Photo & Poem: Waiting for the Vet


No days like the golden photos on the calendar from
the gas company, propane topped off at the first
frost as autumn surrendered with no fanfare. Early
storms left crusted snow frozen in mud, hoof-print

ruts that catch the toe of my boot, stumbling out late
to throw extra hay and put eyes on the herd because
I cannot lay down the fear, not of hooves crushing
my skull, but a horror much worse. Years have gone

but never the memory of a moonless midnight,
finding the old gelding down with no will to stand.
His breath shallow, eyes nearly closed and my black
dread helpless against the wind pushing harder to a

roar. Out in front of the shelter, kneeling low to be
close, pulling my glove to touch his cheek, please
please stay. No terror greater than checking my
watch again, pleading for headlights in the blizzard.

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm

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Anna Blake

37 thoughts on “Photo & Poem: Waiting for the Vet”

  1. Your words so capture the moment and the memory of it. Brought tears to my eyes. Our love for these creatures is so profound and makes us about as human as we can be.

      • So true, on the day of a blizzard and my old gelding obviously hurting. That interminable wait for the vet coming on dicey roads only to send my boy on, sitting in the snow with his head in my lap. Ten years later (to the day) and it still hurts.

  2. There truly aren’t many (any?) other poets who routinely bring tears to my eyes with their ability to capture and to share the deep pain of loving and connecting.

  3. My wait was in the morning – the decision was made the night before – not able to get the vet there but knowing there was no chance for anything else – he came & pushed his face into me – blanketed (not usual) & I went home to wait till morning. He led the way down the trail behind the barn – stopping once to look behind at the vet as if to say whats taking so long then walking onward. It was 17 years ago the 5th of December. I realize many of you here have been thru this more than once – as I have with my dogs and cats. It never never gets any easier. But just because their lives are shorter than ours does not make any of these creatures less than us. There are people who dont understand – dont get it – how we can care so very much – thats their huge loss. We are all so very fortunate for having known these “other nations”.

  4. Such a beautiful post about such a heartbreaking thing. I lost my beloved old gelding Patches over a year ago and I miss him every day.

  5. Winter rains have softened the ground my Andy travels upon. Having a handle on the Cushing’s we now have ringbone in our lives. Yesterday, like a flash into the past, he stepped stiffly out of the barn onto the turf, ears pinned back as he bossed his herd. Heels kicked up and he took off in a cramped canter. It smoothed out a little and then he stopped. Snorted. And almost smiled. He still had it in him, thanks to the winter rains.

    Every day is a blessing. Thanks for sharing yours with me.

  6. Holy moly, you captured that keening sense of panic so well in this poem. Mine wasn’t in a dark night, but the waning afternoon. Bringing in the herd for dinner–a mare was down. I got her back to the barn, but the lone other person on the farm was just driving away and I couldn’t get his attention, even running after the truck. The owner finally came back after so many dead phone calls because the farm is in the mountains and there is no service on the best of days. There was also no vet, so we took care of the colic episode ourselves that night (the little mare recovered). I was able to experience that panicky feeling again when I read your brilliant poem. So much said with so little words. Thanks much.

  7. Anna, when I read the title of your poem, I panicked. I had to put off reading it so that I could gather strength and focus on gratitudes before revisiting the feelings of “waiting for the vet” again. Dark of night, snow storms, high winds, freezing cold; you name it, and I’ve waited for the vet to come and release a beloved horse from earthly pain. Only love could keep me on this cycle of wonderment and awe that precedes the inevitable loss. Your poem is spectacular. Thank you for giving us all a voice.

  8. Oh, Anna, what can I say ? Waiting for the vet in an emergency is such a grueling, harrowing experience. Your words make it so very real. I have sat with friends, waiting for the vet, to put down their horse on at least 3 occasions. The two horses I lost in the last 6 years died suddenly, unexpectedly in traumatic accidents. so I didn’t have a wait on a cold dark night, as you describe. Just a very large, lifeless body, their sweet spirit already gone. There is a high price in this life with horses, and I sometimes ( like after reading your poem just now) wonder how I will cope with a wait here on my own should i have to do that someday.

    I like that you make people cry with your words; just shows that their hearts are wide open.. Some folks say grief and tears are just love with no place to go. Well done.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Sarah. Want to know how to survive that wait? You remember all the good things. A few hours can never erase all that shared time.

  9. It was 4th December 2012. Twenty five unforgettable years together, my longest relationship of any creature. I’m still learning from all she tried to teach me. And thankfully Anna, you help in that understanding.

  10. Our beautiful Hank, just in his middle teens, was laboring with a very high respiratory rate for several months. The vets who had seen him did not offer much to reverse this alarming condition. One of them clinically diagnosed an internal tumor but said that his rapid breaths were not painful. So we kept searching for an answer. October 10, 2014. I came down to the barn and knew it wasn’t good. Before I could place the call, Hank started pacing and circling. I placed my hand on his shoulder and through tears, yelled for him to let go. Soon, he dropped to his knees and was gone. We had no chance to wait for a vet that I knew could have never made it in time.
    Thank you, Anna, and all, for letting me tell my story.

  11. Just want to add that I love my vets. One in particular who really cares. I remember he came once on Christmas Day and one time on Thanksgiving Day. I feel very lucky to be on his client list!

  12. Thank you, as always Anna, for the perfect words about the hardest part of loving our horses so. I’m sorry you don’t have a good relationship with a vet right now, that’s so, so, so hard. I’m a vet, and try to never take for granted having that luxury, (or curse, as most of my family believes) in being able to ease my own animals pain, even if it’s the end and I can’t breathe and swear my heart is shattering as I stop their own breaths.
    We all try to put ourselves in owners shoes. Most of us will go until our brain shuts down to be there for our patients and the two legged ones that love them. We know that wait looking for our headlights to come down your dark driveway is the longest. Thank you for loving your creatures so, and spreading your knowledge to treat them as they deserve to be treated. I want all my clients to be like you. Thanks again.

    • Thank you Amanda, for this heartfelt comment. I have profound respect for the work you do, the ridiculous hours worked, the challenge of a patient who can’t talk. The night I was remembering especially in this poem was a few years ago. The vet practice sent their young on-call vet. We got the horse up, he did a rectal in icy cold weather and saved that old gelding, who I euthanized the next fall, knowing I couldn’t put any of us through another winter. I have seen such commitment from vets over the years, and I may be in between now, but I know I’ll find one like you. Thanks aren’t enough for the work you do, but thanks.

    • So glad I had such a great vet the last few years of my horse’s life. The earlier years had some ups & downs. But the two wonderful people who cared for him for the last years? They went above & beyond.


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