Moose River Farm Blog

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Where Attention Goes, Energy Flows (Part 2)

       Good Evening,
     Earlier this week I posted the first installment of a three part saga, Where Attention Goes, Energy Flows...Part 1.  The whole story is long and convoluted but hopefully, at the end of the final segment, the reader will breathe a sigh of bittersweet relief.  
Where Attention Goes, Energy Flows...Part 2
     After hanging up the phone, all that was left to do was wait.  Back to the house I trudged to make breakfast for Rod, (The Dream Maker).  Our surveillance system allowed me to watch Murray on the computer monitor from the kitchen and for the entire time, he appeared to be standing quietly.  I puttered a bit around the house, trying to keep busy while waiting for the vet to arrive.  Shortly after breakfast, Rod headed out to the barn to tend to a maintenance matter and of course to stop and see how the big gelding was doing.  In less than five minutes he was back at the house with dire concern on his face.
        “He’s not looking good.  He is covered with sweat all over his body.  You need to do something,” he pleaded unable to bare the sight of any animal displaying discomfort. 
        From the grainy image projected by the camera, the sweat was impossible to see.  Murray was still standing quietly, but when I arrived back at his stall, his expression, and overall condition alarmed me.  Immediately, I moved him into the wash stall and began to sponge him down with Vetrolin, a cooling body brace when added to warm water.  Next, I covered Murray with a fleece cooler to prevent him from getting a chill.  Finally, I walked him out into the driveway where the sun could help warm him up a bit.  By this time he wanted nothing more than to drop into the sand and roll.  Fearful that his abdominal pain had returned, I prevented him from doing so by keeping him moving.   
        At 9:00 and just as Jean, (Friends and Blessings) was driving up the driveway, Murray planted his feet and refused to move any further.  Now my mind was wondering if he was perhaps ‘tying up,’ a condition medically referred to as Azoturia.  If this was so, the large muscles of his hindquarters were beginning to cook from a metabolic failure to eliminate lactic acid, a bi-product from anaerobic respiration.  In addition, Murray was now sweating so profusely that a puddle of water was collecting in the sand from the drips along his belly.  Even his ears were wringing wet.  
        My level of anxiety was at an all time high as I searched in my head to make sense of his symptoms.  No, I am not a veterinarian but, I have witnessed many cases of colic, one or two cases of tying up and an assortment of other conditions that torment horses.  As an educated and knowledgeable horsewoman, I believed I was prepared to identify just about any common ailment that afflicts the horse from time to time.  Thank heavens a vet was on the way!
       Just before 10:00, a large pickup truck appeared in the driveway signifying that help was finally here.  The responsibility of trying to determine what was wrong with Murray was mine no more.
       Before I completely let go of my anxiety a tiny female with a long dark braid down her back and a pair of large Wellington boots emerged from the truck.  She was so petite that her coveralls had been hoisted up and tied in position by a string behind her neck.  I was immediately reminded of how we kept our bathing suit straps up on our shoulders when we were shapeless children.  I have to admit here that it was difficult to accept this young girl as the professional that was going to save my horse.  Thankfully, her warm smile and 'big girl' professional attitude were soon to ebb my concerns.
       Dr. Jennifer Nightingale had just graduated from Cornell University’s prestigious Vet school in May, '11.  Yes, she was wet behind the ears and years from developing her craft and skill through hard knocks and experience.  But, by the end of the day, she would prove to me what a great vet she was on her way to becoming.  And after all was said and done, my respect for her is immense.  But it was still the morning, and there was a long day to live through before I had a chance to sum up my regards for Dr. Nightingale.
        The Vet's first impression of Murray's condition ruled out colic.  She was certain that he was experiencing something more metabolic in nature.  She mentioned 'tying up' and wondered if he had in fact ingested something that was toxic.  By this time, my boarder, Vicky, (Riding the Trails), had arrived to spend some quality time with her horse, Tango.  Vicky is a veterinary assistant for the same clinic that Dr. Nightingale represents.  Fortunately, the office that Vicky works for is fairly close by.  Without hesitation, Vicky abandoned her plans with Tango and headed back to the vet clinic to run tests on vials of Murray's blood.
