Wednesday, February 4, 2009

When Bad Things Happen to Good Horses

The final blood work analysis came back on Shorty. Frankly, the news is terrible. It's cancer. They're certain of it. It’s some sort of invasive, internal, lymphatic cancer that is now affecting different organs, causing the various symptoms. It's very rare, so they don't know much about it. We could run tests at the university, but it would cost $1500 and wouldn't really do any good. No matter what, there's no cure and no treatment. He may not have much time at all. The vet is very disheartened and visibly upset. She implied that we could have to make "some decisions" as early as this week. She put Shorty on steroids to make him more comfortable, but really there's nothing else to do. If his protein levels remain constant, he could hang on for a while, hopefully comfortably, although it's quite possible that these fever-like symptoms could keep re-occurring. If, however, his albumin levels drop any lower than they already are, it will go downhill extremely fast (a matter of days, I think, and the only option euthanasia).

How do you respond to news like that? He's pretty happy right now—getting lots to eat and gobbling it down, because why not let him have it if he wants it? His legs are swollen and painful, but the steroid will hopefully help with that. Outwardly he appears's so hard to believe that he's probably dying. I feel so bad for Shorty, but even worse for my mom. We've both been crying all evening, bawling our eyes out, hugging each other, and hanging out in Shorty's stall.

Just take it one day—or hour—at a time....

I always hate it when people start cursing their luck, or asking “Why me?” or complaining about all the bad things that happen to them (who do everything right) while only good things happen to other people (who do everything wrong). Well, that’s the point where I’m at right now. Why my family, when we’ve truly had nothing but bad luck with our animals in the past few years? Why Shorty, who should still have another 10-15 years of happy, healthy life left in him? Dammit, it’s just not fair.

Shorty means so much to my family. He was my first horse: I got him just a few days before September 11, 2001. I was 11; he was seven. He saw me all the way through my middle school and high school years. He was always the perfect horse in every way, too—gentle enough for children to ride, but competitive enough to help win me several thousand dollars worth of prizes and checks over the years we were partners. When I moved on to bigger, faster horses, he was relegated to my mom’s trail mount, and served her faithfully. I’m not exaggerating when I say he’s the ideal horse. A world champion trainer once described him as the sort “you want to have half a dozen of in assorted colors.” He’s Mr. Congeniality. He has a fan club wherever he goes. Everyone knows Shorty. He’s never misbehaved in his life. He’s also never been sick, not once in over seven years. We always joked that he’d still be fat and happy at 35, though completely toothless and gray. Who could have predicted him suddenly and unexpectedly failing at the relatively young age of 15?

At this point, I could launch into a lengthy discourse paying tribute to all the things that Shorty has done for me, and all that he means to my family, but really I’ve neither the energy nor the eloquence. Suffice it to say that this little horse means the world to us, and he will be sorely, sorely missed (is it macabre to speak of him like he’s already gone?). I just hope he doesn’t suffer. God, that would be unbearable. And making the decision when “it’s time”—how do you ever know?

Maybe a miracle will happen. Maybe the vets are wrong. But what are the odds of that? No, it’s best to just truck along like always, come to terms with grief, and treat ol’ Shortman the way he deserves.

But he doesn’t deserve this. And my mom doesn’t deserve this—it’s breaking her heart. And dammit, I don’t deserve it, either.

But life, my friends, ain’t fair, is it? That’s just part of the deal.


"Ice Pony Girl" said...

My Icelandic Horse was diagnosed with Lymphoma a 2 yrs ago. He's still going strong! {[{HUGS}}}

XOXOX for your boy.

Mozart said...

Thank you. Shorty is comfortable for now, but the vet thinks (and I agree) that he'll have to be put down this week. He's spending his last few days as one spoiled pony, though, getting to eat all of the previously off-limits treats and go/do wherever/whatever he wants.

I see from your website that you're a real animal lover. If you don't mind me asking, how did you find my blog? I'm curious.

Chelsea said...

I am so sorry, Shanna. I wish I could sympathize with you and say something like "I know how much he means to you" but I don't. I know he means so much more to you than what I understand. Reading this post brought tears to my eyes, I hope you and your mom are able to make it through the painful period as easily as possible. My thoughts are with you guys, if there is anything I can do to help, let me know.