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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~


6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~
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Monday, May 3, 2010

May 3rd, 2004.

It was the beginning of May in 2004, and the end of my high school career was a year behind me. Kicked out at the end of my senior year for a slew of interrelated reasons, all of which circled around my irrational teen behavior, I had somehow managed to secure a GED and a chance to actually go to the college of my choice, attempting to change my fate and make something of myself. Opting to take a year off between schools, I had rested and recharged enough to feel hopeful for the future for the first time in my life. With two horses in my care, I found myself very busy, and extremely happy for the first time in years. It was an emotion I had completely forgotten, one I had become disconnected from, and one I had welcomed back with distrust and fear. But I was healing. Three years with my Quincy, and now a few months with my Metro, and I was healing. Finally, I could stand on my own two feet. Finally, I could breathe the free air and look towards the horizon, a fresh and bountiful view. Quincy was gracefully slipping (or accidentally falling, I might say) into retirement, as his ability to not fall down at inopportune moments was becoming impossible to manage. His bout with EPM had left him permanently damaged, but it was clear that he was going nowhere in life without me. He had happily been living for slightly less than a month at an 'old folks home' of sorts, a pasture boarding situation 40 minues from my house where he had 50 friends and hundreds of interconnected acres to play with. It was true horsey heaven, and he was happy as could be. I saw him less than I wanted to given the distance and Metro's need - just a few times a week - but I cherished those moments and looked forward to when I could be closer again. Everything was looking so good, and I was excited for the future.

The morning of May 3rd dawned chilly and misty. Rainclouds gathered ominously on the horizon, roiling on top of each other, threatening to break out overtop the gorgeous weather we had been enjoying that week. It wasn't quite 40 degrees outside. I spent the better part of my morning making a list of things that made me happy, and adding pictures to each item. Sunsets... painting... Metro... poetry... Quincy. I got to 'baby foals' on the list, added a picture of a tiny leaping chestnut with all four off the ground, and decided to hop in the shower. No sooner had I stripped down than my cell rang. The owner of the barn addressed me in a slight panic: "Hi, is this Andrea? Yes, Quincy is sick. He's very sick. We called the vet already, he is colicing and we found him when he didn't come in for breakfast." The jumble of words took a second to sort out, but I shook out of it and told them I'd be there as soon as I could. Colic, what was that thing? I knew what it was, to be sure, but the seriousness of the situation was not clear. I tossed on a sweatshirt and jeans, hopping in my Jeep, and headed out.

The icy air hit me as I left the warmth of the car and headed down to the barn's holding paddock where Quincy was. I stopped dead when I saw him. Standing completely immobile and splay-legged, his head hung low, and his eyes had a detached, glossed-over look of pain in them. I moved to his side, and put my hand on his neck, stroking off some of the caked on mud that coated a good part of his gleaming black coat. Patches of open, raw wounds glared angrily back at me, places where he had rolled so ferociously during the night that he had ripped his own flesh off. From what the barn owner explained, it sounded as though sometime during the night he had coliced, and got down and thrashed in the field like a maniac. He didn't come in that morning for breakfast, and they had found him near the very back of the pasture, up and standing in the exact posture I was looking at in disbelief. Pieces of turfed-up ground around the place where he had stood told the story, and using a whip and some brute force, they had dragged him step by step back to the holding pen to await the vet. I reached up to touch his mud-encrusted ears, and he didn't move or respond at all. He absolutely hated his face touched, especially his ears, so I wasn't sure to make of this. When the vet finally arrived, I was shivering, frozen through my sweatshirt, the icy wind cutting through my thin clothes. Unsure of what to think, I cracked a few nervous jokes as the vet took Quincy's TPR. At a dead standstill, his heart rate was 80. His breath came in rapid, shallow inhales. His gums were bright purple, his skin stood tented when pinched, his temp was below 99.0. His gut sounds were silent. I heard all these things without really understanding what they meant. It sounded bad, but the barn owner and her sister tried to be encouraging. "Oh we had a horse this bad once, but he turned around, he was fine!" If I ever saw a horse that shocky today, I would euthanize it. Immediately. But back then, I didn't understand.

