The vet had come out and giving him an injection of stronger antibiotics to kick it, as well. His legs were great by the weekend. I wasn't sure how long to continue his meds so I contacted the vet, and 5 days was perfect for him. He was free from needing any more and looking great by Saturday, but he was quite the baby with them. After the meds, he wouldn't eat anything. I know bute is bitter, but come on, Spyder, you love food! After I gave him them, I would graze him and it would take him a while to eat again. He always makes it totally obvious that he doesn't want to be bothered with medicine. It was a fun few days of catching him by bringing him carrots that he was only interested in when other horses would eat them first. He'd hear them munching and I could grab his halter. I brought either a grain bucket or a carrot, and I got him each day - getting him to take any medication by day 2 is always an adventure because he was smart. He knew what you were doing, and he wanted no part of it.
|Bday meds face - thrilled.|
The days are quite the blur with everything I've had going on (3 weeks left of grad school), but I think it was Sunday (now June 5th) that I got a call he wasn't eating his grain. There are a mother and daughter that feed, and the daughter noticed he was breathing heavy (pony clubber and 4-h'er in the club I help lead). I got a call when I was out food shopping from the barn owner, but she advised me that her daughter was out there mowing and to call her because she wasn't home. Again, Spyder, eat your food. The meds are over! I knew it was hot, but there was a lot of rain coming so I was glad it would cool him off. I barn owner let me know that she was out there mowing around 5 or so and he was looking fine in the field. I was relieved to hear that, and with the rain on the way was glad he could cool off in the shed.
|His bday cold shoulder.|
I brought him water, and he drank the bucket I lifted to his face. The same mother and daughter came to feed, and I already had him out trying to graze him a bit. He was next to the bathing area hanging out with his paddock mate while he got a bath, he was jealous about the hose on him so I grabbed the hose from her in the middle of the bath and put some water on Spyder to cool him down. He was eating grass (being picky, but he was), and he was dragging me around like he usually does. They came with his grain to feed when I had him out, and he was eating his grain slowly from the bucket. The mother that fed was worried because he wasn't devouring it like he usually did, and she said that he would keep eating, even with colic, which is true. At this point, I was a bit worried. Spyder didn't want to really walk any where quickly, but he was happy to go back in the field with his buddies. I put him back out because he seemed upset that it was feeding time, and he didn't get to go snip out the buckets from the other horses like he was used to. I stayed to watch him walk past the other horses and right into the run in. I was upset that he didn't drink any water, but I was happy that had a lot of grass. I stayed until 9pm or so and didn't eat dinner because I was so worried about him, he looked like he was walking a bit stiff which worried me that the cellulitis wasn't completely done.
I woke up early on Tuesday to get there. I opened my eyes at 5am, and I popper right out of bed to get to the farm to check on him. I could hear him breathing heavy like he has been before I got there. I pet him, and he didn't want to walk. I tried to pull him out of there, but he didn't move all but a couple steps. At this point, I grabbed him some water (because I don't know if he would have walked to get some) and a thermometer to get his temp. He was already shoving himself back in the corner, he didn't move so I could get his temp which was good. Still, no temp. I didn't believe it, so I took it again. He was still showing no temp. I tried to get him to walk again, but he didn't want to, and he didn't want water. Now, I was REALLY worried. I had already texted the vet with no answer, and so I called the emergency line. By now, the person that feeds most morning was there, and he always comes to him. None of the horses would come to him because they were all in the run in. He banged on the gate, and the 2 that were out came, but Spyder was behind. The vet didn't answer, so I texted the barn owner who got ahold of her. She said it'd be about an hour before she could get there, but she called me to say sorry and that I was next, and she was hurrying. I had to leave for work because I had a demonstration so I was upset I couldn't be there, but happy she was on her way. I didn't let the vet know that, though.
I brought him in with the help of the feeder, and it was awful. He couldn't really move, he was so stiff. He didn't want to move. He tried his best, while the feeder led him, and I pushed his sides. Clicking and saying "walk, walk, cluck cluck, walk" the whole way. Spyder was still breathing heavy, but he made it. He went to his stall. I got him water, and I actually filled two buckets so they wouldn't have to change it for me. He just stayed in the corner like he did on his birthday, but I went in and gave him carrots. He ate them, but he was chewing slow. He wouldn't touch his grain. I was so upset, but I knew the vet was on her way. The barn owner was coming with a fan and he would get banamine soon. I wasn't sure what the stiffness was, but I was thinking laminitis. Is this what the cellulitis turned in to? Was he colicing? I was panicked. He has some nasal discharge and was sneezing, so maybe he was getting something else?
