Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My Incredible Journey - Part 5

This is a sad post, there's no hiding it. However, in taking you on this journey, it wouldn't make sense to leave this part out. This is the slightly shortened version. After this post, I will have one final post in this series - a more uplifting, inspirational, and nostalgic post - reflecting on all that I have written here.


Me and Taco, March 2007 - just three weeks before.

"Exhausted" is how I described myself as feeling. Physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. A feeling of total depletion, unlike any I had felt before. Couldn't get out of bed. Couldn't go to school. The preceding weekend had taken a massive toll on me.

Sunday had typically been the weekend day that I chose to go to the barn. But, rain was in the forecast for April 15, 2007. So, we made a call to the barn owner to ask if we could come a day early, on Saturday. She said yes, that it would be fine. But, they were having the vet come out because Taco seemed to be colicky. (This is an intestinal/stomach ailment, for those that don't know.) She didn't think it was serious, but wanted to play it safe.

I remember feeling angry about him being sick. Why did this have to happen again? I hated worrying about him, but, naturally - involuntarily - I did it all the time.

The barn owner called my mom's cell phone a while later, when the vet had arrived and examined Taco. As it turned out, this episode of colic was much more serious than originally thought.

The world began to spin around me. My mom handed me the phone, and the vet started talking to me. "It would be best to put him to sleep." "He's lived a long life." The things he was saying could barely even be processed in my mind. I get chills just thinking about it. I had not expected this at all.

We rushed to the barn, tears pouring down my face like a waterfall. The vet didn't know exactly what was wrong, but had three ideas, each bleaker than the next. The vet explained that if Taco were even 10 years younger or so, he'd consider operating on him. But, the reality was that at forty years of age, surgery was not an option.

As is a recurring theme in my friendship with Taco, I couldn't just give up like that. He was up on his legs, walking around, picking at grass. Uncomfortable, yes, but in distress, no. How could we euthanize him without giving it a second thought?

All involved parties agreed. Barn owners, Taco's owner, and I all contested that we should at least try something. Maybe, just maybe, this would pass.

They gave him an injection and decided to "oil" him (pump mineral oil into his system), in hopes that it would get his insides moving, so to speak. I didn't watch the procedure. I went inside with another horse, who despite his stoic personality, offered me a ton of comfort.

Then, we played the waiting game. Nothing changed through that day or that night.

Fast forward to Sunday, April 15. It was raining buckets. I still remember that haunting rain all too vividly. The back of the barn was completely flooded. Taco's field was a muddy mess, but keeping him outside (with shelter, of course) rather than in his stall seemed like the best thing to do, in case he went down on his side during the night.

Back out to the barn I went. Taco looked pretty uncomfortable, slowly lifting up each of his hind legs from time to time. But, he was still standing. I wondered, if the vet's possible diagnoses were so poor, why hadn't he greatly worsened? I called my own (small animal) vet, I scoured the web for ideas, I posted on a horse forum and got all sorts of suggestions. Every one said that the vet should come back out to re-examine him and possibly give him more medication. There was a chance this colic wasn't as bad as originally feared. I tried so hard to convince every one to get that vet back out there. But, long story short, on that Sunday, he did not come. It was out of my control.

I held my composure until the latter half of my visit that day. The barn owner began talking to me about how she was going to clip off a piece of Taco's mane and tail to give to me, "just in case." At that point, it all felt real. This was really happening. There was a good chance that I was about to lose my horse.

We made the trek from the house back down to his field, the rain still banging against the metal barn roof. The barn owner went off to feed the other two horses, leaving me alone in Taco's small shed with him.

That was the last time I was alone with him, and somehow, I knew it. I couldn't do anything except stand there and cry. I hated seeing him the way he was, with his head in the corner, his eyes sad and low. The past six years raced inside my head. I didn't know what the future held. I didn't want to know, either. I just didn't want to leave him.

I went home from the barn that evening with the intent to return the following afternoon. Monday, April 16. That fateful day. Upon speaking with the barn owner that morning, she, too, finally thought it was a good idea to get the vet back out to re-evaluate Taco. He didn't seem to have improved or worsened, making it the third day of relative status quo. The vet was due back out later in the day.

It was not soon enough. Around 3 PM, my mother walked over to me, visibly upset, and handed me the phone. It was the barn owner.

Taco had suddenly worsened that afternoon. I'll spare you the details. The pain that he seemed to have kept at bay all weekend suddenly shot through his body. It, at that point, became apparent that he was in visible distress. He was put to sleep, with his owner there beside him.

I can't convey to you the sadness I felt. It was like being stabbed in the heart. My one and only Taco was with me no more, after a three-day struggle, and I had no idea how I would go on.

There is one more installment in this series. Please come back for Part 6.


Cyndi and Stumpy April 14, 2010 at 11:41 AM  

um, Sam, I don't remember if you ever metntioned what your were going to school for, but I hope journalism or some sort of writing is on the list. You're a great storyteller.

