When you have an aging loved one in your life, there is always the sense of living on borrowed time. You know the day is coming when you have to say goodbye, and, depending on your personal belief system, that goodbye is forever.
This week we had a scare, thinking the day might be soon. Bars got a big wad of food stuck in his throat. In horse terms, this is known as a “choke,” and it can be quite dangerous. First, horses can’t vomit, so anything they swallow has to go all the way through, as it were, and if for some reason it gets stuck along the way…well, it’s bad. Second, sometimes a choked horse ends up with some of the food mass coming out his nose, where it can then be inhaled back into the lungs, causing pneumonia. Any of these scenarios in an elderly horse is what we call a Big Deal. And, of course, since it was a Saturday, we had to call out a veterinarian on an emergency basis, so it was also an Expensive Deal. All these factors made the whole thing a Big Expensive Scary Deal.
For anyone reading this whose not lived through it before, resolving a choke in a horse involves inserting a tube into the throat via the nose, and using gentle application of water, loosen the wad of food and allow it to drain out through the tube. As you can imagine, even with sedation, having a tube shoved up your nose and into your throat is a traumatic experience. In addition, antibiotics are often prescribed to prevent pneumonia from starting. So, now you’ve had a tube shoved in your nose and you’re getting shots and nasty tasting medicine squirted into your mouth for several days, making it all even worse. So, just when we thought he might be starting to think of his new home as a safe place, all this scary stuff happened to him.
The net result of is that, between having a sore throat from the choke, having a tube stuck into his throat, and now being back to nervous about his new place, Bars went off his feed again. My big worry here was if he continued to not eat for too long, his chances of a full recovery dropped precipitously. The longer he went without eating, my frightened brain said, the weaker he’ll get, and, at his age, this is also not good.
We checked in with our terrific veterinarian almost daily via text and phone. He continued to pick at his food, although he would willingly eat the new fresh grass that’s been sprouting. Antibiotics can often cause stomach upset, so midway through the week we decided to discontinue the antibiotics, taking a calculated risk that he wouldn’t develop pneumonia. By Friday he was considerably perkier and within a week was back to eating. Whew, bullet dodged. For now.
To some it may seem morbid or macabre to have this sense of borrowed time. Instead, I choose to use this as continued motivation to enjoy our remaining time together one day at a time, with each day a gift. We still have things to do together and some new trails to explore. Looks like we will have the opportunity to do some of that after all. To paraphrase another of my favorite movies, “The day will come….but it is not this day.”
See you on down the trail….