The vet called me from the barn asking where I was. She was worried and let me know that she was thinking it was in his chest. If he had a tumor or something, it would have released protein which would have made his legs swell from the change. It would have also given him the pain that he was experiencing to walk. She told me that he needed to get to a vet hospital and that she wanted to see an ultrasound of his chest. I let her know that that was fine, and she told me that the barn owner was already getting the trailer to get him up there (so I didn't drive 30 minutes home and 30 mins back after hooking up the trailer). I was so thankful that she could arrange for that for me to get him up to Mid-Atlantic which is a two-hour drive. They had the facilities to get the ultrasound done and find out what it was. I spoke with the owner when she was on her way and thanked her because I didn't want to let my job down. I wanted to be there, but I had a presentation. I couldn't focus. I let the sales rep know that I had an emergency, and he sped through the demo for me. I was closing up what I had to get done (Tuesday, June 7th at this point). I knew I had to travel for work later in the week so I wanted to work as much as I could in case I needed to get out of traveling. I powered through it all, and I called the hospital a few times for updates. First, they said that the Doctor would call, he didn't. The barn owner wanted an update since she was waiting for him. They wouldn't tell her anything. I called again, they said he was with him and that he'd call. He didn't. I called AGAIN and they said he would call in just 1 minute because she just saw him, and he said he would, and he didn't. He got there around 12:30-1 so I wasn't sure what was going on by 2.
At this point, I got in my car and drove. I told work I had to go because I needed answers. I went home, I contacted the barn owner and told her that she didn't have to stay because they didn't tell me anything. I was going to grab my trailer and try to keep calling them on my way. I didn't know what to do, I couldn't think. I texted Dom, and I asked her if she lived near the hospital, because I thought she did. She let me know she was 10 minutes away and that she could meet me there after work. She was out at 4, and that was earlier than I could get there, so I appreciated that. She raced there after work, and by then, the doctor told me a little. I wasn't even home to change or grab the trailer, I was almost there, but I made a wrong turn. I ended up in a parking lot at a store near our house, and it was this point that I knew I was losing it. I couldn't even drive to my own house - what was wrong with me? I hung up from the barn owner to take the vet call and he gave me a play by play of what happened. I told Dom I'd call her when I knew more. I spoke to him in the parking lot and he gave me a play by play, so very calmly that it calmed me down.
He gave me the chain of events. Spyder got there in the trailer, and he didn't look so great. They said he wasn't able to walk off so they blocked his legs. He walked himself into the exam room at this point, but he collapsed and they couldn't get him up. They let me know he was really bad and they were trying right now to get him up so they could get him into a stall. The did some tests, but they only knew it was pain, possibly kidneys, and a calcium issue. I was heartbroken. I called the barn owner to update her as I drove home to get changed. I told her the update, and she said, "Jess, he was really bad. He was trembling, and they couldn't even get him to walk off the trailer without shots in all of his legs." I was happy that she didn't upset me at work because she knew I had a presentation, and I can't thank her enough for saving me from worrying hours sooner. I called Dom to rely that to her, and let her know I was 2 hours out, letting the dog out to pee, and changing. I got home, put the dog out, and went to change. I took off my dress pants and I stood in the closet crying. I was staring at all of my pants/bottoms. Jeans, sweatpants, yoga pants, running pants, leggins. I was literally staring at them - why couldn't I put them on? I was a wreck. I gave Dom play by play updates where I was. She called me when she was on her way. She was getting there 30 minutes of so before me.
On the highway, she called me. I had to give them permission to tell her anything and let them know she could see him. She told me she was going to see him, and she texted me photos of him standing in a stall. I was so relieved that he was up. I was also upset that the Doctor didn't update me. I was even more happy to know that Dom knew the doctor that was working on him. She knew him since she was 12 or so and was hoping to see him before I got there. She thinks that they probably just got him up and in a stall when she got there, and she let me know he was looking for food. This was a huge relief considering they told me it was so bad that I shouldn't even go there because he was on the floor and not getting up. Dom came to the front when i pulled up and showed me where the office was when I got him. They wouldn't let me past them until I confirmed by address (which they did on the phone when I called the first time prior to telling me anything) and made me fill out a credit card slip. I didn't even read the form I signed and had no idea about costs or what they would keep doing or not doing because I didn't consent to anything that I knew of. I realized when I left that night that I didn't even sign the form.
