Thursday, February 24, 2011

Talking To Fugly

Because of my absolute idiotic inability to wade through the world of the Internet I lost my password to comment on Fugly. Again.

She had a great post today, I wanted to comment but I couldn't get logged in. Again.

Trust me folks. This is an ongoing issue with me and why many of my favorite blogs hear from me so rarely.

So my comment is over here in Mugwump land.

Cathy brings up a great point. When are we going overboard trying to save a horse who in need? How do we decide which horse gets our very limited time and resources?

With rescues stuffed to the brim with unwanted horses, where do they draw the line?

We have two primary rescues in our county.

One is very careful with their money. The rescue is very much run as a business.They keep a tight control over how many and what horses they rescue. They will put down horses which have no chance to be adopted. If the horse is ancient and weak, mentally unstable, deformed or crippled, or dangerous they will put it down and make room for a horse who has a chance of being safely adopted. This rescue has paid employees, one highly qualified trainer and a few talented riders to help start horses. It has a staff of well trained volunteers at all levels. They rehabilitate a steady flow of horses and get them out into the community with qualified adopters. If a horse doesn't work out this rescue will help place them elsewhere.

The second rescue is well run by a big hearted woman. She has a terrible time turning away any horse, for any reason. She is the only truly experienced horse person on the place and is stretched very thin. She has a lot of horses. There is a herd of old horses out there. Very old. They are a group of sweet castoffs. Most have spent their lives in service and then were dumped. There are close to 30 of them, probably 15 or so that can't graze or eat hay, so they need mash .They all have expensive medical needs and time.

There are horses needing to be broke, there are horses needing to be handled. There is a shortage of tack and usable volunteers.But she tries to save every horse and usually succeeds. They all have her heart.
If an adopted horse doesn't work out they are always welcomed back.

Two different approaches. Two different types of success.

I am very worried about one of them.

My other comment is about when we need to be realistic about what our horses need. I had a very beloved mare named Annie for 20 some years.I've written about her more than once. She had a comfortable retirement for about four or five years after many years of being first my horse, then my daughters, then as a lesson horse. She never let me down.

She began to lose weight. I supplemented her feed, it helped her, but didn't fix her. She lost her sight. Another one of my horses, Loki, would lead her to water and ate with her, keeping the other mares from taking her feed. She kept going down hill. I kept putting off the decision I knew was coming.

I had my vet check her for the third time that year.

He looked me in the eye and said, "It's summer. She's struggling. Last winter was hard for her. You can love on her and feed her up and let her enjoy the sun on her back for the summer. But I know you don't want to be calling me out here this winter because she collapsed in the night and is frozen to the ground."

So I fed her mash and took her out to graze in the good grass. At the end of August I went out with my daughter on a cool afternoon. we pet her and told stories about her. Annie put her head against my chest in the greeting she had given me for most of my adult life. I scratched her ears and began to waver.

"Mom," the kidlette said, "it's time. She's barely here."

Three days later we put her down. She was somewhere in her thirties.

If I hadn't had my vet and my daughter to help me keep my perspective I might have kept Annie going. For me.

That's all I've got.


Vaquerogirl said...

I have struggled with the same issue- I know we all must. It has always been the right decision to euthanize- for me. A horse that can't be taken out of pain, a horse that is slowly dying or has lost his will must be given the final gift a human can give an animal. The decision is never theirs to make- it is always ours.
The reason we are the care takers are also the reason we have to often make those hard decisions.Our compassion- not our ego, will out.

Jen said...

I could not agree more about all of it (especially the ever elusive password *laugh*). Thank goodness my email has a "search" feature which lets me re (re-re-re) locate my Fugly password email ;o)

It is, unfortunately, pathetically easy to start a rescue and therein methinks lies the problem. A rescue operation NEEDS to be run as a business to a degree or they run the risk of a crash and burn. People with the best of intentions (and we know how those work) opt to "take in" horses and too often these things turn into a hoarding situation (eek) with no money and no real plan of action.

Euthanizing is something every animal owner out there should be willing to face; and you are exactly right that we want to keep our beloved animals going because we cannot bear to put them down. The thing is, though, if we love them enough and it is "time", we should be willing to bear this heartbreaking decision: for them.

burnttoast said...

