Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The worst day of my entire life.

Champ is dead.

Yesterday he was off his feed - hadn't finished his hay, which is really unusual. But the weather was wonky so we decided to just watch him. I left right about the time they fed for the night. This morning I got a call that he hadn't eaten his grain or touched his hay overnight, just drank some water. Actually I got several calls, because I am a dumbass and left my phone in the living room overnight. Anyway. The barn owners called the vet and I dashed out about 9 to find a very sick looking horse.

They gave him some banamine, because it looked like a colic. And they put him in the arena to walk around if he wanted, and he'd pooped a little before I got there, so we were hoping it wasn't serious. He looked miserable, kind of shaky. His gums were very pale. He had gut sounds when I first there, but by noon they'd stopped. The vet was at the human doctor and promised to come out as soon as he done, but he didn't get out there til noon.

The vet was my first clue that things were going really horribly. He came out, did a fairly brief examination, tried to palpate, and told me to take him to OSU vet school immediately. He said Champ was somewhat impacted but I think he knew there was something Very Bad happening.

I didn't have the right trailer brake hookup thing on my truck, and the barn owner was in Indiana with her truck, so I called Graham and he came out with the F-150. We hooked up the BO's 2 horse slant, loaded Champ, and headed off. I guess we got to the hospital about 3? It took a while, between the vet exam, calling OSU, calling Graham, etc.

When we walked in the door with Champ a huge swarm of incredibly capable vets and students descended on us. The surgery team started with us, assuming it was colic, but they passed us on to the medical team pretty quickly. I stood at his head petting him and telling him he could bite people as soon as he felt better.

They did blood work, several times. Gave him NG and IV fluids, which perked him up a tiny bit. Shaved all over and did three separate ultrasounds, which is when I started to realize it was Really Very Seriously Bad. He had a lot of internal bleeding, and he had something terribly wrong with his liver. The RBC and WBC counts were extremely low, and his liver enzymes were wrong too - I can't remember if they were high or low. And his liver was not right. The ultrasound of it didn't look to them at all like a liver, so either there was a huge clot obscuring it, there was a huge tumor in its place and it was pushed behind his lungs, or it was really diseased.

We moved him to a stall in ICU while they waited for some tests to come back and thought about what to tell me. He ate three straws of his bedding and one small bite of some gorgeous green alfalfa and just stood there, wobbling.

Finally two of the medical vets came and talked to me. Whatever happened is pretty rare. They'd found a journal article about, umm, 80 or so horses that had presented with similar internal bleeding in about a decade (late 90s to 2004). Only 50% of them had survived to discharge, and there wasn't a great breakdown of the statistics - more than half of the horses in the article had obvious causes for their bleeding, either being kicked, colicking, or uterine artery rupture. The vet said they could try a few things to stabilize him overnight, see if they could stop the bleeding, but they had no idea what was wrong with his liver or really what kind of quality of life he'd have.

They left us alone for a while to decide, and I cried and cried and thought it all through. It wasn't trauma; he hadn't been out with Dixie (or at all) for four or five days, just some light riding. It wasn't poisoning; no other horse had any symptoms from possible bad hay and there's no trees or weeds in his paddock. There was something terribly wrong with him, and from the very quiet murmurs during the repeated ultrasounds and liver biopsies they didn't think it was minor. HIs quality of life is the most important thing, and none of us thought there was a good chance of it improving.

Telling them to put him to sleep was the hardest thing I've ever said in my entire life.

They are going to necropsy him tomorrow; they'll call and tell me what they see. If they don't see anything obvious, they'll do lab work that will take up to a month. They're going to mail me some mane and tail hair and a cast of a hoof. And a bill; I have no clue how much this cost. I don't really care.

Then we had to return the empty trailer. I was going to hide in the truck and cry, but I made myself go in and tell the BO and family what all happened. The BO, like the vets, agreed that I'd done the right thing. And the BO told me that I must come ride tomorrow... and I agree. It would be so easy to walk away, let somebody sell Dixie, not even think about horses again. I'm just fucking flattened. But I felt the same way when I put my old Lab to sleep, and then I ended up with Cersei who is the World's Best Dog Ever. I won't give up on falling in love with creatures I outlive.


  1. Oh my god, Funder, I'm completely in shock. I'm so sorry. There are no words...

  2. Oh no, I am so very, very, very sorry. I know its of little comfort, but I've been in your shoes, all too many times, and I know exactly what you are feeling. I know you know you did the right thing, that doesn't really make it any easier. Happy Trails, Champ.

  3. Oh my god Funder. I'm so, so sorry. I've lost both my geldings, so if you ever need anyone to talk to, just e-mail me at deathstarbattlestar@yahoo.com. I know how it feels, I really do. Horses are these amazing creatures that can just walk in and our of our lives so quickly... peaceful rest, Champ.

