Untreated Pain

On March 19, 2012, I made the hard decision to put poor Sooner out of his misery. After 10 months, many doctor visits, equine chiropractor visits, checking teeth, worming, two different courses of bute (the second with much higher dosage over a longer period), massage (as much as he would allow), special feed of every sort, from orchard grass hay, to alfalfa hay, to corn oil, coat supplements, RedCell and other feeds meant to add calories and energy to his diet, Sooner was even thinner than we he joined us, still determined to join the herd everyday but moving slowly and always always looking like he was exhausted and had the worst headache in the world.

The doctor believed that he was in constant, chronic and fairly severe pain due to the low back and right hip injuries that he came in with, using huge calories in his constant adjustments of position. With calcification and who knows how long since the original injuries occurred, there wasn’t anything we could do to help. Because he ate and pooped fairly normally, and yet continued to lose weight, I felt it more likely to be a failure in kidney function (perhaps damage to the nerves serving the kidneys due to the low back injury?). But nothing we could do for pain helped; and kidney failure, as I know from Daphmar and Tango Prince, can’t be helped.

Sooner was brought to TGC by Courtney at Under the Angels’ Wings who first rescued him. He was in his 20s, and UAWR had kept him for about a year. The person who brought him in wasn’t apparently the person who owned him when injured, but couldn’t ‘use’ him and so asked for Courtney’s help. During his time with UAWR, he spent a lot of time alone in his pipe corral stall, and a lot of that time laying down. Courtney isn’t set up for much turnout - each horse gets an hour or two a day alone - so she wondered if my setup, which turns every horse out for all daylight hours together in a very large area full of varied terrain, might be good for him. I do think he enjoyed it, and frequently caught him playing ‘bite my face’ with the other geldings, and eventually, Sooner became quite attached to Sara.

For his short stay here, Sooner wanted to be part of the herd, but he didn’t want it, if that makes any sense. He rejected one stall after another, refusing to go into them until I caught, haltered and lead him in. When I found a stall he loved, in the back, with only one neighbor who left him alone, it was next to the memorial area, and I shivered when I saw how much he liked it - as though it were an omen. In fact, in his last months, I left his gate open so he could cruise the memorial area, and nibble the little bit of grass that grew there.

But each day he trucked out for breakfast, only rarely moving faster than a walk. He did move around the facility, particularly once he fancied Sara, but the movement we hoped would stimulate him and build a little muscle and appetite, never did. Month after month he lost a little more weight. He hated having a blanket put on, but allowed it. And when it got really cold, I had liner underneath it as well.

The final month of his life was made miserable by my syringing pergolide down his throat every day. (The doc said that he could possibly be a Cushings case that doesn’t accumulate hair, and said the meds wouldn’t hurt him if that wasn’t the case - worth a try) He just HATED that. The last week, knowing that it wasn’t working at all, I just put it in his food, but he would leave anything ‘tainted’ by the medication ....and this guy needed every calorie I could coax him to eat. So I realized, when I came out Monday and found him standing in his dry liner and blanket, warm and dry underneath but nevertheless shivering hard, that it was time we quit tormenting this poor soul, and let him go.

Courtney and I had been in touch throughout this, and we both want to kick ourselves for not doing it sooner. Frankly, I’d love to kick the butt of the person who owned him when he was hurt - either get him the help he needed, or if there was nothing to be done for his injuries, why not put him down then? Why send him off to home after home, more adjustments to be made, less ability to do so with each change? He was stoic, and endured all that came his way, but I’m sad to say that his last year or so was certainly hard for him. I hope he found a few pleasures here to make it less distressful. In the end, a carrot, a hug, and a quick painless death is all we could really do for Sooner.