I am 55 years old, and have had cats and dogs and for the last 10 years, horses. (And a rat, a mouse, a squirrel, fish, a goat, and my daughter's ball python) For me, it has gotten easier to "make the call" as I get more practice doing it. And, honestly, as I don't euthanize soon enough, which has happen with two cats. Animals with a shorter lifespan than ours provide us with so much. Love, laughs, comfort, amusement, and as a last gift, the knowledge of what mortality is. We are mortal, and that knowledge should drive us to live each day to the fullest. I could only wish to be as loved and cherished as my pets, and well done euthanasia truly is a last act of love.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

I had my cat put down last weekend because of kidney failure. I agree how hard it is to make the decision but I believe it's harder to keep them going, prolonging the inevitable, and mentally draining oneself, not to mention emptying the bank account. Animals accept death much better than we humans.

TBDancer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TBDancer said...

(Sorry for deleting the first post--I need to remember to edit BEFORE I type in the word verification).

Imagine the problems I have with passwords at work that, because they ARE at work, require changing every 90 days for security reasons. Only one of the work-related passwords requires my knowing the OLD password in order to change to a new one. I start my day with, "Okay. Who am I THIS time?"

Regarding euthanizing, I have written my feelings on Fugly on this topic. Making the compassionate decision is NEVER easy, but for maintaining the quality of my animals' lives and for sending them off on the next leg of their journey, my giving the vet the go-ahead is the right thing to do. I've made the call many times over the years, and it never gets any easier--especially wondering if I made the right decision at the right TIME--but I know there will be another critter coming into my family one of these days--so I can practice all the good things I learned from the one that is no longer there--and eventually the doubt fades and the tears dry.

As for rescue: All my animals are rescues. They haven't all been Heinz 57 from the pound, but they have all needed a home with a fenced yard, and that I can provide (along with all the other "perks" that come with being a member of my family. I've had friends tell me they want to come back as one of my four-leggeds ;o)

But I know myself VERY well. When it comes to horse rescue, I do not go to auctions because I'd want to bring them all home. I don't even tempt myself. As for donating to horse rescues, I support those that demonstrate through their actions that they understand their limitations and rescue accordingly. They do what I cannot--rescue only those that can be retrained, reschooled, and evaluated properly for adoption.

It's tough to have to make The Decision, as I said. But when discretionary income only stretches so far, spending that income wisely on the most adoptable makes the most sense.

Barbara said...

Not being willing to euthanize is one reason that horses end up in slaughter pens. I don't think a lot of it is the difference between $150 to put the animal down and $300 from the killers. I think it often is a pie in the sky attitude that someone, somewhere will buy the blind/crippled/crazy horse and give it a good home. We need to talk more about euthanizing.

SquirrelGurl said...


This is a very sensitive topic for a lot of people. I know my college roommate (who is a vet) and I have gone round and round about how much is too much and when it's time to euth.

She is firmly of the opinion that every single option should be explored and money should never be considered when treating an animal. If you save it's life, no matter the cost, then it was worth it.

And I come from a decidedly different point of view. Every animal should be given a fair chance but I weigh the options, the cost and the potential for success. If I think the chance of success is too low or the pain for the animal is too much then I make the call.

For instance, we had a lab who was 4 years old. He fell one day and dislocated his hip, x-rays revealed he had severe hip displaysia (literally no hip socket, it was flat like a table). Surgery would be $750 per hip and the vet could not guarantee his one hip could withstand the extra weight bearing while the other was healing. He also was diagnosed with a thyroid problem and started having seizures. We made the decision not to operate and euth him.

My friend accused me and my family for "giving up" on him. That we could have treated his hips, given him meds for the seizures and the thyroid issue and he would have been alright. She said she would do anything to save her dog's life because they rely on her.

I countered with don't they rely on us to treat them dignity and make sure they don't suffer? She told me I was heartless and cruel.

I guess we agreed to disagree.

The decision to end an animals life is always a hard one, no matter what. And everyone has different opinions.

I know that day is rapidly approaching for my mare, I've had her for 15 years and she is going blind. I'm hoping she'll handle the transition well but if she doesn't then I am prepared to make the call. It won't be easy but I owe it to her for all the years she took care of me.

Shanster said...

Good post Mugs - Annie was lucky to have you and you her. The right thing isn't always the easiest thing, that is for sure.

Juli said...

I got flack for putting down a healthy, happy 15 year old horse a couple of years ago. He was going blind, and being the high strung type, he was not handling it well. If you didn't take him out of his paddock, he was fine.