I went back to the stall, I looked at him, and I was heartbroken. He was on fluids to flush his kidneys and calcium because his levels were so low. He has icepacks on all 4 of his legs, so I new it was laminitis. The doctor mentioned that when I was on the phone with him, but I didn't even really listen other than hearing he was on the ground. Dom even asked me the Doctor's name prior to going and I said that I have no idea. I listened past that to get the update. It was hard to see him, he was showing a lot of weight loss. He was still breathing pretty heavy, but he was also heavily sedated. He did perk his ears when he saw me, and he was showing an interest in water. Since he was on the fluids, he was peeing a lot, and it seemed to be coming out well. It was clear, and I was happy to see him pee. It seemed like he was trying to pee on Monday and Tuesday when he was at the farm because he was dropped. I did tell the local vet that he was not holding himself up which was unusual for him - which is why I was SO very happy to see him pee. Everyone there seemed happy because it was clear, too. Dom knew two of the people that worked there, and Mike was coming to bring her some clothes since she came from the clinic. I didn't care that Dom thought she smelled (she didn't), she gave me a big hug, knew the doctor, and knew employees. She kept me calm and even showed the people there a photo of what he looked like before looking like this. It was sad to see him, but he still wanted to eat and was munching on some hay.
He was shifting his weight a lot, but he could move to get the hay. He could have comfort on the bedding they had for him, and I had comfort knowing he was at least somewhat comfortable. It was just hard to see him sedated and losing weight. The doctor spoke to me and said that he had some real concerns. He was unsure how his calcium levels were so low if his kidneys were so bad. He mentioned kidney disease and said that the ultrasound showed some abnormalities on them. He didn't seem to say much about a prognosis, but he was doing his best with the information he had to figure it out. They ran another blood test on him and said they would get me the results before I left. We went up front and hung out, but we never heard anything. We went back into the barn and saw Spyder again, he got some new ice on his feet, and we talked with a few of the other horse owners we saw while checking out the other horses. I was so happy that he was here, Dom was close, and that she knew those that could keep me updated. I went back to Dom's, we ordered dinner, and we fed her two boys, checked out Mike's awesome woodshop, and relaxed. It was so nice of them to have me over, and I was so happy I got to meet Mike, see the puppies, and try to forget about the stress. Their place will do that to you... it's beautiful.
I left knowing that I had real support here, they both felt for me and offered their support and caring. Dom was already reading up on kidney issues so that she could understand what may have caused this. I drove home, and I was hopeful that I would get better news the next day. I was able to sleep knowing that he seemed comfortable and was eating (but I spent so much tears the way there and back still). I went to work on Tuesday, and I let them know I was waiting on the vet to call with an update because they ran the blood work. The vet from the hospital called and said that his kidney levels were better, but he was still in so much pain. He didn't say a whole lot, but he did ask if I was visiting. It wasn't until I hung up that I realized maybe he wanted to tell me something in person. He mentioned severe kidney issues, and I straight up asked what the prognosis would be. He said best case, a comfortable pasture pet, but he didn't know if was fit to be comfortable with both the kidney disease and laminitis. He said kidney issues are not good for horses. In not wanting to hear that, I asked if he could be ridden again - yes, I sounded like a crazy person, but I needed to hear it in some other term. He said that he could not see him being ridden or used as he was before, could only hope to ease his pain (and said again that he was on a lot of it and had a bad night), and it would be a long road to recovery, if he would even recover and that he could not see him getting in a trailer any time soon. At this point, I didn't know what to think. I got off the phone, and I knew what it meant. It just wasn't processing.
At this point, I let Dom know that I was headed back up there. I let the standardbred facility where I adopted him from know what was going on, and the founder said to call her. I spoke to her, and she let me know that it wouldn't be easy, and I gave her the whole story of how this was simple cellulitis on the Monday before, and now Wednesday, a week and a half later, it's this. She was comforting in letting me know that I did everything I could have done and confirmed what I already knew, but didn't yet admit. I spoke with work, and I was on my way out. I called the local vet and left a message for her to call me back. I didn't hear back so I texted her. I again went home to change, and I let the dog out. I was sobbing. Literally sobbing. The dog was so upset and scared that he curled his tail under and ran away from me. I let him out back, and he was afraid to come back in. He was just as upset as I was that life was like this for me. I headed out and realized I was forgetting carrots so I stopped at a store on the way up to buy a bag. I knew it would be Spyder's last bag. He loved them so I went in to the grocery store and took a deep breath. I thought I was OK, but I cried in line, during checkout, and the whole way to the hospital.
