Goodbye to Dion

Today The Golden Carrot lost six year resident, Dion, to cancer. I struggled to choose, among so many pictures, those to include here. Dion's time here was made happy by his love, Peanut, and finding pictures of him without her was difficult.


Like so many of our residents, we know very little about his life up to arriving here. He had probably raced, as he had a very faded and illegible tattoo. The locals who contacted me to take him were ignorant and unsympathetic - and he showed the results of that in a gaunt body. But as with all OTTBs I’ve had the pleasure to know, he was interested and willing. Jumped into the trailer and headed home with us without a backward look.


Unlike many thoroughbreds, Dion was an easy keeper. Give him enough food, and he got downright plump. This was a little surprising, because he was also an odd combination of calm and excitable. Although calm on the hotwalker and while standing for the farrier, he had almost no front teeth, revealing a past with excessive cribbing (usually a sign of stress).  I'm happy to report that there, with us, he never cribbed, not once.


He was quite low in the herd hierarchy. He was lucky enough to hook up with the gentle and submissive Peanut (who had always stood alone) and from that point onward, he worked to "protect" her. He would pace his stall in a panic, creating a trench connected to two deep holes at either end where he turned around, if he thought another horse could access Peanut in the next stall. I’d find him lathered up, or dry with spiky hair, if any horse got loose in the night, just because they ‘might’ talk to Peanut! Although he would not chase other horses away from her, he would chase her away from them! Like the stalker/abuser guys, he kept his woman far away from the rest of the herd - but only because he couldn’t face the other geldings. He was quite "aggressive" toward them when he was in his stall, but quick to hustle to another area in the herd setting. In his heart, he wanted to be a strong fella - but he was gentle as Peanut. The two of them spent a lot of time hiding out in the back areas. For a short time, Anna joined them and he was ok with that, clinging to Anna when Peanut was working. But even with that comfort, he called and called, until I finally gave up asking Peanut for anything, both for her sake and his.


He was a one - mare kinda guy. In his stall, he would grab some food, and then turn his back on his feeder, and look, chewing, through the partition at Peanut as she ate. In the field, he was always close to her, often in physical contact. He followed where she led, always. Very occasionally, she’d slip away, and he would run frantically, calling, until he found her.


I knew he was changing when in January Smokey joined our herd. For the first time, Dion accepted a friendship offer from another horse, a gelding at that. Smokey is old and was thin, and he was certainly the ‘third-wheel’ of this little group, but every now and then, I saw Smokey and Dion standing together, a little separate from Peanut. In that friendship, Smokey was the needy one, but it was good to see Dion accept a friend.


He was full of arthritis. Listening to him walk out of his stall each morning, snap-crackle-pop, I never gave a moments thought to riding him. He did seem to do better with the daily turnout here, and Peanut moved around a lot (avoiding other horses) so he got lots of movement that I think helped. So he lived, healthy, with a satin coat, and a big dark eye, until about a year ago.


I went to clean his sheath - he was always good for that too. He really did have wonderful ground manners most of the time. But this time, there was a ... lesion? Tumor? Wound? of some sort on his penis. The doc said - cancer. At about this same time, he starting having trouble lifting his hind legs, and both vet and farrier agreed this happens when there is more internal cancerous involvement. Shortly thereafter, he developed a weird wound, perfectly round and unwilling to heal (I finally got it to close with, of all things, twice daily saltwater soaks) on his left shoulder.


I spoke to Dion’s faithful sponsor, a cancer survivor herself, to let her know. And since that time, I’ve been watching him, fearing a sudden collapse such as Comet suffered. He lost weight last winter, but it wasn’t until a full summer of extra rations failed to put that weight back on him that I realized his time was truly short. He developed another weird round ‘wound’ on his left chest, and since he could pick at this one, I never succeeded in getting it to close. He ate just as voraciously, but without gaining any weight. He developed another wound at the coronet band of his left hind foot. Finally, he dropped in front of me last week and I was horrified at the size of the tumor now. What am I waiting for?



Despite earlier losses this month, I decided Dion needed my help this one last time. He had a great heart, and did what he needed to do despite fears and obstacles. I knew he would not give up, anymore than Shine did. And I couldn’t let him face a bitter winter, underweight, and probably in pain, struggling to protect his lady. So yesterday, I sent my boy onward.



I would have given a lot to know who he was. But as old as he was when he came in, his tattoo was far too faded to read. But each horse is who he is - and a pedigree or work history just adds a little information to that. He was kind. He cared, too much, about what he cared about - a passionate guy. He had the courage of the timid - facing life, despite fears, every day. A true form of courage to my mind - its easy to dive in when you don’t know the dangers, but to make that leap when you know how bad it can go .... that was Dion. He kept Peanut isolated when he could, to avoid conflict, but if she wanted to join the herd, he was right there by her side, ready to defend her against anything. I know his spirit is still watching over her, and waiting for her.