We did a rectal on him and found nothing to note. Frowning, the vet decided that we should move him to a stall in case he went down, and we agreed. To keep him quiet, we took his favorite old mare with him, a crusty old bat named Bid who had to be at least a thousand years old. "She's cute... in a goat kind of way," my mother had said about her. Pink, weepy eyes, clumps of matting Cushingoid hair, and a few awkward Appaloosa spots later, Quincy was madly in love. Bid was none to happy about her role in the neighboring stall, but she grudgingly accepted. We pulled, pulled, and half beat Quincy up the small hill into the small, square four-stall barn, Bid in one of the back stalls and Quincy on the side where he could still see her. We tubed him and found nothing to note. Pumped full of pain meds, Quincy stood looking somewhat more alert, and I began feeling somewhat optimistic. The barn owner had said that she'd seen a horse this bad before turn around, why couldn't my horse? It couldn't be that bad. "Well, it's a waiting game now," the vet told me. I had already told him that Quincy wasn't a surgical candidate, so all that remained to do was wait and see. When the pain meds wore off, what would happen? "I'll be 10 minutes down the road," said the vet. "Call me if anything changes." I assured him I would, and bid him farewell. The barn owner and her sister also had things to do, so they too took their leave, telling me to call if anything changed. Left by myself in the barn with my best friend and four-legged soulmate, I suddenly felt very scared and alone.

Absolutely frozen to the bone, I pulled my Jeep into the barn entrance and sat for awhile with the heat on, making calls to the owner of the barn where I kept Metro. She assured me that she was sending my friends Amanda and Sarah out to meet me, and that they would be bringing delicious food and hot chocolate to warm me on his dreary day, ready to stand vigil with me until my horse got better. I had hooked a leadline across the doorframe of the stall so that I could keep an eye on Quincy while attempting to get warm, and as I watched, he started to stumble towards the door, leaning forward across the makeshift stallgate as if looking for me. I staggered out of the car, my joints stiff and numb with cold, and took his furry black head in my arms. He had never been tolerant of having his face touched, so I was surprised to find that he leaned his forehead into my chest, heaving a great sigh of relief, relaxing into my touch. I played with his ears, stroked his great black neck, and kissed the tiny spot of white on his forehead, telling him how much I adored and needed in him my world. He just stood there, patient and steady, letting me drink in my fill of him as I talked and shivered, relishing the little bit of warmth he gave me. "I love you Quincy," I whispered into his ear. "Please don't go." I didn't know it then, but he was saying goodbye to me.

A few hours passed. I huddled in a ball by his stall, I did jumping jacks, I crawled under a cooler and waited, watching the seconds creep by. Time seemed to stand still, and my thoughts were empty. I couldn't think of what-ifs, I couldn't think of what might happen at the end of the day. All I could do was stare red-eyed at my broken, beautiful friend, the spell of painkillers breaking at the seams, the throes of agony starting to sweep back into his body. At around 2 or so, his behavior changed dramatically. Spasms of pain wracked his body, rippling in waves down his entire length, and his legs began to quake under his own weight. I sat up, alarmed as he began staggering around his stall, stretching out as if straining to pee but unable to do more than struggle to get his hind legs back underneath him again. He stumbled forward out the front of the open stall door, his weight caught against the leadline, and the glossed-over look of detachment in his eyes suddenly changed to absolute terror and agony. He looked at me, stumbling towards me as if silently begging for help, and white foam began dripping from his mouth and nostrils, his breath gurgling shallow and fast. Completely panicked, I called the barn owner's sister, who immediately came down to the barn to see what was happening. I also called the vet, frightened, and he told me that he would be there in 10 minutes. The barn owner's sister pulled me out of the way as he stumbled to his knees and stuck a hind leg out the door, and together we struggled to push him back in the stall, close the door, and get out of the way. Watching from inside Bid's stall, I stared in open-mouth horror as Quincy staggered forward, muscles clenched tight in pain. In one violent, crashing moment, he lost his hind end, flipping himself over backwards, spraying white foam across the walls as he went. His head hit the side wall with a sickening crunch, and he seized. Groaning, screaming, making noises no animal should make, he writhed against his own body, and all I could see from my vantage point was a set of four legs thrashing, struggling to run and release himself from his pain. With a rattling, watery breath, his motion began to slow, and the sister said to me, "I think he just took his last breath." It was as if a bomb exploded in my brain. Hysterical, crying and shrieking, I burst from Bid's stall just in time to see the vet truck pulling up, and I ran to him, begging him to euthanize him right then, just stop his agony, just stop the pain. The vet was already in the stall before I knew what was happening, and stethoscope in hand, he turned to me slowly with words I will never forget: "His heart just stopped." My best friend in the world - my savior, my soulmate, my partner, my angel - was gone.

