I don’t speak much about Dodger or Norma Jean, because they have their own FB page.
I’ve had Norma Jean, Dodger and Gwen for 25 years. I know this because Gwen was a tiny baby when I rescued both Dodger and Norma Jean. Gwen will be 25 on April 23rd.
When I lived in Oregon, I went to my very first ‘horses for meat’ auction. The sadness and desperation in that building was overwhelming, and this is why I raise money for horses in dire need – instead of hanging out at auctions – because I just couldn’t take the fear and panic in the room. All the animals were in distress. It was horrible.
Dodger was sitting in a tiny chute type stall – more like a sqeeze in rows of sqeezes. At this time, I didn’t have horses at home. All of my horses were boarded elsewhere. But, I had room and I wanted to start small by saving a small equine.
The card on Dodger’s stall said nothing. No age, no name, no breed. Nothing. Only a lot number. Whomever dropped him off, didn’t care.
I saw this bright, tiny pony – scared out of his mind. I decided that he would be the one.
When the time came, I bid on him and won him for his meat price. $26.50.
I had gone to the auction telling myself that I was ‘only looking’ – so I didn’t bring my trailer. I really had no idea how awful it would be and how many I wished I could have saved… But what I did was pay for him to be boarded one more night there, then I bedded him down, gave him food and water, and left.
The next day, he loaded like a champ. And, let me tell you, he was the very first horse I had ever loaded into my trailer. He was the first horse I ever trailered by myself. His freedom ride was my first time as driver.
This was 1995.
I ALREADY HAD SLICK…
I had rescued Slick, too… but he was boarded still.
So, it was time to put the two boys together, plus the newly rescued donkey, Norma Jean. Luckily, they loved each other and were frenemies for a very, very long time. They did everything together.
DODGER TRUSTED ME.
In 2003, I moved from Oregon to Grass Valley. Dodger was always a good boy, but he was somewhat distant.
One night, I had put Norma Jean in the barn without his consent. I didn’t realize that Dodger was so emotional – he went into colic. I have since learned to never move anyone out of his pasture…
Anyway, I saw that he was ill and I brought him into the barn. I loved all over him and gave him a remedy while waiting for the vet. The vet did his work and Dodger came out of it.
In that moment, I realized that Dodger looked at me differently. He got it. He realized that I specifically helped him through this time.
After that, he looked at me for help whenever he needed it. I swear. He made it very clear. Dodger tended to upset himself over little changes… so he tried to colic often. I always came to his rescue. He looked for me to give him the cure and make it all better.
Four years ago, we moved to Paso Robles from Grass Valley.
Slick had passed just a few months before we moved, so only Dodger and Norma came with us.
The fist winter we were here in Paso, Dodger contracted pneumonia. The vet and I were able to bring him out of it. I remember clearly how Dodger looked at me the morning I realized that he was very ill. And, we fixed it.
After that, we created an old timers’ pen where Dodger and Norma Jean could have abundant shelter, a fan, mister and soft shavings whenever they needed it. They had the most shade and the best views. I could see them clearly from the house.
In the last year, Dodger had gotten considerably more grey and clearly more elderly. He was losing his hearing and his sight. Luckily, Norma Jean was always there.
This month, I had been letting both Norma and Dodger out on the lawns to have limited green grass. Dodger was thrilled. I actually thought that he was looking more spry…
Just last week, as I was opening their gate to let Norma and Dodger into the larger field – Dodger ran down to the gate. Once I opened it, he hesitated (his sight?) and he waited for Norma to walk him over the gate line. But, he seemed totally fine, for a very old pony.
Above is a photo from last night at feeding time. Dodger seemed fine. The only telltale sign might have been that his breath wasn’t sweet, which was unusual. I made a mental note to call the vet to look at his teeth. Other than that smell, he looked totally normal and was acting totally normal.
This morning, when I went out to feed, he was clearly dying. I felt totally helpless and awful that I didn’t know what to do for him and I couldn’t help him. I couldn’t determine what was wrong – but he was failing, dying, in pain. I’ve never seen that before. He tried to walk towards me… and everything in his movement and demeanor told me that he was dying. He seemed so hopeful that I was there… but I knew this was bad, really bad. If I had had a gun, I would have shot him, that is how bad it was. I hate guns, I hate killing spiders… but I would have helped him in that way. I knew it was very bad and I wanted to fix it for him. He was begging me to fix it for him. It was horrible.
The vet got there within 30 minutes. He gave Dodger a shot to see if he could take down the pain and reduce his sky-high heart rate. But the shot didn’t help. The vet said he had never heard a heart race so fast… and he has been doing this for 40 years. Dodger was sweating profusely, he was struggling to stand and he was scared.
It was bad.
We hardly said much, the vet and I, but I could see that Dodger just wanted to lay down and be out of this misery So, we helped him. It was a very quick – but so obvious – decision. I couldn’t have him suffering in such a horrible way – I couldn’t see the demon that was gripping him, but it was inside of him – killing him too slowly. The vet shook his head and said that this was Dodger’s time.
He ran to his truck and got the dose. Every second was horrible pain… I looked into Dodger’s frightened eyes and told him that I was going to help. And I swear, Dodger held his head up high and watched the vet return with the shot. He knew and he was clearly ready. He wasn’t scared of the vet. He was scared of what was happening to him. Dodger was a very proud pony and he knew he was losing his grip.
We let our lovely, handsome, proud Dodger… go.
We all, Norma included, stood there in shock. What just happened?! I was in total disbelief. But, my pony was at peace. No more panic and pain.
Luckily, the vet was able to find a wonderful construction worker with a kind heart who was out of work due to the coronavirus lockdown… who came over immediately to bury sweet Dodger. The vet said that we were lucky there was a lockdown because ‘backhoe guys are tough to find right away’.
I was very thankful that Dodger’s little body wasn’t sitting in the field for more than 20 minutes.
Norma and I watched the entire thing.
I AM HEARTBROKEN
I don’t know about Norma… she seemed to be relieved. I’m thinking she sensed all of this before we humans. I think she knew… and I think she had a horrible night with him.
Me, I’m heartbroken. I feel like I failed him, although I know that 40 years is a long time and he probably was breaking down inside… The vet had no idea what specifically was happening to Dodger, but offered several options of what was going on – all due to old age.
So, I’m having a glass of wine. In the middle of the day. Because I just can’t deal with the loss of such a kind and sweet, proud pony. Mostly, I had just promised him that we would all move back to Grass Valley and he could be in his sweet pasture again. The one he loved… but I didn’t have the time to make that happen.
He beat me to it.
I’m hoping he and Slick are running together, bitey facing and bucky running all over the heavens. As it should be.