        While we waited for the results Dr. Nightingale began to treat Murray's symptoms.  First she inserted a catheter into his jugular vein so that she could replace the precious fluids seeping out through his skin.  My other boarder, Irene, (Hannah Says Goodbye), was also present by this time, offering her support with the utmost concern for Murray.  Suddenly, we all became aware of a loud thumping sound pounding from inside of Murray.  Dr. Nightingale issued a warning for us to stand clear for she worried that he might drop at any second.  In that instant it hit me that there was a very good chance that we might be fighting a losing battle with Murray after all.  The race was on to try to save him.
        While the fluids dripped into Murray's body there appeared to be a brief recovery of sorts.  The thumping slowed and dissipated while the horse's skin began to cool and dry.  He stretched to urinate; a sign that the fluids were doing their job.  However, the urine was dark and the amount limited.  
        For several hours Dr. Nightingale worked on Murray.  The blood tests indicated that his kidneys were the source of trouble; yet another finger pointing at toxic ingestion.  What in the world could he have eaten?
        Eventually, Murray appeared to be holding his own and the Vet, having done all that she could for the time being, prepared to leave. Before she disappeared she set me up with vials, syringes and liters of lifesaving chemicals accompanied by several handwritten pages of instructions.  Many of the medications were substances that I had never heard of.  They had to be carefully recorded and kept track of for they were also controlled substances.  My stomach felt sick looking at all these measures that might or might not save Murray.  I believe at this time I knew that we were eventually going to lose in the end.  But my heart wanted to keep going, because there was a chance and I wasn't yet able to accept that Murray had eaten something on my carefully maintained property for horses.  It was all too much to accept...yet.
        As Dr. Nightingale drove away from our farm, the feeling of helplessness returned with a vengeance.  And shorty thereafter, so did Murray's symptoms.
       By mid-afternoon the powerful sweats had returned and Murray was clearly uncomfortable, indicated by his bulging eyes and grinding teeth.  Between Jean, Irene, Vicky, (having returned from testing blood at the vet clinic), and I, we never left him.  Luckily, when I called Dr. Nightingale to report the latest observations, she had not yet left the Adirondacks.  In a short period of time she was on her way back to Moose River Farm.
        One of the first observations that I made of Dr. Nightingale was her willingness to confer with colleagues by phone when she had questions about how to treat Murray.  This impressed me.  It showed that she lacked ego and wanted the best outcome for my horse despite her limited time in the field.  It ultimately made me feel that Murray was under the best care and that many professionals were putting their heads together to see to it.   
       Upon Dr. Nightingale's return there was only one treatment left to try; the diuretic, Lasix.  It was also clear that Murray's extreme discomfort was stemming from an inability to urinate.  As hard as he strained, pushed and willed himself to do so, no relief resulted.  What little did squeeze through was thick and brown; clearly not a good sign.  With one more valid treatment and an agreement that if this didn't work, the kindest thing to do would be to put him down, the final attempt was made.  
       In the end, it wasn't meant to be.  After we waited and prayed for 20 minutes, Dr. Nightingale headed out to her truck to prepare the one injection of the day that would have a lasting effect on Murray. 
        I led the big gelding out, slowly, along the same path that Windy and Spy had taken to their final resting places.  My whole body was numb, a necessity at this time to prevent me from feeling the enormity of my decision to end a loved one’s life.  Dr. Nightingale and Vicky followed us out to the spot where Rod would inevitably dig the hole that Murray’s body would vanish into.  I kissed the bridge of his nose and hugged him tight as tears burned in my tired eyes.
         The Vet was swift and quick after asking if I was ready.  With a nod of my head she plunged the first syringe full of blue juice into Murray’s catheter.  The effect was immediate.  Murray’s large physique dropped to the ground so quickly that it almost rolled completely over from the force.  