However, how realistic is that? I was about to move across the country, and there was no way I could bring a half blind, panicky horse with me. And I couldn't rehome him. Who would want him? And if someone did want him at that time, what guarantee would I have that he would remain with them? That he wouldn't end up at an auction somewhere. So I made the decision to euthanize him.

On a nice day, we stuffed him full of anything he wanted, walked him across the street eating carrots the whole way, and let him go peacefully. It was the kindest thing I could do for him.

Some people gave me heck because he was sound and healthy other than those eyes, and told me it was just "convenience" euthanasia for me. I told them they had no compassion for how the horse felt.

It never ceases to amaze me how cruel people can be in the name of love....

AareneX said...

I agree with Squirrelgurl: quality of life MUST be considered. I won't do business with vets who insist on "death as a last resort" because it would be too likely that I would scrape money together to throw at a losing battle.

As for rescues: there are far more horses than homes right now. It makes me CRAZY when "rescues" post some gawdawful story about an elderly lame blind epileptic horse who bites that has been "saved" from slaughter. Because if that pathetic horse didn't board the bus for Canada, it's likely that a sound and healthy 5-year-old mare with papers DID head for the border.

We can't save them all. If you want to pull the pathetic horse out of the pen for a kind death, I will send you flowers. But if your goal is to find a horse a good forever-home, for crying out loud, spend your energy on a horse with a productive life ahead.

My 2 cents, worth pretty much nuttin' in the current economy.

Anonymous said...

For horses, cats and dogs, showing pain/lameness/weakness is a reason to be kicked out of the herd/pack and a likley death sentance, so by the time they are "asking you" you've left it a few day/weeks too late.

As for animal rescuses, they need to be run on a buiness model, horses are a luxury item, and there are very few people with the resources, and ability to deal with the 'difficult' horses.

There are worse things than a quiet death. Juli had it right, what life would her horse have had? A very small chance of it being ok, and a massive chance of things going wrong.

Maybe I'm not in the right head space for this - I come form a country where there has just been a massive earthquake (again), this time, multiple fatalities, and to hear stories of emergency services having to categorise people into "can be saved" "can't be saved" at emergency triage centres, then seeing people says every single horse should be saved, no matter how damaged, it seems really stupid - what life does that horse have?

Shoofly said...

Gosh, SquirrelGurl, I hope I never inadvertently end up going to a vet with those kinds of views! It's difficult enough to make hard decisions without having guilt laid on, besides. I would hope a vet would have a little more realistic viewpoint. And I would find one who did.

Juli, deciding to put down a blind horse who is not doing well with it is not in any way cruel or a bad decision.

If someone wants to take home the saddest case they can and use her resources to nurse him until his natural death, I guess that is her choice. IF.. she is doing it all on her own dime. However, if she is doing it as a "rescue" and asking for donations, using others' resources, and thinking she can adopt him out and pass that horse off on someone else for a forever home, then she's not thinking straight. This is what gives rescues a bad name. When I donate, I want to know that my resources are going for the greatest good to the largest number of horses. JMHO, of course.

SquirrelGurl said...

Thanks for the support everyone. We knew we did the right thing, we as a family had a meeting and laid out the options and what we and the dog were facing. It was the kindest thing we could do for him.

My friend is a good vet, she's compassionate and loves every minute of her job but I think she has yet to learn the word "No."

No you can't save them all.

It's hard, just cause you can do something to keep them alive doesn't mean you always should.

Shadow Rider said...

I am a firm believer in quality over quantity. I would never want to keep any animal alive if they were in pain or emotional distress. That being said, it's still hard to know when. I have a 25 year old mare, who other than her hip issues is in perfect health. 2 years ago we were jumping courses. But a bought with Lymes, arthritis from an old injury, and last winter falling in the deep snow we had has left her pretty much 3 legged lame. I thought I would have to put her down last spring, but she rallied, and seemed perky. I said I would keep her as a pasture puff as long as she was comfortable, but now after watching her hobble around on the ice we have had, and lose her place as matriarch of the herd, I wonder if I made the right decision. She eats, she gets around, she comes when called, but she isn't my opinionated bossy girl anymore.

Swiftlys view of the world said...

