Shadow came to us September 8th. She spent the last 17 days at the county pens, as required by law, waiting for her owner to show up. We knew no one would come forth to claim her because she was too old, too weak and too close to death. Rather than spending a few dollars to buy feed, hay or medical attention, they took her into a partially wooded and partially residential area of town and let her go. Thankfully, a police officer saw her wandering the streets and ordered the pick up. A local Judge turned her over to Habitat for Horses.
She has a large cancerous growth in the vaginal canal that continuously drips blood, matting her tail and giving off a horrible odor. As you can see from the photos, she’s in extremely poor condition, what we would rate as a 1 on the 1-10 scale. She’s almost given up on this life, yet there is a spark still burning in her eyes. That gets to me, as it would you. Beaten, starved, thrown out of a trailer and left to die, she still walks up and looks at me, wanting to believe that somewhere there is a good human to take care of her.
The other message I hear is one I can’t answer. “Why? “Habitat for Horses will do everything we can to make her last days comfortable, perhaps even happy if we can pull her out of her depression. She might fool us and live another five years. If she does, and I pray it might happen, she will never again see a whip or feel the pain of hunger. Thanks to your dollars and your support that spark of life might once again be a burning fire.
Update: October 11
Shadow survived her operation and is doing extremely well. While still very thin, she occupies every waking moment eating and playing with Pete, a 20 month old gelding. She, like so many abused horses, loves being around “safe” people.
A special thanks to those who donated to Shadow’s fund. Your dollars paid for the medications, wraps, and other supplies to help the healing process.
There’s no telling how long Shadow will be with us. The chances of surviving the operation were small, but she did. The wound is closing rapidly, she is gaining weight and her attitude is very positive. All of these steps surprise those who saw her in early September. Wouldn’t it be great if she lived another 10 years? My advice? Don’t bet against that happening.
Update: November 27
Shadow had a second operation to remove more cancerous growth. Sadly, we now know that the cancer has gotten into her system. While we will continue to give her the best medical attention we can afford, we know that the end is coming and there is nothing we can do to stop it.
She isn’t in pain, she eats well, plays with Pete, loves spending endless hours in the warm sun eating hay with Fancy and goes out of her way to get an extra bite of apple and a good hug at the end of the day. As long as she’s doing this well, she has every right to live. When it becomes too much for her, when the pain gets too bad…. We have a special resting place for her, next to our path to the Rainbow Bridge. She, like Blackie, Scout, Comet and so many others, will find the peace they so strongly deserve.
The Final Goodbye
You’re supposed to get use to it. Throughout the years I’ve seen it far too often. In some magic way, I’m told, the all too common occurrence of death should remove the sting. It’s the other side of life, the end result for every living thing. The body is there, the heart’s pumping, the eyes look outward, the spirit is present – then it stops. Everything that was life is gone. Those that are left alive try our best to make some meaning of it all. Usually we can’t.
Shadow is in her stall, happily munching away at a net full of hay. She ate more than her share of feed this afternoon, she’ll get more than her fair share of apples and carrots before I go to bed tonight. I’m no longer worried about overfeeding. Those concern past while we were at the Doc’s this afternoon.
“It’s too far gone, Jerry.”
And I agreed. The cancer is coming through in six different places. She’s constantly bleeding, the lumps just under the skin show signs of massive growth. The cancer is killing the host. The host is Shadow.
I couldn’t do it today. We have a special place for our horses, a place out at the ranch called the “Rainbow Sanctuary.” Blackie is there, along with markers for a number of other horses. That’s where Shadow needs to be in her final moments on this earth, where she needs to be so that those of us who love her know that her body will never be disturbed, where she will find the peace she always wanted.
In quiet moments we can go there, just to be close, to be still, to remember. We can recall her eyes that sparkled with life, her floppy ears, her desire to eat every carrot in the world. We will keep her memory alive for a little while longer.
Monday, January 3rd, will be Shadow’s last day of life. Everything will be ready, the hole prepared, the tractor standing by, the trailer will carry her to the site, the Doc will come and…. Shadow will leave us forever. I don’t want that to happen. I have no choice.
It’s Wednesday night , December 29, as I write this. I want her to live to see the change, I told a volunteer. I need to get things ready, I told the Doc. Someone might want to stop by and see her, I told my wife. The real truth is that I want to spend the weekend with her. I want to sit in the grass and watch her graze. I want to scratch her tummy, rub her ears, clean her hooves, and give her snacks. I want to hold her so very tight, and I tell her how much I love her. I want to look into those eyes and tell her how wonderful she is and how very sorry I am that humans did what they did to her.
And come Monday morning, after I feed her, after I put her halter on, attach the lead rope and walk her out of her stall, I want those precious moments to turn and face her, to look into those sparkling eyes and say the final goodbye.
I love you Shadow. I’ll meet you on the other side.
Habitat for Horses is always on the lookout for a few great people at our ranches. The work is unique, the animals are special and we want folks who both know and understand the special connection our animals need.