Friday, July 15, 2011

It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice. ~ Author Unknown

A week or so ago, one of my Middle Tennessee eventer friends, Julie, unexpectedly lost one of her beloved senior horses, Gipper, to colic. Although she got him safely to the vet hospital and they did everything they could, he eventually went past the point of hope for a positive recovery and Julie made the choice to let him go. 

Yesterday, she found a package on her doorstep with a return address from the emergency vet hospital where Gipper had died. When she opened it, she found a memorial gift to Gipper they had made for her: a shadowbox containing his shoes and a gently braided lock of his mane. She was incredibly surprised and touched by this very caring act. When I heard about this, it brought tears to my eyes to think about how thoughtful and considerate those vets and their techs are to do this. Imagining them carefully pulling his shoes and clipping and braiding his mane, then arranging those pieces sweetly in the shadowbox for Julie, reaffirms the fact that there are people out there who do truly care about all aspects of horse care and horse ownership and those of us who have devoted our lives to our animals. Julie has been slowly moving on after losing Gipper, but I know she is further healed after receiving that gift. Having a part of him always with her in a physical sense will continue to keep him with her in a spiritual sense, as well. 

It's just over 3 years since I lost Reece suddenly to colic/a ruptured intestine. He died early one morning in my barn, so I had no one else involved and there was no time to get him to a vet hospital. I found him down and then -- literally moments later -- he just died. I was so shocked and frantic that it was all I could do to put my brain and body on autopilot, call in to work and tell them I wasn't coming in, and then see that my neighbor got Reece buried on the back of my farm. Everything happened so fast and yet seemed like it took forever, but when it was all over -- and the shock wore off -- I finally cried and cried and cried (and,  I still cry over losing him to this day) and at last I started to grieve. I never got a piece of his mane or tail and I didn't even remove his fly mask before they buried him. I just wanted it over with as quickly as possible. Now, all this time later I wish I had something of Reece to keep and hold on to, but I don't and I believe that sort of has been a hang up in my sorrow over his death. I think the shadowbox is a wonderful thing to do for an owner who has lost a horse and it surely must help to put to rest some of the sadness. I am so happy for Julie that she is lucky enough to have a vet that really understands what it is to love and let go.


Misty said...

How sweet, Holly! Here at UTCVM, they provide paw prints in a cast stone when a dog is euthanized.

Anonymous said...

This post really touched me. I lost my horse suddenly when I was 15 (I am 23 now) due to a tragic accident and hadn't actually grieved over her passing until about 2 years ago. Like you, I wish I had a little piece of her to hold on to. Luckily I do have some pictures of her that I keep up all around my house which does help me remember her and remeber the good times we had together. Please let your friend know that there are fellow horselovers who are thinking about her through this hard time.

Holly Ratcliff said...

Misty, UT does a *great* job honoring pets when they pass away. I know you all also have the program to help people deal with the grief over losing a pet, which I think is very special. Lots of people think animals are just there and it's not that difficult to move on when they are gone, so it makes such a difference to those of us who truly love our animals when a vet practice/hospital really respects the fact we are devastated when we lose one. I guess they wouldn't do what they do if they didn't understand that!

Holly Ratcliff said...

What a kind comment, Robyn! Like you, I do have some pictures of Reece, but I wish I had the camera I have now when he was still alive, because I know I'd have tons more. I cherish what I do have, though. Just knowing how much he benefited from living with me and how much he loved me for saving him (he was a CANTER OTTB purchase, who I bought because he had a bowed tendon from the track) should be satisfaction enough for me to hold on to. I've had numerous pets and even other horses pass away over the years, but for some reason Reece is the one I just can't get over. Knowing others out there understand, though, really helps. I think that's what is so touching about Julie's shadowbox: clearly, that is something tangible that lets her know others out there care just as much as she does! We always talk about how, with horses, it really does "take a village" in so many different ways....but it applies in bad times as well as good. We're never just out there on our own!