This can't be an easy story for you to retell. I'm feeling your pain. In thw event, itself, and in the retelling.

Sue April 14, 2010 at 11:42 AM  

Oh Sam, I don't even know what to say. I've been thru it so many times with so many of my dogs and it never gets any easier.

SissySees April 14, 2010 at 11:43 AM  

So heart-breaking!!! Thank you for sharing the story with us though...

Anna the GSD April 14, 2010 at 11:48 AM  

Poor Taco! I know it must be hard to share this story, but it's a beautiful one.

Golden Woofs! SUGAR April 14, 2010 at 11:59 AM  

Woof! Woof! It is sure a sad heart breaking story. Thanks for sharing ... Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

Stella April 14, 2010 at 12:20 PM  

I am so glad you got to spend time with him while he was sick and you let him know that you were the constant in his life and you loved him.


kissa-bull April 14, 2010 at 12:43 PM  

im sure the years he spent with you were the best years of his life. im crying buckets over here
this is a beutiful but sad story
we appreciate that you are sharing with us because we know how hard it must be to relive that story

houndstooth April 14, 2010 at 1:06 PM  

I've been lucky in that I've never had to put a horse down. We sold several of ours when they were older, and the one who did die in our care just passed away from natural causes one night. We found her in the pasture the next morning, and she'd been fine the day before. It's the tough part of loving animals, though, when we have to let them go!

LauraK April 14, 2010 at 2:58 PM  

Such a sweet boy :) I wish we didn't have to say goodbye to such incredible animals- but I'm convinced that they are in our lives for a reason to teach us something great. I'm looking forward to the last part of the story :)

BRUTUS April 14, 2010 at 4:32 PM  

Oh, Sam... Just thinking about this makes my heart ache! As was the case in one of the previous comments, I too was lucky enough to never need to put one of my horses down. I felt a loss when I had to watch them move on to a new place/owner, but certainly easier knowing they would be alive & healthy. It was hard enough with Duncan last fall, and being with him when he passed truly gave me closure. At least you did have the opportunity to say goodbye to your friend Taco, even if you couldn't be there at the end. I'll elave you with one of my favorite quotes by Irving Townsend - I hope you find comfort in it as I do.

We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan. ~ Irving Townsend


Sara April 14, 2010 at 4:44 PM  

Oh Sam, how heartbreaking. Saying good bye to our beloved animals is like losing a piece of ourselves. Although, most of us still choose to give our hearts to another animal afterward, because the reward of loving an animal while they are here on earth is far greater than our grief.

Looking forward to your last installment.

The Army of Four April 14, 2010 at 5:24 PM  

You have many gifts, Sam. Telling this story the way you are doing - I feel your emotions, the good and the bad. Taco's story is so very special!
Karen & the Ao4

NAK and The Residents of The Khottage Now With KhattleDog! April 14, 2010 at 6:38 PM  

Sadly, we knew where this journey would lead us - and we knew how much it took for you to share it with us -


Taco is flicking his tail in agreement from across The Rainbow Bridge -

He was special
Marge is special
Due very much in part to how special you are!

Chris and Ricky April 14, 2010 at 7:46 PM  

Oh Sam, we knew there was something like this coming up in the story but we are still so sorry to hear it! Thank you very much for sharing Taco's story - it is incredibly difficult to lose animals that are close to us but what they give to us is so much more incredible that somehow the pain of losing them is transformed into good. We will definitely come back for the final installment.

Deborah April 14, 2010 at 10:06 PM  

That is so sad, we had a horse, Chipper that died of colic when I was a young girl. I remember walking and walking him during the night. It was sad. Something you never forget.
Thanks for sharing this with us.

AC April 14, 2010 at 10:28 PM  

Sam, beautiful storytelling and beautiful story.

RILEY AND STAR MY MALTESEKIDS April 15, 2010 at 12:20 AM  

This is such a beautiful story and I knew it was going to be a tearful one. I can only imagine how you must have felt.

It's clear though that you really loved Taco and he loved you.

You were both so blessed to have each other.

Riley and Star.

Life With Dogs April 15, 2010 at 1:34 AM  

I was afraid to get to this part - loss devastates me. I'm so sorry - but glad you had the chance to share your life with Taco, and your story with us.

Kathy Mocharnuk April 15, 2010 at 10:16 AM  

wow.....I have tears streaming down my face right now...

Brenda's Arizona April 15, 2010 at 10:42 AM  

Ohhh. How does this happen? Your writing puts me in your shoes. Please keep going on...

KB April 15, 2010 at 5:58 PM  

Having you as part of Taco's life was so lucky for him. To be loved so very much by a selfless girl - he was blessed. And, it sounds like he was tough and a fighter. Such a sad post... I'm so sorry.

Kari in Alaska April 17, 2010 at 3:52 PM  

oh thats so sad. I am so sorry for your loss

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