I laid over his body for hours and cried harder than I ever had before.




The next few hours passed in an empty blur. Amanda and Sarah thankfully got lost and showed up too late to see his death, but they sat with me on his body and talked with me about everything, as I slowly described the day to them piece by piece. Dust settled over his liquidy black eye, now so completely still and vacant. His head, propped up against the wall where he fell, was so strange and still, and his lower lip drooped unnatural below his gumline. I wanted to put it back, but when I tried, it was already cold and starting to stiffen. I recoiled in terror.
We made arrangements to move his body back to the farm where Metro was, where Quincy had been while in work. The backhoe couldn't get there until the next morning, so we planned to leave him in the field until then, but the truck got lost on the way over. When I arrived at the farm myself, I was assaulted by a slew of screaming children, asking a thousand questions that I didn't want to answer. I found myself answering slowly over and over, my voice empty and emotionless like a recording, until Amanda's boyfriend Timmy came over and lifted me over his shoulder, carrying me down the driveway away from everyone. "I thought you needed some rescuing," he said.
The horses were all so strange around me that day. Perhaps they could smell the death lingering about me like shadow. Even steady Metro, always unwavering in his emotion and demeanor, began prancing around me like a stud when I went to bring him out of the field, and I released him in the outdoor arena to let him get his kicks out. He ran, he bucked, he squealed and leaped, and I found myself hungrily watching his every move, his muscles gleaming and rippling with tension in the fading evening sunlight, his every move so alive, so unlike Quincy had been. I drank in the sight as though I had never seen a horse running before, and burned the memory into the back of my head in case he, too, were to lay down and die on any old regular Tuesday like Quincy had just done. Still in disbelief and shock, unable to think or feel, I laid out on the trampoline by the house, staring up at the setting sun and wondering if Quincy was up there looking down at me. Perhaps he had found a big banana tree to hang out in, we mused.

The transport for his body had gotten lost on their way to the farm, so it was nearly 10pm by the time they arrived at the farm. It was dark out, and using the light of our cars' headlights, we backed the truck up to the place where we needed his body to be. Unchaining him from the other dead horse in the truck, they began lifting the dump bed without warning, and I realized a second too late what was about to happen. With a sickening crunch, all one thousand pounds of him tumbled from the truck bed, landing with a heavy, dull thud on the wet grass below. I almost thew up at the sight.

We watched Finding Nemo that night. I'll never think of that movie in quite the same way again.



In the morning, we laid him to rest. They wisely put him in the hole before I arrived, so the only traumatizing thing I had to endure was watching his already stiff legs swaying back and forth as the dirt filling around him rolled him up onto his back. I threw three tulips into the grave with him, plucked from a neighbor's garden. One for his heart, one for his soul, and one for the piece of my own soul that had died with him. I suddenly found that I couldn't cry, couldn't think, couldn't do anything but go into hyperdrive for an entire week, living every last second as though I too might die without warning, filling as much into a week as I possibly could, running on almost no sleep. At the end of the week I crashed, utterly exhausted, crying myself into nearly 24 hours of almost consecutive sleep. But Metro needed me. Metro was what got me out of bed in the morning. Metro helped me keep going when all I wanted to do was go dig a hole in Quincy's grave and bury myself in there too. Metro buoyed me up when I needed it most.


