Making the Decision to Say Goodbye…
One of the hardest decisions as a responsible pet owner is making the call on whether or not it's the right time to say goodbye... It doesn't matter if it's the family dog or your beloved horse.
After months of knowing I was going to have to make the decision soon, last night, after a lengthy conversation with my mother, we decided it was time to lay my much loved, senior horse Paisano to rest. He's 24-years-old, which in and of itself, isn't a death sentence, but he hasn't been himself for a long time.
Paisano is an imported Royal Dutch Warmblood. We bought him from a man who had him on contract in Carencro, LA in 2010, the day before he was due to ship back to Florida. Talk about a stroke of good luck! I didn't know it at the time, but Paisano was everything I needed at the time and more.
After years out of the saddle, I bought my first horse back in the game in 2007... a green, off-track Thoroughbred named Under Pressure, whom I love dearly and still own to this day, but who was entirely inappropriate for someone trying to find their way back. Paisano was the precise confidence builder I needed. He had been there and done that all across the Florida show jumping circuit and he was ready for the next stage in his career... babysitting an adult amateur.
Paisano was a schoolmaster who wasn't phased by anything and while he was kind, he didn't give it away. You had to ask for things correctly or he flat wasn't going to do it... the equine equivalent of telling on you to your riding instructor!
Paisano gave me my joy back in the saddle. He gave me the confidence to ride and show, even though he had this quirk of hanging his tongue out the left side of his mouth which always counted against us in dressage tests. Even when we got marked down for 'submission,' which was a total joke, we knew we did well. He gave me my first taste of advanced dressage movements like canter pirouette and piaffe. Paisano was truly one in a million and I would have never been able to have afforded a horse like him if he hadn't already been a bit older and without papers, which had been lost in a previous barn move.
Several years ago, Paisano started going lame. Eventually, we were able to alleviate the lameness with corrective shoeing and acuscope therapy. He also underwent colic surgery. For those of you with horses, you know this is a long, expensive process, but I assure you, he is and will have always been worth it. That horse gave his life to his people, the least he deserved was a comfortable retirement and the chance to be a real horse, not being shipped from show to show!
However, in the last year or two, Paisano developed multiple masses, which are typical in grey horses, especially older ones. He has large masses in both his mouth and his rectum. If I'm honest, I'm sure there are more that aren't easily detectable by the eye. He's also become increasingly anxious, especially around dusk, making him dangerous to handle at times, because he becomes so distraught. I'm sure he's having some vision problems and possibly some dementia. Up until now, I've always comforted myself with the fact that because he knew me, his momma, he would settle down, and we would be fine, but now, more often then not, he's not recognizing me and becoming more and more agitated and it's breaking my heart. When my mom broke it to me that Sherry, the lady that helps us out with our horses, was having trouble handling him, I knew it was time.
My 73-year-old mother fell last month, breaking her leg in two places and lightly fracturing her wrist. I just brought her home from the rehab hospital last Friday. She's non-weight bearing for 60 days, then it'll be next to impossible to keep her out of the barn. If a steady, generally un-spookable horse like Pressure can accidentally knock her down, what's going to happen when all 1,600 pounds of Paisano, worried and fretful, doesn't see her? I simply can't take that risk. Two days after her fall, we had a nasty storm roll in. I've never been afraid to go out and catch any of my horses, but for the first time, I was actually scared to catch my own horse in his own pasture. It's gotten that bad. It's a horrible decision to make, but as a responsible pet owner, if he's that upset and scared, with round eyes and heaving sides, even when it's not storming, you have to ask, is it fair to have him living in confusion and fear? That can't be considered a good quality of life.
So for the next few days, Paisano can have all the alfalfa he wants. I'm going to brush and groom him until he gleams as long as he'll allow it and then it'll be time to say goodbye to one of the kindest, most majestic of God's creatures I've even been blessed to have in my life. I can't pretend that it won't be awful. I'm crying horrible, wrenching sobs as I write this. Sure, I have other horses, other pets, but it's not the same. They're all so different. And even though I can't ride my sweet Pai anymore, we have a bond, a connection of trust and understanding that when he's present, I mean really there mentally, can't be replaced. So pray for me, because I'm not under any delusions... this is going to hurt like hell for some time to come.
Goodbye my sweet Pai, March 14th will always be our day my friend!