Rowdy and me, during one of our last fluid treatments.
I wrote this the other day but only just got out to Sebastian to post it.
It’s March twenty-second and an hour past noon, forty-nine hours after I lost Rowdy, my horse and friend of twenty years. I’m having a hard time sitting up without gasping from pain, and I am reminded by every aching inch of my body that a mere girl of my stature is incapable of holding down a frantic horse, ineffectual in containing him as he struggles. Yet that’s what I did as I gave the okay for the vet to put him to sleep; I held him down, laid across him with my feet digging into the ground and whispered over and over:
“It’s okay, it’ll all be better. I love you, I love you. You are such a good boy.”
I never let go of him, foolish as it may have been, even as he backed himself into a corner of fencing, his mane and catheter ensnared in a tree’s limbs. He was rearing and coming down blindly, falling on top of me as I untangled him from the branches. I refused to let him hurt himself in his panic; I did everything I could to keep him on the ground. As his gums went grey, we quickly made the decision to put him to sleep. Euthanasia is a merciful gift we are able to give our furry loved ones, and in that moment, I was grateful to be able to bring him that peace. My hands were shaking and I was weeping as I lay over him, but he was not alone. I was with him until his last breath.
Dr. Ciaccarelli ran to her truck and came back with a syringe full of bright pink liquid that she quickly flushed through his catheter, the same catheter that brought him a dose of Banamine (a pain killer) just moments earlier and then tangled itself in the branches of a barren citrus tree. Later on, it was supposed to carry 3000 mL of fluid through his body and in return, make him feel a little relief. Our daily routine of IV fluids came to be his favorite time of day – we had lots of bonding time during those hours. He would turn around and give me a gentle nudge to let me know he was getting restless, or a nuzzle just to show me love. It came to be my favorite time of day, too. It was a welcome comfort to see him feel better, his eyes visibly brighter. This unfamiliar, brightly hued fluid made him feel better, too – but his eyes began to dim and everything faded. I rubbed his cheek and muzzle and kissed the broken star on his forehead, talking to him even after he was gone. The vet braided his tail in sections and clipped them for me, reassured me that I did everything I could have possibly done. I appreciated the genuine sorrow in her eyes; the vets at East Coast Equine were absolutely wonderful from start to finish.
Once the vet left and we were alone, I fell to pieces. I laid with Rowdy’s lifeless body for three hours, until they came to bury him. They picked me up and helped me inside; my legs just refused to support me.
I couldn’t stand to watch them bury him. I gathered my wits, grabbed his lead rope and a braided lock of his tail and sped off to the preserve, where I screamed until my throat was completely raw. That’s one of the beauties of being in the country: no one can hear you. I screamed and cried and drove around the empty dirt trails – I allowed myself to completely lose it for about an hour before heading back. I caught a glimpse of myself in the broken rear view mirror; I looked like a crazy person. I was covered in dirt, leaves, blood and tears. The left side of my body was sunburnt from laying in the same position for three hours.
At this point, most of you are probably finding me horribly melodramatic, maybe even mildly insane. I don’t expect many people to understand and I couldn’t possibly care less if my image is marred by this recount of events. I have said time and again that the worst experience of my life was watching Spanky (my first horse) die, and this time is no different. I’ve endured the passing of family members and friends and many of my animal friends, too. I’ve even been present for some. But there is nothing that compares to watching these beautiful, majestic, massive creatures fall. Horses are fragile, and they fall hard. One moment they are absolutely fine and full of life, then they are gone. Something as small as a tummy ache can turn into a deadly ailment if it’s not caught in time. Since they are unable to tell us what’s wrong, we have to watch them closely, and when we miss something, it can be deadly. But it isn’t just fragility and size that make it difficult to cope with the loss of a horse, it’s the irreplaceable companionship. There is a particular place in my heart that is completely off limits, save for my original three: Spanky, Shawn and Rowdy. With Spanky and Rowdy gone, I am terrified of losing my little baby boy, Shawn. I am absolutely terrified.
There’s a reason why horse lovers are so devoted. There’s a reason why, as kids, every shirt we wear has a horse on it and our belts are tooled with their names. There’s a reason why, in times of economic strife, our horses are better fed than ourselves. But the truth is, you have to be one of those crazy horse lovers in order to understand it. There is nothing that can compare to the bond of a girl and her horse, or in our (my sisters and my) case, horses. From the time we were little kids, we turned to our three horses for happiness and stability. They were the most wonderful part of my childhood, possibly one of the only positive aspects in general. That’s why I’m such an animal lover; they have never let me down. The problem is that we almost always outlive our companions and the loss is overwhelming – and that’s exactly what I’m feeling: overwhelmed. It’s like I can’t remember how to breathe properly.
“Let’s Get Rowdy” was a registered Appendix who stood sixteen hands high. He was a Grand Champion with exquisite bloodlines, was exceptionally fast and cut barrels like no other. Above all the bells and whistles, he was my family. This week, I’m mourning the loss of two family members – my grandpa’s funeral is this weekend. The main difference is that I don’t have much of a right to grieve for my grandpa, since we weren’t that close. So if you think it’s weird that I’m writing a thousand times more about Rowdy than I did about my grandpa, consider this: Rowdy was a bigger part of my family and more important to me than even my dad ever was. So, my mourning is a little different in my grandpa’s situation – I’m so sad that he’s gone, but I’m even more upset that I never got the chance to know him the way my cousins did. We’ll just leave it at that.
I’m not really asking for anyone to fully understand this…I just want to let you know where my head is, since I haven’t been around and probably won’t be all that active while I’m still in Fellsmere. I still have Shawn, Diablo, Cocoa, Thelma, Louise and Miku to look after, which is keeping me from spending my days in bed, but I’m not ready to go on with my normal life just yet. This weekend is my grandpa’s funeral…I guess I’ll give myself until then.
p.s. After I wrote this, I took an axe to that cursed citrus tree, chopping off all of the offending branches. Strands of Rowdy’s mane were still dangling from its limbs.
I just couldn’t bear to look at it anymore.
p.p.s. I drove to my grandpa’s house to use their internet. I still don’t have a computer or internet connection, but if you bought something, you should have received an email from Kim or Bobby – and your items will be sent out by one of them. Please understand.