Things to help a friend putting her old friend down next week
My neighbor's putting her beloved 1st horse down on Thursday.
I met her when this old horse really couldn't keep weight 2 or 3 years ago, and she needed help figuring it out. With some help, she brought him back up to weight (no easy task on this very old toothless wonder who was going downhill quick) and the old guy is a gem.
But, he has Cushing's, is losing weight, and she's getting shorter and shorter on money. He's in his 30's and losing that spark in his eye. Better a day too soon in what can be a harsh Colorado winter (did I mention we already had 8" of snow last week?).
It's been planned since the summer. I helped her with the vet and burying recommendations. She's 20, never lost a horse, and I offered to hold him for the vet if she wanted to walk away (not an easy thing for me, either, but...). I think she wants to stay with the horse.
With a few friends, she's going to take him out on the trail (ponied) to enjoy some more good times, while the weather is good (it's back up to 60-70 degrees). She loves pictures, so we can get some great pictures of her and him.
Should I offer to pay the final vet bill myself (or, just call the vet whom I know and do that)?
Or, have my pro photographer friends out as a surprise?
Or, a horsehair bracelet?
I don't think there is any tried and true right thing to do in a situation like this. I lost a heart horse a year and half ago - I didn't own him, but had nursed him through a couple of injuries at the barn and he gave me his heart. He managed to shatter his pastern in his stall one night and that was it. I got to spend a lot of time with him waiting for the vet and there were things that made me feel better:
1. Although I had friends at the barn with me, the left me alone with my boy. One of my friends made a run to the store and came back with every kind of apple and carrot known to man - he got his choice.
2. While it was suggested that I not stay through everything, I knew I had to and am still glad I did, even though it was hard. After tranquilizing him to the max, when the vet got ready to administer the last shot, he took the lead so that I would not get hurt when Tellie went down and ended up between the two of us. As drugged as he was, Tellie's head came up and he was looking - for me. I immediately got into his sight line so that I was the last thing he saw. While it was terribly hard at the time, I am so very glad I was there - for him - he made the choice to give me his heart, I owed it to him to be there at the end.
3. Ironically enough, the last ride I had on him involved lots of pictures. A very good friend with a really nice camera came out and shot pics of us - and then, on the day he died, printed them all out for me. They are framed all over the house. My favorite is me planting a kiss on his nose.
4. Bracelet - I opted not to. Partly, because I couldn't see myself cutting off his tail for it. My trainer, who owned him, graciously gave me his halter. That was enough for me.
I am sure many others here can give you better answers than I can. I just know that if can be there with her on the day, it will help her immensely. She will need a shoulder to cry on - that day and probably for many days thereafter.
I don't know if your friend has other horses around, but one of the nicest things that happened after Tellie went was the day after. I went to the barn as usual on Sunday morning, helped feed, turn out and clean stalls. Then we (my trainer, her husband and I) went to breakfast. When we got back, they went in the house and I was all alone and miserable. I walked back to the gelding pasture and they all came to the fence to see me. Although I am the "treat fairy" at the barn, on that day not one was asking for treats - they all just stood quietly as close to me as they could get, taking turns to nuzzle me. Such an incredible gift. They knew.
Oh, FatPalomino, what a great friend you are! Bless you! I would simply ask this young woman what she needs from you and be glued to her side at every step of the way, lest she think she can take on more than she's prepared for.
I don't know the particulars as to why YOU should pay the vet bill, but if you're in a better financial position and she's struggling to do right by her horse, then bless you again.
There are plenty of less-costly ways to memorialize a horse and a camera is right up there. Take tons of pics, schedule the euth, and be upbeat and as positive as you can be. You know all of this, I know.
Good luck to you, her and the horse. The input you're giving is invaluable and, I'm sure, will be remembered by her for years to come.
How generous of you to offer support and the wisdom that comes from experience. Of course, the greatest gift you can offer is simply being there for her, but you know that already. The hardest thing for me has always been trying to explain the depth of emotion to non-animal people- that vague feeling of nakedness afterwards- like you left the house without your wallet or something- that persists for weeks and months and so on. She'll need your understanding long after the day has gone.
As to your other thoughts- if she loves pictures, just take a lot of them. The last time I went through a traumatic euth was with a much beloved dog, and many people took lovely pictures of her towards the end for me. I like having them to look at now and again, but it isn't how I want to remember her- my brother gave me a lovely framed enlargement of her from the summer before she went downhill, and that is what hangs on my wall. If the spark is gone- I wouldn't want lovely professional photos of my friend at his worst. She will have the pictures you all take on the trail to reflect upon. JMO.
Only you can decide if it is in your financial best interest to assist with the vet bill. It's an amazingly generous offer, and if her financial state is rough- and I know mine was at 20- that may be a great burden lifted.
I think the horse hair bracelets are lovely, but they seem to have a limited shelf life- they will degrade eventually. Does he have a decent halter? Maybe a shadow box of his halter, shoes, photographs from happier times, mane clipping, etc. would be more lasting.
I feel fortunate sometimes to have grown up horsey- my first loss was young, and while I'm not exactly accustomed to it, at least I know what to expect now. Your quiet understanding will benefit her greatly. This is a good thing you're doing.
My thoughts are with you both and godspeed to the old fellow.