A week ago, I lost one of my best friends… this one with four legs… Ms. Squall has been part of my life for 17 1/2 years. She was my coming of age animal, the one who was with me since I was a senior in high school, through college, through meeting John, through marriage, through motherhood, and into widowhood. I wrote about her earlier, but only told part of her story. Then as her health was declining, it was too hard continue. Sometime, I’ll have to fill in the blanks.
In the springtime she started moving strangely behind… at first it was an odd step here and there… then it became more regular. I feared the worse… it looked neurologic to me. I called my vet and from a distance she said that yes she was neurologic… either EPM or a tumor (the vet who euthanized her also added the possibility of compressed disks)… neither (none) of which made sense to treat in an older retired mare. She told me to enjoy the time that I had with her and that it could be days, weeks, months, or years, but when she became a danger to herself or to others, it would be time to euthanize her. The vet wanted her separated in a smaller area for her safety.
I made a special area for her… put up fencing mostly by myself, bought her a shed in a box that unfortunately didn’t last long. Squall didn’t like being by herself, so after a while I put her son, Remi, out with her. Sometimes, doctors orders make the best sense for physical healing but not emotional comfort. In Squall’s last days, I wanted her to be comfortable and to feel loved. I didn’t want her to worry and fret about being alone.
A series of interesting events led me to believe that Squall was either wanting to leave on her own terms or that she was trying to convince me that she was more like a 2 year old than a 23 year old. I’ll have to share them later.
In her last 3 weeks Squall went down 3 times. The first time my trainer, friends, and myself were able to get her up. The second time my friend and I tried and then Squall got up on her own. The third time, she couldn’t get up, I couldn’t get her up, my hay guy and his father were unable to get her up. My hay guy just happened to stop by to bale hay and instead spent hours with me and Squall, helping to hose her down and keep her cool, rolling her over, putting a picnic table umbrella over her to keep her cool. He tried ever trick in the book… he’s used to dealing with down cows. Through, it all he was kind and compassionate and his love of animals shown through… I can’t thank Scott enough for everything he did that day…. but I will be getting him a case of beer.
Last Wed, Squall let me know that she was tired of her legs not working and she didn’t want to continue life like that. It was a devastating decision to have her euthanized, but the vet felt it was in in her best interest and common sense and logic knew it was the right thing to do.
The vet asked me if I wanted to be there and said it could be difficult to see. I nervously laughed and told him that I had to be there for my mare, I couldn’t let her die alone in the hands of a stranger. I told him that after holding my husband’s hand as he passed away, I’d be okay and that I had to be there for my mare.
I stroked her ear and rubbed her forehead and told her that there were no flies in Heaven and that her legs would work and that John would take care of her and she could take care of him. I told her that I’d always love her. I forgot to tell her that there are no horse trailers in Heaven, but by now, I’m sure she’s earned her wings. Her death was much more peaceful than John’s. I rubbed her ear and stroked her face till it grew cold.
There were so many correlations between her death and John’s… a gloomy diagnosis with poor prognosis, the getting tired of fighting, bodies giving out. I did everything I could to keep both of them as comfortable as possible when it was probably past time that they would have felt any discomfort from the annoyances- keeping John’s g-tube clear (I knew he was dying, but he wasn’t going to have a clogged up g-tube kill him) when it didn’t matter anymore… hosing Squall to keep her cool, shading her body, coating her with fly spray. Holding John’s hand… stroking Squall’s ear and forehead. Telling them how much I loved them. Afterward, pulling the sheet over John and taking the damn tubes off of him, covering Squall with her fly sheet. Both of them didn’t look like themselves… John was yellow and looked awful- he didn’t look like my handsome husband… After she died Squall looked like a shell of herself, she looked small, no longer did her coat shine and her lifeless body looked like something from a photo rather than my real mare. I made sure both of them were properly taken care of.
Squall had no funeral, just me to say goodbye. No obituaries will fill the papers. Though I’m not the only one who will fondly remember her, I probably I am the only person who will remember what a great influence she was on my life.
