There are moments in life that cause me to pause. Weddings, funerals, births, friends that move away, new friends that I meet, a vacation or trip with the best of friends, milestone birthdays, near-death accidents, a new job, I could go on and on. The one thing these all have in common whether exciting events or times of grief, is time. We have time, but never enough of it. I definitely know the meaning of "all good things must end."
Big Red passed away unexpectedly last Saturday.
I was away for the weekend and Red was down at Jessica's. She sent me a message shortly after 11:30 am to tell me she thought he might have a mild case of colic. We both agreed that his food should be taken away and only offered water. He had been flicking his tail and pinning his ears a little, in a manner that indicated he was annoyed with something. After a little time, she called and said she thought he might be choking because he acted like he needed air. We both got on the phone to area vets and left messages. She called me again around 1:30 pm and said he was going downhill fast. I packed up the kids as fast as I could and started making my way home.
She called me for the last time shortly before 2 pm and said he had collapsed and passed away. I was in shock. How could this happen? How could this happen so fast?
On the way home I kept thinking, maybe he's just resting. There was no cell coverage for about a half-hour of my drive home. I thought maybe when I pull in, he'll be standing up and we'd have finally gotten a hold of a vet and everything would be fine. That was not the case.
I stepped out of the car and saw his lifeless body lying in the sun. I went over to him and bent down. His body was still warm and a flood of emotion overtook me. In my head I was thinking of the scripture, "a righteous man regards the life of his animals..." Proverbs 12:10, and all I could think was I had let Big Red down. This was not how he was supposed to go. He was supposed to live a long life and die of old age. He was only 17.
By the time our local vet returned our messages, it was too late. It seemed like all of the odds were against us that day. It was Easter weekend and coupled with the fact that we live a significant distance away from any emergency facilities, made the situation that much more desperate. I also feel for Jess. Having to be in the thick of it, especially in those final moments. I know how hard it is to think you are losing an animal right in front of you. Let alone lose it. I thought I was going to lose Rain years ago when she was colicing. But Red's story doesn't have the same happy ending.
March 23, 2018. Little did I know that would be my last ride on Red. He had been at our place for a couple of months and I was bringing him down to Jessica's as we traded him off and on throughout the year. We trotted around to warm up and then I stretched his legs some. As we moved into a faster gallop, his hooves thundered down the gravel road - it was an awesome sound. If only I had known. I would have taken him for some good runs across the field and let him really stride out. Let him be wild and free.
Our vet told us later that night as she was performing an autopsy, that she felt it was a pulmonary embolism that cut Red's life too short. Essentially, a blood clot. What made that knowledge hard was that there was nothing that either of us would have been able to do, or the vet for that matter, if one had arrived. He would have needed an equine emergency facility to have any attempt at life. He had a ticking time bomb inside and last Saturday, it went off.
He was a good horse. A gentle horse, especially for being a stallion. His two foals that will be born in May will be just a little more special to us. We knew Jessica's horse Serenity was bred right away as she showed signs of being in-foal from the beginning. Rain on the other hand had left me doubting most of the fall and winter until recently when I was able to witness two good foal kicks from within her belly. We are fortunate to each have a little piece of Red to have as our own. It doesn't make it easier, but I can’t help but smile knowing new life is growing and coming soon.
19 “Have you given the horse strength? Have you clothed his neck with thunder? 20 Can you frighten him like a locust? His majestic snorting strikes terror. 21 He paws in the valley, and rejoices in his strength; He gallops into the clash of arms. 22 He mocks at fear, and is not frightened; Nor does he turn back from the sword. 23 The quiver rattles against him, The glittering spear and javelin. 24 He devours the distance with fierceness and rage; Nor does he come to a halt because the trumpet has sounded. 25 At the blast of the trumpet he says, ‘Aha!’ He smells the battle from afar, The thunder of captains and shouting. Job 39:19-25