Friday, March 26, 2010

Bittersweet Celebration

This day is one of mixed feeings. Today we celebrate the life of a dignified and gracious mare as we, at the same time, say “goodbye.”

Very often, when a horse arrives at Traveller’s Rest Equine Elders Sanctuary, we don’t know what his future will hold, or how long that future will last on this earth. Until each Elder is evaluated and time unfolds, we assume we may be offering hospice care. Perhaps all we can do for this individual is keep him comfortable and well fed until physical frailty makes a good quality of life impossible.

Such is the case with Marye. Marye came to us suffering such severe, untreated, respiratory challenges that she could not or would not eat. She was emaciated and veterinary exams determined that there was a large amount of scarring in her lungs, causing greatly diminished ability to move air in and out.

In her first months at TREES, Marye responded well to treatment, first with steroid injections, then the following spring with Aeromask treatments. As the summer wore on, however, each treatment seemed to become less effective. As we tried “last resort” treatments, thankfully, winter set in and Marye’s symptoms eased, allowing her several months of deeper, relaxed breaths.

Now, spring pollens have arrived once again. As we knew they would. Marye is having respiratory difficulty again. As we knew she would. Sadly, this year, the symptoms are worse than ever and not responding to treatment in any significant way, leaving our beloved matriarch struggling for each breath.

So, as we knew it would, the time has come to make the difficult decision to say goodbye. We mourn for ourselves, knowing we will miss her quiet pride and grace. We also celebrate the last 18 months of Marye’s life on earth, knowing she was happy with her man, Wade. She had a large field in which to meander and graze rather than her previous small dusty pen. She had the company of half a dozen other horses. She had all she needed to eat. And she could breath.

This morning, a cold windy rain is falling, almost as if Mother Nature herself has mixed feelings. She is, it seems, sweeping the pollens from the air to send Marye off on a clean, cool path to her next life while, at the same time, grieving the loss of one of her children.

We too grieve the loss of a family member, but celebrate the time Marye was with us. Knowing she was pain-free and happy outweighs the grief tenfold. Marye, like the Elders before her, will remain with us in some fashion. Each resident teaches us something. All benefit the Elders who follow them.

Rest in grace, big mare.

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