I was patiently waiting for the local vet to call when I saw I got a voicemail from her. I was upset my phone didn't ring, but she instructed me to call her right back. She was also so helpful in this process and left me a very long message the night before letting me know that she was there for me and Spyder was lucky to have me to get him to the hospital as soon as he did. Others would not have given him a shot, and she comforted me knowing that I was giving him just that. I pulled over before I called her back because I knew what she would say. I let her know that whatever she said, I knew what I had to do. She was so very happy that I was willing to listen, and let me know that she spoke with the vet at the hospital. He was very concerned and she let me know that the medication he was on was serious stuff. He wasn't going to be much of a horse without prolonged medication, and he couldn't be on many drugs because of the kidney issue. She explained it to me using smaller animals as the example. You could take a dog or cat to the vet to get fluids in them to keep them going, but a horse wasn't so easy. The vet explained his levels to her, and they were both surprised he made it to the hospital alive. She explained to me that he was an incredible animal. He taught her so much and she thanked me for giving her the opportunity to work with him. She let me know that he wasn't easy and he always had her researching things because he was so different than other cases for anything he had going on. She let me know that he was so very strong and he hid what he had all along. She mentioned that the other doctor asked her what he should do - as far as continuing to try to help him or to take the pain away. She let him know that he knew the answer to that and he thanked her.
I cried like a baby to the vet. Hearing that made it more real. I knew what would be in his best interest leaving work, but I knew that I needed to hear it from her to come to terms with everything. I got back on the road and got to the hospital. On the way, I let Dom know what was going to happen, and she met me there. I got there before her, and the office was closed. No one in the office knew what was going on, but I let them know that I was there to be with Spyder when he was freed from his pain. Since they didn't know what was going on, they made some phone calls, did some paging, and told me to visit Spyder. I went back to his stall and advised Dom to meet me there because they said she could go right back. I walked to his stall, and I saw him on so many more bags of various things than before. He was visibly skinnier, having a hard time breathing, and shifting his weight. He didn't perk up too much to see me, but I think the drugs made him unable to do much. He was tied to the window so he didn't drop his head, and he was not eating his hay which was at his face. I didn't even open the stall. I stared at him. He stared at me, sad, depressed, hurting, and unknowing to the challenges we were both facing. I walked past his stall without going in and saw Dom at the end of the barn with Mike. I instantly walked towards her and she greeting me with a hug. I was crying, it was awful. This was it.
We both walked to the stall, and Dom's strength helped me get in there with the carrots I got him on the way. He was happier to be pet by both of us, and we both knew that he was worse than the night before. He was on DMSO and a few other things, and he was totally out of it. He grabbed the carrots I gave him, but he could hardly chew them. It was heartbreaking. It was not the Spyder I remember and it's not the Spyder I wanted to see. I wanted to see him better. I wanted to do everything I could to make it right. I wanted to do something, and there was nothing I could do. I was hopeless. I needed to ease his pain. I went back to the office to try to take my mind off of the horrible condition I saw my best friend in. I asked the girl at the desk when the doctor was going to call me, because she said that he would when he got somewhere (he was out). She advised him that I needed to speak to someone because I pressed the situation. The doctor finally called. I answered, and he asked me if I spoke with the local vet. I told him that I did, and I knew what I had to do. He let me know that Spyder had a bad night and that the medicine he was on was very serious. It was only keeping him comfortable, but he was feeling the pain. I knew, I could see it. He advised me that he was out and asked what my plans were. I told him I had a flight to catch for work, and that I didn't want to see him like this. He advised me that I spend time with him while he sorted it out, but I told him that I needed someone to be there sooner rather than later because it was hard to spend time with a horse that I no longer knew. He was raising his head up due to pain and his muscles were flinching. He was hunching his back and dribbling urine on himself. This wasn't Spyder. Spyder was healthy, happy, young, full of life. happy to see me, and always eating. He told me that he would find someone and make the calls. I cried talking to the vet, and Dom was so nice to hug me and keep strong for me. I felt so weak.
They came up to tell me that they were getting everything ready and advised me that it would be better if I wasn't there for it. They explained that it's not really safe to be there, and the doctor arranged for everything to happen in the stall. It had to be there, as Spyder couldn't walk out of it. I went back out there with Dom and Mike to say goodbye. I brought the carrots with me, and he looked better than he did from the last trip to the stall. His ears went up, he looked better, and he looked more comfortable. He ate a few more carrots that we fed both fed him, and he was so happy that we were there, petting him, rubbing his neck, I pet his face and I rubbed under his head like he loved. He usually put his head down when I did that, but he couldn't since he was tied. I was happy knowing that he was happy and that this is what he'd remember. He'd remember the people that cared for him, the people that taught him things, the people that gave him a good home and loved him. He wouldn't remember this pain in a short while. They switched his medicine over to a sedative and I didn't look back on my way out, I couldn't. I was asked if I would like his tail, and I smiled and said that it was something I couldn't go without. His tail was perfect, he was perfect. Everyone said how great his tail was, and I knew how great he was. I headed back up to the office until they came to get me.
