There is a crisp apple coolness to the air. Soon there
will be frost, I tell the horses, soon the flies will be
gone. The northern air makes the herd buck and snort
steam, but might as well be blood on the wind for
elders bearing heavy mortality, unable to catch the
air, joints too thick to run. Don’t show the herd
your pain. The bay seems to have aged a decade in
a day, older than her years compared to those spared
an injury. Crippled from wear that cannot be healed,
the ache sits in deep ruts around her eye, her back
held tight as a fist. From the comfort of my warm
room. Is more time a blessing for her or selfish for
me? Afraid to say it aloud. Is it a good day to die?
What if the brave love needed for this decision was
the price of admission to share their pasture after
our days, while those who resigned their horses to
years of pain, for lack of courage, were left in an
uneven cold limbo; a drylot, hard ground and stale
water. Would we make the kind choice sooner if
their unnatural suffering was truly our own to carry?
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
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26 thoughts on “Photo and Poem: What If?”
The hardest decision we must make as caretakers of our 4-legged friends! How many times have I wanted to be able to euthanize my fellow humans to relive their suffering, watching them slowly decline day by day, no hope for recovery, sentenced to linger on until their final demise. To be able to spare that slow descent for our horses, dogs, cats and all other creatures in our care seems a gift. And we know, in our hearts, when it’s time and so do our animals.
I’m glad you feel that you know. For me, the more I understand about the nature of horses, the more I think I don’t know that easily. I think they tell us when the process has begun maybe… for me, a question. Thanks, Jane.
Does the prey animal whose life is dedicated to self preservation become weary of putting on the brave face? Do they welcome that final solace & relief that we tried so hard to provide during their stay in the safe place we created for them? Questions we answer for ourselves with what we want to hear to make the impossible task possible. The fact is, a piece of your heart is the price to be paid for your love & humanity. So do what’s right, cry & grieve, and then honor the loss by filling that available safe place.
Thank you Anne. For everything. Including your often broken heart. You are one helluva lady.
Sueann, that is the question: can a prey animal do anything other than fight for life? Is it implicit or a choice? Thank you, and in the end, it’s always worth it, love well spent. Thank you for commenting.
My question exactly. I envy those who can make the decision either way without regret.
I’ve done the right thing and still regretted it… I’d envy that as well. Thanks, Lynell
Powerful post, Anna – as always, but this is a toughest of topics for most of us. I have used your admonition to breathe slowly and deeply for our animal friends at this time and am thankful for that; now I will be thinking of that price of admission thing. The hardest part of it all for me is causing any pain or stress in their final moments, to bring about that end; the thought of doing that paralyzes me. Even harder for dogs than for horses….
We are so tightly braided, life to life. Keep breathing, my friend.
This is absolutely the toughest topic. I know that I have to be responsible enough & care enough to make that decision – realizing every time another dog or cat (no horses anymore) comes into my life – how likely, almost certain, it is that decision will have to be made. I know many people who claim they cant take on another animal because it hurts so very much to let them go. But then all the joy and comfort that they bring into my life & hopefully into theirs – wouldnt exist. Without those “other nations” life would be pretty empty!
Great poem, Anna
That’s beautiful, Anna. Thank you for stating the hard reality.
Maybe I hang on too long. I’m speaking of dogs. I’ve owned horses but never had to make that decision with them. What I do think is how do we meet up again later? So I hold her close(little maltese) and pray for our souls to always find each other thru eternity. I dream of a farm where we(all that have pasted) and when I have pasted can stay together from the love/life we shared on this plane.
It’s a good question. We don’t own them more than any other life we meet… I’ll be curious to find out.
An injection of holiness over this most ache-ful of all forms of connection we build with our animal friends. As I ponder this over several of my own, I hope I am correctly hearing a horses’ voice smoothing my ruffled heart as she says “I will feel my way through the doorway you can open for me. I will hear your voice linger on the wind. I will nicker in your heart and you will know I got home safe.”
As always, your words hit very close to home. My two very best friends are Jazz, a Jack Russell Terrier (17) and Candy, a paint mare (23). People will say, “Better a day too early than a day too late” and it haunts me. I have had days with both of my friends that I have questioned myself, am I a day too early? My dog has rough days and I am nursing my mare through EPM. I have cried my eyes out on several occasions wondering if it was the last day. The next day, they greet me with a wagging tail or a whinny, carry on with enthusiasm and a trot or gallop, The second thing people say, “They will tell you.” makes me grateful for each extra day that leads into weeks, months and hopefully years. I will remain listening, watching and breathing and will be their very best friend in the end. Thanks again for your words that touch the heart.
Wishing you all a gentle autumn. Thanks, Lynn
This weekend just gone I attended a little local horsemanship clinic, to meet the man who will start our filly. Yes, he is the right man, and he is leading from behind! All is calm, a couple green started by him (owners up), one corrected, hardly a foot went down wrong. No rein or head pulled, all light signals. He is 78 yo. Tall, straight, very traditionally Western, years in the USA. Spends most of his efforts correcting the wrongs of others, says our filly should be refreshing. He too finds difficulty in people.
Down the back he keeps two aged and debilitated veterans, favourites, with the same question hanging over them. He is not yet ready, nor, perhaps, are they. You wouldn’t leave a horse or a dog in the conditions that some aged people have to endure. Is helping them leave harder than watching the suffering, be they human or equine? Sure as we are born, we die. At least with horses we can lend assistance. Just know that while you are hurting, she is not.
I wonder how many let themselves actually see the suffering? Thanks, Louise.
Far too many older humans (my age!) are not as lucky as lots of us here – to be able to continue to live in my own home, not have to depend upon someone else is something I’m grateful for every day. I have to say I find difficulty in people at this point too! In animals? Not so much. Still miss my horse and the other horses at the barn where he used to live -probably always will. But I cannot imagine living without my dog and cat – they are family. Helping them leave is hard – but really who among us wants to prolong their suffering in order to make us feel better? Thats just wrong.
I love this, Anna! Thoughtful and well-written, and an issue which most of us will have to deal with one or more times during our lives with horses. ??
Thank you, Barb.
Timely reminder since winter is just around the corner. I have an old girl I’ve been thinking about all summer. Just don’t know if I have the heart to put her through another harsh Montana winter❤️
Love your word choice, it should be hard to keep them on, rather than hard to let them go. (It’s obvious how hard that is…) Thanks, Carol
These heartfelt words leave me speechless. All I can say is – wow.