I hope none of you ever have to witness anything like it. It was the most traumatic experience of my young life, and I hope nothing ever tops it. I've never really written about it like this before.



I miss him. Every day, I miss him.



31 comments:

Jen said...

I'm sorry to hear about Quincy. I lost my 3-year old to severe colic as well. It's been 5 years and I still miss him.

Melissa said...

I'm crying. I know it sounds odd, but thank you for sharing that.

Healing is the suckiest and scariest process in the world. I'm so glad you have horses to help you.

Niamh said...

Agh! Andrea! I have been crying for the last hour! I was going to write a post tonight about how horses are our saviors during tough times (a subject I know you have touched on before)...I swear, that now, after all of these years away from horses and now having them in my life completely, I don't know how I got through those years without them. I am going through lots of emotional turmoil these days and nothing keeps me going more than knowing that sweet (crazy) mare is waiting for me to come work with her. Even now, while I sit here in tears, I know that tomorrow brings great things for her and I.

Karen said...

I really don't have much to say except that was one of the most moving pieces of writing I have ever read. Thank you for sharing that story.

GunDiva said...

I'm so sorry. I can't imagine losing Estes.

Thank you for sharing with us, even though I know it was painful.

Breathe said...

I'm so sorry about the loss, even though time has passed, it's still so present.

He sounds like he was an incredible horse and I'm glad you had the courage to be there for him.

We just made it through a colic episode, and you've taught me something about facing the tough decision, should it come. That is a gift to all who read what you've so graciously written.

Albigears said...

Gotta go wipe my eyes and blow my nose now...

manymisadventures said...

What a heart-wrenching story. It is obvious how much you really, really loved him.

Lese and Nat said...

Your story makes me thank god that I had all my horses euthanised - my first pony also had wounds over his eyes from bashing his head against the ground and was very far gone, not far off dying by himself, the vet got there just in time. My sister's pony was in a similar condition, rectum torn from her anus... :(

My lovely ottb only colicked for 2 and a half hours, but was not going to get any better... thank god I had the knowledge to know what that meant and made the decision for him early and prevented him from going through what your poor Quincy did.

Thankyou for sharing - you are a stronger woman than me to deal with his terrible death.

SmartAlex said...

My childhood horse died of colic a few years ago. he had fought it for 3 days, but as he worsened we decided to euthanise him. I remember waiting for the vet to return as he groaned in pain. We gave him every drug we had on the place, and he died on his feet when I went back to phone the vet one last time. I think had he waited for me to go.
I hope I never have to go through that again, but like you, I will never wait that long.

Austen said...

Wow Andrea, that was incredibly powerful. I can't imagine how hard writing and sharing that was, but thank you. It was both horrible and inspiring to read. I'm so glad you had Quincy in your life!

Erica said...

I can't believe it's been 6 years...Quincy was such an amazing horse and I really appreciate your tributes to him year after year.

Kate said...

This was heartwrenching to read; I can't imagine what it would have been like to experience.

Kristen Eleni Shellenbarger said...

jesus..that was very moving and I can't imagine the strength it took to write it and re read it before posting. Thank you for sharing that life changing day with us. I know all too well what that 'could' have felt like...it was the very discussion I was forced to have time and time again in my battle to save Laz from Colic and now laminitis. I'm so sorry you lost your beautiful Quincy.
You are incredibly brave.

Gina said...

I lost my first horse to colic 4 years ago and it is till hard to talk about. I completely empathize with the blind panic of seeing them in that much pain, I know I just needed to make it stop for him. My guy lived through two back to back surgeries and a week of recovery before the blood clots that would have killed him formed.

It is very hard to talk about because there is no closure - I have no idea what caused it, none. He was fine 2 hours before and almost dead by the time the vet got there.

Thank you for sharing Quincy's story.

*M said...

You are a fabulous, amazing person. Thank you for sharing that piece of personal hell that made you who you are.
I need to go hug my horses now!

Kelly said...