There is one great difference, I made a decision that kept Squall from suffering. She didn’t have to die days later when her lungs filled because she couldn’t rise, she didn’t have to bake in the hot sun till she literally roasted. I was able to give her that dignity. Luckily, John only had a few hours of incoherency and gasping for air, but some people linger weeks or months. I always will find it odd that I was able to make a humane decision to prevent suffering (or minimize suffering), but we aren’t so humane to humans who have no hope of recovery. Maybe someday, we’ll allow more humane options for our own humankind.
Squall is in a better place now, but damn I miss her. The field isn’t the same without her- it doesn’t look right… and there always seems to be an odd horse out instead of the wonderful pairing previously. I told Willow that I’d always liked bay mares… it is so strange that Willow is my only bay, now. I didn’t tell Willow that I really like bay TB mares with some white (being that she’s a plain bay STB with no white). The three remaining horses in the field seemed a little lost without her. When a storm threatened, I put the Quarter Munchers out with the other three and the two of them assumed their reign with an iron hooves and pinned ears. Remi sighed the other day, he sounded just like his mother (Squall), I smiled thinking of her. Remington definitely has some of his mother’s personality… he’s a bit of a worrier and he sighs, but mostly he’s his own unique self- a big lovable moose.
There’s not a lot about Ms. Squall that I can fault… other than her dislike of horse trailers. And her dislike of mane pulling- but retired horses don’t need their manes pulled. With the exception of horse trailers, Squall was not a stubborn mare, but she was opinionated. You’ve just got to love opinionated ‘ol TB mares! She had her dislikes and likes and was a non-conformist- if she wanted affection she’d let you know. She let you know where her itchy spots were and would move directly where they were. If she had better things to do than get treats, she’d stay out in the field. She LOVED her clover patches. Squall adored her grandson and he adored her, often spending more time with her than his own dam. She exuded class in her good looks and was a regal mare… John and I affectionately referred to her has Queen of the Farm. She enjoyed the attention she got after giving “pony rides.” If she was happy she’d lick your hand (Winston does the same). Typically, she was high on the totem pole, but never ruled by nastiness (like the QHs). Not very many people got to know Squall well, she often kept her distance and wasn’t a love bug like the others, but those who she let into her inner circle– loved her.
So, Ms. Squall thanks for being a wonderful part of my life for so many years. For carrying me many miles. enjoy your romps with Gideon and Grand Prix (wonder if they can make more beautiful babies in Heaven?). You never met P.C., but I’m sure he’ll adore you. John and a Tracy, a very special little boy who loved horses, will take good care of you. When my time comes, will you meet me at the Rainbow Bridge and take me to John.
Many Thanks to:
- Scott and his father who helped me for many hours trying to get up and doing our best to keep her cool and comfortable in the oppressive heat.
- Brian for understanding that I needed the night off and making it happen easily
- Wendy for coming to watch Nathaniel so I didn’t have to worry about him.
- Shawn and Kari (P) for moral support
- Tim & Johnny for taking care of the difficult things and giving me great peace and comfort
- Dr. Donaldson for waiting till Wendy arrived, so I didn’t have to worry about my son in his crib
- Dr. Chris Foster for being Squall’s vet for several years, To the vets at Unionville Equine who came for her breeding, foaling, and emergency calls, and to Dr. Susan Crane who previously was her vet and helped get her through a fractured radius years ago.
And most of all… Thank you to Susquehanna Squall! She shared 17 1/2 years of her 23 years with me. I became Squall’s person as a senior in high school. She traveled to college with me and then back to Maryland. Through the years she carted my butt around a lot! Back in the day we even jumped many a fences and showed locally. When she fractured her radius, it was like she knew the importance of taking it easy and she was so quiet alone in the barn and loved to be doted on and have her blankets fixed and treated like royalty. She was always the mare I’d pull out for “pony rides.” Over the years, she let quite a few of my friends ride her and they remember her fondly. She gave me two wonderful colts and a grand-colt. I have so many wonderful memories with her, like I said, she was Queen of the farm.
So, Ms. Squall thanks for being a wonderful part of my life for so many years. For carrying me many miles and putting up with me. Enjoy your romps with Gideon and Grand Prix (wonder if the two of them can make more beautiful babies in Heaven?). You never met P.C., but I’m sure he’ll adore you. John and a Tracy, a very special little boy who loved horses, will take good care of you. When my time comes, please, meet me at the Rainbow Bridge and take me to John.
Here are some video clips of my gal… not the greatest, but worth a glance.