Oh what a post by Fugly and yourself...I often feel the same about dog rescue, so many dog rescuers have simply become collectors and hoarders.
I am a lurcher( I think you would call them staghounds) and greyhound fan, I wish more resources would be ploughed into the healthy, sound minded dogs to get them homes so they can be advocates of their breed/type. I know if this was the case I wouldn't have one of my guys as he was a nasty dog in the beginning and came with lifelong ailments....I now this can be a very emotive subject.
Of course every life is worth something yet we have to be realistic...
Life in a rescue or a kennel with many health or temperament issues is a pretty poor life.
Surely we have as exacting requirements from horses, safety for both us and them...the fact the cost so much when they are well. Like many things in life sometimes you just have to put your head before you heart and as Fugly rightly said Ego.

lauraatkins said...

I had a bunny that had a stubborn abscess that we actually treated for about a year. He was young and mostly healthy but it was hard on all of us. I'm glad we did, as he lived for another 4 years. But there were a couple times I thought about not doing that next surgery.

It's a tough decision, particularly when there's an unknown prognosis. And the age of the animal has a lot to do with it. I wouldn't have fought so hard with Bear had he been older. If he only had a couple years, spending a year of that going through treatments is not a good quality of life.

I think your experience with the two rescues is not that uncommon. There are a lot of very good rescues run as businesses (not in the making profit sense, but in looking at the bottom line as part of the decision making process and not relying solely on your heart) but there are also rescues run purely on heartstrings. I think they are complementary in some ways, but personally prefer to support rescues run more as a business.

mommyrides said...

We made the decision to euthanize our 14 year old Golden mix after she became so lethargic and tired that she was sleeping most of the day and night. It was not an easy decision and for a long time I felt that I had somehow robbed her of the dignity of choosing her own time to die. But in retrospect it was the right choice. We were about to move again and to a home that had stairs. It wouldn't have been easy for her to make another adjustment. She is now buried under rose bushes at my in-laws house. She loved my father-in-law almost as much as kids!
I am struggling with this same issue now...I have a 22 year old QH mare she has only been with us a little more than a year but her personality is changing and she is finding hard to maintain her weight over the winter. Her knees are an arthritic mess and she has become completely herd bound. I wonder do I try to work through these issues or do I simply conclude that she has had lots of love and good care and that it may be the most kind act to just let her go now before she gets to the point of extreme health issues. Obviously I don't have the relationship bond of many years, but I do want to do what's right for her. She can do some light riding and is good with the kids in an arena where she feels safe. I sure would appreciate your input on what your experiences tell you to do.....Lynn

mugwump said...

mommyrides- see that comes under the you have to go with your heart clause.
I can't tell you what to do. I would talk to my vet before I made my decision. Euthanasia would always come before I sent a horse to a sale, but there are too many other factors in play here for me to make a judgement call.
Do you only need a horse for the kids in the arena?
Is she the only horse you can afford to keep?

Is she in constant pain?
Is her personality change making her dangerous?

See what I mean? I wish I could be more help. It's a tough call.

Jenn said...

'All you got' is, as usual, uniquely good.

I love reading your viewpoint.

Di said...

Doing the best thing for your horse is paramount, but can be heartbreaking and quality of life is everything. I agree, it is the final gift we can give.

Slippin said...

This is where I have (for a lack of better words), lucked out. My mare that I had for 16 years was healthy, fat and happy. I went to work like normal, but about 3 in the afternoon, I got a call from a friend that said he found my mare out in the pasture killed me to hear that..I cried that whole nite, infact its making me tear up now, BUT what I am glad for, is that I NEVER had to make that decision! Other horses we had growing up had a reason to be put down, so it wasn't a tough decision of WHY to put them down, other than emotionally. They either had a broken leg, or got in a serious situation and they panicked and caused serious injury to themselves. Sounds horrible I know, but all of them were loved and cared for.
I know of several people that have horses that are wasting away, but they just can't make the call to the vet. I don't blame them one bit, but you have to think of how the animal feels and what kind of life they are living....

DeeDee said...

I may be posting this too late for anyone to read, which would be too bad.
On a horse & Health yahoo group we recently went thru a hoopla about a plann to euthanize a horse with severe Scaroliliac ligment damage. If rehab worked it would required extended stall confinement for a very outgoing, lets go horse, with no promise of success.

A friend posted to remind us that the agony is in our experience, Not the horse's experience. The horse is living moment to moment, happy with the feed, the treats, the love and attention. Also any pain or discomfort from disability, injury, confinement, etc. The horse is not scared of the outcome. Only comfortable or uncomfortable.

I only ask we recognize that the agony about the decision is in our minds, not the horse's mind. Whatever the decision, put yourself at peace. The horse is not in mental anguish.

And we sure are. So be kind to each of ourselves when we have to go visit that place.

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