Autumn is a large draft cross horse. She’s big, strong, powerful and loving. She’s taken care of many beginner riders and has given the first ever ride on a horse to many people with kindness and patience.
Autumn has been loved and cherished by us for years and when she developed a breathing disorder four years ago we vowed to do what we could to help her be comfortable for as long as we could.
Those comfort days were drawing to a close and I was looking at Autumn when I called Dr. Sherry on a bland Wednesday morning. “Autumn looks rough.”
Dr. Sherry said “I’m sorry, but we can’t keep her at that dose of medication without causing organ damage… It’s time.”
I started crying and Dr. Sherry apologized with such kindness that I cried harder, but I knew she was right. I knew it was time. The kindest thing we can offer, is a peaceful end of days. It would be selfish of me to keep Autumn going on medications that were damaging her system. She was a skeletal shell of who she once was…
I knew Dr. Sherry spoke the truth, but until I heard the words it hadn’t become real. I told Dr. Sherry I would speak to Brent and we would make a decision.
On Friday I called Dr. Sherry and we booked an appointment for Monday. We had the weekend to enjoy Autumn.
I gave her extra treats and plenty of grain. I kept her medication at the high dose, so she was comfortable.
Brent walked Autumn out to the pasture where Dr. Sherry gave her a sedative. A few minutes later Autumn laid on the ground and Dr. Sherry gave Autumn a lethal dose of drugs that would stop her heart. This is the first horse I’ve witnessed euthanized. It’s crushing and heart breaking, but in the end it brought peace.
Dr. Sherry’s stethoscope has a happy face on it under glass. When she lifted the happy face away from Autumn’s chest she nodded at me… Autumn was gone.
I stroked Autumn’s face and murmured sweet nothings in her ear before I got up and hugged Brent. We turned and followed Dr. Sherry back down the path to the barn. Now, two heartbeats missing.
I asked if it was appropriate for the other horses to be brought out to see Autumn and she agreed. Dr. Sherry said “animals need to grieve too.”
After Dr. Sherry left we led Splash, JB, Heidi, Nelly and Elsa down to pay their respects to Autumn. Heidi (the oldest mini horse) sniffed Autumn’s nose and her eyes went wide as she backed away. JB sniffed Autumn’s nose and nickered softly and then loudly. He bit her nose and got no response. He stood quietly and sniffed Autumn for a long time before walking away, his eye full of sadness.
Nelly and Elsa gave a quick sniff and wandered off to eat. I suppose goats live in the moment.
It was Splash that had our hearts breaking. She wouldn’t go near Autumn at first and then she sniffed once at Autumn’s belly and buried her face in my arm. I tried to bring her near Autumn’s head and nose, but Splash would hide behind me and stand very still.
We realized Splash was confused and gave her a bit of time, but after the first sniff she refused to go back. Splash continues to call for Autumn.
Animals grieve. People grieve. Time.
As we laid Autumn to rest I thought about all the wonderful times we’d spent together. Galloping on the beach.
Riding through the short hills, teaching her to jump, spring baths on the first hot day and how she would gaze at me with those soulful brown eyes. She knew all my secrets and loved me just for me.
I’m going to miss that big bay draft cross… Rest easy big girl and say hello to Gus…