    And I agree about going to the barn tomorrow. When my Quincy died, almost 5 years ago now, I had just gotten Metro and the first thing I did was go to the other barn to see him (Quincy died at his retirement farm after only being there a month, and so we were going to have his body transported back to my old barn to bury him there, where Metro was stabled). While we were waiting for Quincy's body to arrive, which took HOURS and HOURS, I brought Metro out and played with him. He must have sensed either death about me or my horrible distraught insides (I had a very detached exterior), because he praced around me like crazy, and went I let him go in the arena he galloped and bucked like crazy. And it was such an amazing relief to see him moving, to see every little piece of muscle and flesh full of life and freedom, such a change from Quincy - I spent almost an hour with his lifeless body at the other barn and that's a horrible image I'll have burned into my brain forever. But Metro was so alive... it felt so good just to see him breathing, see him moving.

    So go to the barn tomorrow and love on your girl. Love her like crazy, like there's no tomorrow, because sometimes there isn't. You're in my thoughts.

    - Somewhere in time's own space
    There must be some sweet pastured place
    Where creeks sing on and tall trees grow
    Some paradise where horses go
    For my the love that guides my pen
    I know great horses live again. -

  4. Very, very sorry to hear about it. I just clicked here from the power guides list and you have all my sympathy.

  5. So sorry to hear of your loss. I have been there, and you're right: it sucks beyond the power of words to describe the suckage.

    But, it will not always hurt this badly. Just keep remembering that. You did the right thing, you were brave, you did the right thing, it sucks, you did the right thing.

    My deepest sympathies.

  6. My condolences. Very sad indeed. Please be at peace with your decision.

  7. So sorry you had to go through this, sounds like you made the right choice, albeit a very very hard one. I have had to put one pony down, hated it. I have two in their 20s now so time is just ticking. Hang in there and do go hug your mare!

  8. Oh, Funder. What to say? Nothing really. I am so very very sorry that you had to go through that. Of course you made the right decision. Rest in peace, Champ.

  9. How terribly awful and sad, Funder! I'm so sorry! Poor Champ. What a terribly way to go, and he was still so young, too. Same age as my own mare.

    BO is right. Don't give up on your dreams and horses. Sometimes these things just happen. Jeez, look at me.

    So get back out there and ride again sweetie. I bet Champ would want that for you (so he could watch instead. hehe).


  10. I'm new to your blog, but want to offer my condolences. Your horse will be waiting for you at the rainbow bridge.

  11. Funder, I cannot possibly imagine being in your shoes right now.
    I'm sure it doesn't help, but rest a little in knowing you did everything you possibly could for him. There are thousands of owners who would have never taken him to OSU; you gave him every chance.

    He just had one more person to love before he left.

    If you need anything ever I'm not sure what I can offer but my email is mayfieldk@live.com if you ever need it.

  12. Funder, we all love you and we all love Champ.

    I am so sorry.

    Take a break, come out here and sit on the farm, if you need to.

    There's nothing else to say. I am so sorry.

  13. Thank you very much, yall. It means a lot that I have so many friends (and new friends!) who understand. I'm headed out to see Dixie and take a ton of pictures of her.

  14. I'm so sorry. It's so terribly hard to lose them. You did the last kind and loving thing you could for him... it's just too bad it has to hurt you so much.

    Godspeed, Champ.

  15. Oh Funder, I am So so sorry. You did right by him though, for the entire time he was with you- right to the end.

    Please know we will all be thinking of you.

  16. I lost Minx on Saturday night from colic. I've been a mess all week. I am so sorry for you loss. I came to the same conclusion as you did at the end of your post.

    I still haven't gone out to the stable to see my other horse. I'm thinking today is the day. I like Farley but she isn't the same as Minx. I'm thinking I won't ride today. Just groom and spend time with. But I'm not sure.

    Hang in there.

  17. I'm so very sorry for you loss. Comforting thoughts and cyber hugs. .

  18. I'm so sorry. You did your best for him, stuck by him, and took the right decision hard as that was. Please accept my condolences.

  19. So sorry about champ funder. a

  20. Oh my Funder, I was off for a few days and now I am so sad to return to your loss of Champ!I am heart broken for you. I hope you do go outr to see your lovely mare every day.
    I sure hope the shots did not have anything to do with this? I read back....
    I am so sorry~ Truly

  21. Funder, I haven't been a regular reader of your blog, but came to it through dp, and saw that you had suffered a terrible loss. Nothing to say that others haven't said. Sometimes, life just sucks, as someone also going through a heartbreaking loss, said to me yesterday. Your post today confirms what I believe you knew, that your decision was the only possible one. You and Champ are in my thoughts.

  22. Thank you again, yall. Hearing from the vet yesterday really did make me feel better - I think I did all I could. There's still a huge hole in my heart, and many more tears to cry, but some of the "what ifs" have stopped.

  23. I read your blog today for the first time today and now I'm crying and my throat is all choked up. So sorry for your loss, my "once in a lifetime" is 25 now... thanks for posting your story.


Feel free to comment!