Powerful writing- hits home all to hard for me right now. Just lost my 28 yr old OTTB on 4/27/10 and had him buried on the property. He broke his femur while rolling in the pasture, years of Grand Prix jumping had taken their toll. Not as horrific as colic, but loosing a horse takes a piece of any equestrians heart anytime. It's a shame that the 'non-horse' crowd can't see these amazing animals like we do.

RuckusButt said...

Oh, Andrea. Wow. I'm glad you made it long enough to discover joy in life and that Quincy helped show it to you. You ARE brave. For living through that, for continuing to heal after Quincy died, for sharing it with us. Thank you. I hope writing this was a good release.

Brittany said...

What a horrifying experience! Thank you for sharing your moving story. I hope you never have to go through anything even close to that again.

Katie said...

Wow. Thank you for having the courage to share this story. I literally starting sobbing at work just reading it. I'm just so sorry you had to go through that. Life really is cruel sometimes.

Michelle said...

That was by far the most heartbreaking story I've read in a long time, but I enjoyed it very much.
Your love for him is apparent, and I'm quite certain he's aware of it too.
My own life-saving black horse & I are thinking of you today....

Val said...

The relationship between horse and human is so profound, but so short for how deeply it runs to a person's heart. There is no such thing as just a horse.

Thank you for sharing this difficult memory. Loss is something that one must learn to live with, not something that a person "gets over".

STB Eventer said...

Thank you for sharing your story. It was gut-wrenching to read, but your emotion and love for Quincy was powerful. <3

Jennifer said...

(((HUGS))) Thank you for sharing. Further words just escape me--I'm hoping the kleenex box won't be so slippery though...

Dressager said...

Just finished a nice little sampling of tears. Can't imagine losing Greta, even after a less than a year she is so much a part of me. I was there for a nasty colic of a friend's horse a year ago, and I was crying just as hard as she was when he passed. We get so attached to these animals so easily, and it almost seems sometimes that it would be easier to just quit horses altogether than to go through the pain of losing them, but you can't help but keep coming back to them, and in turn that love heals. I'm always sure that the horses (and other pets) we lose in life will always be there for us until we meet them again, and that's comforting to me. Crap, I'm crying again.... rest in peace beautiful Quincy.

Yankecwgrl said...

Stupid foreign comments.

Andrea,

You have a way with words that blows me away. Reading your journey was heartwrenching, I can only imagine how you felt as you experienced it first hand.
I have witnessed something almost equally terrible...I will share it sometime on my blog. It won't be as well written as yours....but I will try.

I pray that you do not have to go through anything like that again.
*hugs*
-Jennifer

Jana said...

I don't even know what to say... that was - as everyone else here has said - an incredibly powerful and moving post. Quincy was lucky to have known you and that you were there with him at the end. Good for you for being such an impassioned, loving, thoughtful human-being and for growing from this experience, rather than retreating.

I wasn't expecting to sit at my desk sobbing today, but I must say... your writing helped me release some of my own past pain.

So thank you for sharing this with us.

Beth said...

I was okay until the tulips. Then I lost it.

My heart is with you.

PruSki said...

OMG Andrea...i don't think I have anymore tears. I just want to drive to CT and give you a hug. I Have witnessed a similar situation. A horse with EPM, and I hope Inever see it again. Lots of love mama...

cynsear said...

I lost my first horse who was also my best friend 21 years ago last August. He had a fatty lipoma in his gut and an loop of intestine got wrapped around it. We did surgery but a week later had to euthanize him because of complications. It was no where as traumatic as your experience but this brought back all the anguish I felt then. I still miss him terribly. I still wish his life hadn't ended like that but I also know the best parts of him are still live in my memories and always will be. Take care!

Running4TheRoses said...

This is a little after the fact (seeing as you wrote this God know how long ago) but I am sobbing like hell right now, half for your pain and half for my boy, who means as much to me as I'm sure Quincey meant to you and who has been hanging on for about a month now, getting better and then not getting up, feeling fine and then looking at me with this pain- and great bravery- in his eyes... I'm sorry.