When Doing All You Can Isn't Enough
Jo Ann Lovelace
Non-fiction story Published in the August issue of Horse and Horseman magazine 1990
I sat at the table drying the tears from my face. How I dreaded going to the barn. Any other time I would have been anxious to go. I looked at my watch and knew I couldn't put it off any longer. The other horses had to be fed.
I arrived at the barn promptly at 5 p.m. The door gave its usual squeaky hello as I slowly opened it. Kid and Mandy stood in front of the empty stall staring in as if to say, "Where is our friend?" They neighed softly and Sadness was apparent in those big brown eyes. A lump rose to my throat. I couldn't hold back the tears.
"You miss him too, don't you fellows?" I said. I knew it was hard for them. Both had taken time to stand in front of Nobility's stall the last month while the other went out to graze.
I put the horses in their stalls and went about my usual routine. I scooped up oats and added the vitamins. "Here you go," I said. I poured the grain into the feed boxes. Kid picked at it then ran across his stall to peep over the automatic waterer into Nobility's stall. He doesn't understand, I thought. All he knows is his buddy is gone. I went up the steps to the hayloft. My legs felt like they weighed one hundred pounds each. I threw hay down in all three stalls from habit. I bit my lips trying to hold back the tears.
We always gave the horses apples and carrots before we left the barn at night. Nobility loved what he had learned to be a salad. Nobility was a smart old paint. He understood the English language about as well as anyone.
After I cut the carrots and apples in bite size pieces I put them in the feed boxes. Kid took a bite of a carrot then moved over to the stall window. I reached to pet him on the shoulder. He moved away a bit uneasy. I felt sorry for him and myself as I opened the door to leave.
It was 10 p.m. and would have been time for Nobility's medicine but I wouldn't be going back to the barn tonight, I thought as I walked the floors wondering when my husband, Roy would get home. He had been gone since early that morning. It was dark as pitch out and pouring down rain. There was a chill in the air that cut to the bone. Roy had called his friend Harold and asked him to bury Nobility on our farm. Harold was working with his backhoe but said he'd be there soon as he could. I knew Roy would wait long as he had to, determined to keep his promise and bury Nobility where I wanted him to be.
My thoughts strayed back to that Sunday morning in July eight years ago. We were going out the door to attend church. It's odd that I remembered pausing for a minute to take in the beauty of the radiant blue sky and noticing the purple flowers blooming beside the house. Then the shrill sound of the phone ringing broke into my thoughts. It was the manager of the stable where we boarded our horses. Nobility had the colic. Roy told me to call the vet as he went out the door to go to the stable.
After several rings the vet answered the phone with a yawn. The anxiety I felt was stronger than my feeling sorry for waking him. Our regular vet wasn't on call which caused me more concern. But the vet on call said he would be there shortly.
On the way to the stable thoughts raced through my mind. Does this vet know about horses? Not all vets do. Will he make it on time or is it already too late?
Roy was walking Nobility when I arrived at the stable. I never had seen anything in so much pain. "Are we going to lose him?" I asked, trying to hold back the tears.
The vet came before Roy could answer my question. It felt like we had been waiting for hours although it really hadn't been that long. He thought Nobility had foundered and gave him shots then wormed him for bloodworms. It wasn't long until Nobility was acting normal. The vet told us to walk Nobility and to feed him only hay for a few days. We did exactly what the vet told us to, still Nobility went lame again in a few days.
The vet suggested corrective shoeing even though it wasn't time for Nobility to be shod.
The farrier cut Nobility's heels down until they bled a little. Then he shod him and put pads on his feet. After a few days had passed Nobility was worse than before. The farrier looked at my paint and said there was nothing more he could do. Nobility continued to get worse and he didn't want to get up anymore. We called other farriers. Some would promise to come but never showed up, others would come, do nothing and promise to come back but never did. No one wanted to work on a horse in that much pain.
A friend of Roy's heard about my sick horse and told him about Bob Jones. Bob was covered up with work but came late one evening to take care of Nobility. Bob opened and treated Nobility's abscesses then put on pads and shoes even though the horse threw him, his helper and Roy all over the barn. He told us to call if we had any problems as he hurried from the barn.
The next day was Christmas Eve. Nobility was sound enough that we put him out in the paddock. He ran, romped and then laid down to roll in the mud. I never was so glad to see a black horse that use to be white! I couldn't have received a Christmas gift any nicer than seeing Nobility able to play again.
We had some ups and downs over a period of years but Nobility for the most part did well. In May of 1989 Nobility had canker in his left front foot. We knew it was serious and hard to get rid of. We called the vet and he cut the frog out to the bone then packed the foot with iodine and cotton. Yucky cheesy stuff showed up about a month later. We scrubbed the foot using Dial antibacterial liquid soap and warm water. We packed the foot with sugar-dine, covered it with a gauze pad then wrapped it with VetRap. In about a month the canker was gone. Another battle won and we thought we were free of worries for a while.
Then Nobility's right foot became infected. The vet put him on medication and he seem to do better for a while. In October of 1989 he went lame. He was carrying the foot. The vet suggested we put him down. When we asked if there was anything at all he could do he told us he could do surgery but added that he didn't think it would help Nobility. We felt that we had to try, so early the next morning the vet operated. He also gave Nobility several shots and came back to check on him for several days.
Nobility seemed to be getting along well until November 13,1989. We had been checking on him several times a day and that day was like any other until we started to dress the foot. In a matter of a couple of hours Nobility's leg had swollen to the knee. Roy removed the bandages and said he thought it was gangrene. He dressed the foot then called the vet.
We prayed Roy's suspicions were wrong as we waited for the vet to arrive but it was gangrene and it was spreading fast. The vet said Nobility was in a lot of pain and it would get worse. He didn't think the horse would last until morning. "You've done all any mortal could do," he added sympathetically. "There's no more anyone can do for him but do the humane thing and put him down."
Roy stayed with Nobility while he drifted off to sleep forever. I knew it was hard for Roy. We had worked together all those years keeping Nobility comfortable and out of pain. I wanted to stay but I just couldn't bear to. We had lost this battle.
Our friend Harold arrived at the farm around 10:30 that night. He and Roy buried Nobility in the timothy field. Harold wouldn't take a dime for burying Nobility and nothing would change his mind. That's when I realized a good neighbor doesn't necessarily have to live next door.
It was a good while before I could go to the farm again but finally I got the courage and went. The timothy stood tall and waving in the wind. Nobility always loved timothy hay, I thought. I looked back at the timothy field before leaving. "Rest in peace Old Man," I said. "You'll always have a special place in our hearts."
Copyright © 1990 Horse & Horseman All Rights Reserved.