Dedicated to my one and only, Aladdin. Originally posted on one of the most difficult days of my life…
THE HARDEST FIX OF ALL…
“Can you fix this, please…?” How many times has your horse looked at you and said with his eyes, “Uh, would you mind ever so much as to remove this bucket from my ankle?…” or something to that effect.
We’ve all been there. Awakened from a sound sleep in the middle of the night by incessant banging. Bang! Bangbangboom! Boombabang! Oy, now what?! You put your jacket over your nightie with your headlamp on tight and you run out to the barn. There, standing by the gate is your forlorn and relieved pet, “I thought you’d NEVER get here! Um, would you mind untangling my tail from the fence? You see, I was itching and my tail got stuck around that post and…”. You get the picture. It is that look of total admission of the predicament which is so endearing. I’ve seen it ample times and like any superhero, I always save the day — or at least THEY think so.
There was the time Finn was messing around too close to the fence and got his shoe caught on the bottom of the wire. I had called everyone to dinner and Finn just stood there. So odd… He looked perfectly normal except he didn’t come to dinner. I was thinking colic. But, as I got closer, I saw that his hoof was tipped ever so slightly. Upon closer inspection, I discover the snag. I looked at him. He looked at me. Finn: “Oops, I know, kinda dumb, huh?” Me: “OK, just stand there while I get something…”, sweat poured down my face. I was thinking he was going to jerk his foot at any minute and pull the fence down tangling himself into shreds. Finn: “Hey, I’ve been like this for over an hour. Another coupla minutes won’t be tough. I’m fine. You go get something to fix it.” And, I did.
I’ve taken hot tape off of legs, feeders off of heads, tree limbs out of tails, pulled a zillion quills out of sensitive areas, washed off skunk, freed an inquisitive head from a narrow fence board, let a rogue horse out of the feed room after she opened the door and then it closed behind her, coaxed my Icy out of the tack room of my trailer and all the usual stuff that happens in normal horse life.
With Aladdin, my gelding who I mention often, we have gone through extraordinary predicaments. I can remember several close calls.
- Once, on a trail ride, we accidentally came between a bull elk, his cow and her babies. Oy! Aladdin froze. FIX THIS PLEASE. I turned him around so fast and we ran lower and faster than we had ever run before. I swear, he looked up at me and said, “That was Coooooool!!”
- We were up in the Oregon mountains when he was bitten by some flying thing. I was riding him and he looked up at me as if to say, “I don’t feel right.” I immediately got off. His face was starting to expand – and then his body. I put on his halter but it was squeezing his face like a string on a balloon. I took that off, dumped his saddle and begged and cajoled him to follow me to the trail head. What took 10 minutes to enter, took over an hour to exit. Every step he willed himself to take – because I was asking. When we got to the mouth of the trail I left him, ran like a maniac, got the trailer and put him in. I careened down the hill into cell phone range and called the vet. She met me somewhere on the freeway and gave him a shot right through the window of the trailer. He survived, barely. He was very grateful. (Now we carry that shot with us at all times).
- A while ago, he cast himself between the barn and an uphill slope. He must have slipped in the mud, fallen down the hill and landed against the barn. I found him at 1:30am. He was there in my flashlight beam, moaning. I had a heartshock for sure. As always, I told him I would get help. Frantically racing into the house, I called my wonderful friends who came right over. Six of us got him unstuck. In his eyes, I’m a miracle worker.
Last week, it happened again. For no reason, he rapidly started to lose his motor control. I called the vet. We ran blood tests and EPM and all of the regular tests plus any other test we could… Nothing. We gave him every medication that ‘couldn’t hurt, could help’. He wasn’t getting better. I finally put him in the trailer before he was so bad that he couldn’t make the trip, and I brought him back to the equine hospital where he spent 9 weeks, 14 months ago. They love him there and will do anything to help him. Every day that I have visited him there this week, Aladdin looked at me as if to say, “This is irritating… Please hurry and fix this.”
But today, after all of us and all the medical minds around the country are exhausted, we have no idea what to do. When I visited Aladdin this afternoon, he graciously took all of my snacks, but again looked at me with the most open and honest heart and asked, “Tell me straight, am I going to get better?” I looked back at him and did what any great friend does for another. I gave him the truth. “No, buddy, not this time.” He looked at me with total resolve and basically gave me the look that said he was done with feeling out of balance. He was done with being less than himself. He was done not being able to prance around shouting, “I’m King!” He was done. So, he asked me, he said, “Well, can you fix it for me?” And, with the reserve of a fighter pilot, I told him that, “Yes, my boy, I can fix this for you.” He sighed as if to say, “Good. I knew you would.” I hugged him for a very long time and he hugged me back.
My heart breaks but I hold onto the thought of how he used to snake his neck and run like a crazy horse and feel the wind and blow and scream and delight himself. He is King. He needs to feel that way again.
So, on the eve of the last day that the most wonderful horse on the planet stands beside me, I have agreed to the hardest fix of all.
Addendum: I wrote this post on Saturday afternoon. Saturday night, after my last visit with Aladdin, he passed on his own — in his stall at the hospital. No pain. He just laid down and checked out. Good Boy, Aladdin… Exit gracefully, just as you lived your life. All the best, my boy. All the best.