Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Jelly -- a brave horse
I got the call from my vet at 7.20am. His was the second opinion I'd been waiting for. It's not good news. Not at all. Horses with a neurological disorder are rated on a scale of 0-5, 5 being worst. His is a 3, taking into account that he falls to his knees often (while grazing, but, interestingly, not with me on his back except once on a particularly vertiginous cliff side path in the Angeles National Forest). However, because he falls and because they think the condition is worsening, the vet doesn't think it would be fair to keep him at pasture. That and the fact that we don't know how much pain he is in. In addition to his nerve endings being shot, there is a possibility of osteo-arthritis. And again, because he was trained to race, he may have fallen and broken his neck. Clearly the neck is at issue here; he sets it and doesn't like to move it far from where he sets it. Asking him to bend, which we've been trying to do, is almost physically impossible for him. So this morning, in the cold grey light, I heard the very worst news. Sitting at my desk, naked, because I'd leaped out of bed to get the phone, and shivering, and trying to sound like a grown up with the vet. And everyone has been so incredibly kind and sweet and supportive, but we have to choose what's right for him, and that, according to the opinion of two vets, is not to live in a happy green pasture for the rest of his days, however long them may be. The vet comes on Saturday in the morning to put him to sleep. And my heart is heavy.
There is no doubt that I was in shock when I wrote that last post. My lovely man, who is kind and good and gentle, told me to go home and write about Jelly and that's what I did. I think about all the things I do when I think about my old dogs that have to go; that there is in fact a grassy green field in the sky, filled with trees and birds and sunlight, and a nice little stream of fresh water, where they can frolic forever. It's not the same with a young horse. He's still a baby. It seems grossly unfair.
On Sunday I took him apples, green and red. The green he ate lustily, squirting green apple snow everywhere. The red ones were a little mealy and not to his taste, but he closed his eyes, leaned slightly against me and took tiny little polite bites, munching slowly and letting most of it fall out of his mouth, so as not to offend me. I brush him and he sighs, closes his eyes again, nuzzles me. "You're a good boy, Jelly" I say, over and over. He is my brave, brave boy.
You know, I had a dream that we'd ride across America together. I was inspired by the book "Last of the Saddle Tramps," the true story of Mesannie Wilkins, who, at 63, with a year to live, set across the country from Maine to California with her horse and dog, made friends along the way, and ended up on the Art Linkletter show. As we wandered through the National Forest, or traipsed through streams, I'd tell him about it. I'd imagine him as a pack horse, with our food and bedding and tell him we'd camp on the beach and swim in the ocean. It's nuts, I know. But he's the kind of animal that inspires that kind of thinking. He is so brave and so bold and will do anything I ask of him, just because I ask it. I know he loves me, and that's why this whole thing is so bloody hard.