       Through my tears I looked up at the Vet and said, "Wow, you're good!"
       Through her own tears, she half-smiled in reply.
       Dr. Nightingale then quickly plunged another syringe full of the heart stopping liquid through the catheter to make absolutely certain that her mission had been accomplished.    
        Moments later her stethoscope confirmed that Murray was gone.  She left me there to pack up her truck for the long road home.  Only then was I aware of Vicky making her way back to me.  She had gone to the barn to get scissors so that I could cut a lock of my own hair and braid it into Murray’s mane; a piece of me to be with him forever in the ground.  My short hair made the task difficult but manageable.  Vicky had also returned with several hairs that she had plucked from Michele’s riding helmet.  Her gesture to think of Michele at this time was most touching.  We tucked the hairs inside Murray’s ear as a token of Michele's love and devotion to him. 
       It was now late afternoon and the drama of the past twenty-four hours had come to an end.  All that was left to do was tend to the other horses still alive and well on the farm and in need of our undivided attention.  Back at the barn I was feeling overwhelmingly sad.  Vicky sent me to walk the dogs and goats while she tended to the horses.  I took her up on the offer and immediately collected my charges and headed out into the woods.  
       For the entire walk my mind was a blur as the events of the previous hours replayed over and over.  What could I have done differently?  Should I have called the vet sooner?  Should I have not left Murray out on the lawn to graze yesterday?  This was the first horse that I had been responsible for putting down due to an acute condition that could not be fixed.  The feeling was so unfamiliar to me.  Windy and Spy had required planning and Promise, (Summer's Promise), of course had taken care of the matter herself.  But Murray had been ridden in a lesson only 36 hours prior to his demise.  What had gone wrong?
       As the dogs, goats and I turned for home a new thought popped into my mind.  I had two tickets to attend a concert given by melancholy 70’s artist, Janis Ian for that evening.  She was giving a small intimate performance at Great Camp Sagamore in Raquette Lake.  Vicky and I were planning to attend but decided not to when the events of the day had become so dire.  There was still time for us to get ready and go.  By the time I returned to the barn, I was prepared to talk Vicky into going to the concert. 
      “Let’s go anyway.  What’s done is done and there is no reason that we shouldn't go,” I reasoned.
       Vicky hesitated.  The day had been long for her too but, in the end she saw my point.  We weren't leaving the patient to attend the concert.  We were escaping the scene of the despair.  Perhaps we might find comfort in Ian’s sad lyrics from songs such as At Seventeen, In the Winter and Tea and Sympathy.
       We were right!  our seats were less than 20 feet from Janis Ian’s acoustic stage setting.  Her soothing vocals and depressing verses put me in a state of catatonic appreciation, allowing me to wallow in heartache.  For the first time that day I did not fight the sadness; instead I let it penetrate deep into my core. 
To be continued... 
Where Attention Goes, Energy Flows (Part 3)



M & M enjoying each other's company against an Adirondack background.








5 comments:

  1. I know I have heard the story before, but Murray was such a wonderful horse for us at Morrisville and for you, it made me cry as well. I have unfortunately had to make that decision many times when a horse has an acute condition. It doesn't get easier, but I have never regretted my decision to end the pain of a suffering animal when there is no longer any hope.

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  2. I am immediately transported back to my husband standing with lead rope in one hand and IV bag balanced on his shoulder as I had to leave our Cocoa. Sadly I was unable to be there when the final decision had to be made. We never stop loving them and somehow your heart can keep growing as the next horse is loved just as much but never replaces the one before. Thanks Anne for another great chapter! Jackie

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  3. "We never stop loving them...." Well said, Jackie! They can never be replaced, but in our hearts there is always room for one more. I know you have been there too.
    Lisa, I have never regretted the decision either and that is ultimately how we are able to move on, isn't it?

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