experienced this week. Even as I write this I long to rest my head on her neck, to have just a little more time. It just happened so fucking fast. I didn’t have enough time. I just want to hold her head once more. There is much grief left, it laps against the unconscious levee I have constructed. Nothing more than a shower of thought to break that barrier. With time it will grow stronger, and with distance the breeches will become less frequent. As they say, “time heals”, it does. I just haven’t had enough time. I don’t want distance. I want her back.