I went back to his stall when they got me. I could see that he was at peace. He looked like the Spyder that I knew, resting and sunbathing on a nice day in the field. He looked happy. He looked calm. He looked like he was no longer in pain, and I wish I could feel the same way. I looked to Dom and I even said, "He looks better here and now, just like this. This is a much better way to see him than how he was." I could never imagine in a million years that I would have to say goodbye so soon. The person that Dom knew that worked there let me know that I did the right thing as she cried right next to me. She let me know that she heard he had a bad night and told me about another horse with a similar situation that was in pain for a while and was put down. She let me know that she was so sorry and that there was nothing I could have done to change it. She was so hurt, and she handed me his beautifully braided tail along with his halter. She and the other person that were there let me know that he went down easy. He was no longer fighting this disease that he hid so well. I am so glad that we got to enjoy every moment together until the very end. I pet him to let him know I was still there. I didn't want to leave him. I wish I could have been there for him more, and I wish it were different. I wish there were something else I could have done.
He was such a great horse. He was always there for me, through homes, a wedding, grad school, hunter paces, shows, jumps in the ring, cantering on the track, breaking my finger because deer are scary, spooking at stumps, rearing in the field, ribbons, smiles, blood, tears, happiness, sadness, hard work, fun, frustration, defeat, lessons, and so much more. He was a once in a life time horse that taught me so much about life. He taught me love, dedication, and persistence. He taught me that being strong on the outside didn't mean that you were always OK on the inside. You should always be appreciate and accepting of others, even with their issues and attitude because you never know what internal battle they are fighting. You never know how long you will get with anyone or anything in your life and you should appreciate every minute you have because you will never know when it will be taken away from you. Life isn't fair, but it happens. It happens to change you and to make you realize that you are stronger than you think. You can do more than what you could ever imagine and you can care for a living creature so much that you would rather anything else in the world to take that pain away.
|Day of our last full ride, May 25th, 2016.|
I will always remember the memories I had with Spyder. He gave me his all. He was so strong and never showed any signs of weakness. He was a warrior, and I hope that this experience makes me 1/100 of the warrior he was. I could not thank Dom enough for taking time out of her days to be there for me and to keep me from crying. She is the person that brought Spyder to me, and I am so glad that she was there for me until the end. It was an honor and relief to have her there with me - thank you for being so strong. I cannot thank my husband enough for sticking through all of this with me and comforting me even though it seemed impossible. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't have even given Spyder the chance. I would have given up way before I should have. He was always a challenging animal and Dom showed me his full potential. Chris convinced me that his check ligament injury was only a small setback from our huge pool of potential and told me that the hard would would pay off in the end. He was always supportive in my lessons, my events, my trailer, tack purchases, etc. Having Spyder was truly the greatest joy of so many days that I spent at the barn. I have to thank the barn owners for trailering him up there, always helping when the vet would call, and helping me out along the way.
Both the local vet and Mid-Atlantic were so comforting and did everything they could to keep Spyder comfortable. The farrier even reached out to see what he could do and wondered if he could find out the rotation of the bone to potentially work on his feet and make him better. SRF's founder was comforting and even followed up today to let me know that she spoke with the vet at the hospital (her husband is a vet and knows the vet that worked with Spyder). She comforted me in letting me know that it wasn't something poisonous. It was something that he hid from us and let me know that I did the right thing for him. The vet showed her where he got off the trailer and where he had to walk and let her know that he couldn't do it. It wasn't in him, he was so strong and he did everything he could to please me until the very end.
I am not sure that's everything as I wrote this in a few different sessions. I probably forgot a lot, but I wanted to get it all out so that I could share my story. As much as I don't want to remember it, I know that I will look back and see what it taught me, just as my hard times trying to figure him out did. Don't ever feel like you have failed because that pain is the worst of all. I know that I did all that I could, but I feel like I still failed. I feel like I am so weak. I feel like I could have done more, and I wish I could have him back. He was my world, and he will never be forgotten.
I am sorry (if you could get this far) if I have made you cry. I just thought it would be easiest to share what I am so that I can find some closure and ease the emotions. As I sit here with a wet keyboard, I'm not sure that's what I did for myself, but I can at least recall my emotions and remember his story. I started it from the beginning, and I will end it with his memory. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out. I realize the support system that I have is so great, and the team Spyder had behind him was incredible.
To my Spyder, "the devil", I love you. Rest easy, you are free. 6.7.16.