Welcome to Gracie's Program!
Below is the True story that inspired Gracie's Program
I was fortunate to attend the four day Midwest Veterinary Conference held at the Columbus Convention Center in
February. I had the opportunity to sit side by side with all types of people in the "Animal Business", as well as
listen to a wide variety of topics. These topics still resonate in my mind daily, and I feel I must share them with
you. The first day of the Conference proved to be a little trying. I admit I did get a little later start than I wished
since we were preparing the foals for an extended period of time and they needed plenty of milk. Most of all, I
was lacking much needed sleep! Still, we had to pick up credentials and make it to the first class on time. The
day before the Conference, Philip and I were asked to voluntarily check on an alleged abuse case of a horse. It
was reported that there was a horse lying down and possibly dead. Philip and I were already on the road to the
feed store; afterwards we attended to the call about the horse. We were asked to at least attempt a "drive-by",
and if we felt comfortable doing so, stop in and ask permission to check on the animals of concern. I was not
prepared for what we found. The picture will be imprinted in my mind permanently. I came upon three horses in a
small paddock adjoined to the side of the house. It actually took my breath away to see one of the horses was
indeed down on the ground.
While we waited, we kept the two horses at bay, and I tried to comfort the mare the best I could. A school bus stopped at the end of the
driveway. Two young boys walked up the driveway and approached us. I announced I was a volunteer and responding to a call from a person
concerned about the sick horse. The oldest boy asked if she was dead. I told him no, but she was very, very sick. They asked questions
about why she wouldn't eat, and if they should try and give her some food. I assured them she was unable to eat. The boys went into the
house to get more blankets to help warm "Gracie". The boys shared more information about Gracie, and how they were trying to feed her
special fattening food separately from the other two horses. She just didn't eat much.
Apparently, Gracie had fallen down a few days before and their dad had to pick her up. At this point, another younger boy appeared, he had
been home the entire time, but was afraid to answer the door. The additional volunteer and the Deputy Sheriffs (there were two) arrived at the
same time. She brought even more blankets out, but there really wasn't much hope of bringing Gracie's temperature back up. The Deputies
weren't quite sure why they were there. I explained that we were only volunteers, and they would need to file a report or at least be able to
document the condition of this horse. Gracie had been pretty motionless (her convulsions had ceased) until I pulled back the covers to show
the Deputies her frail body. She began kicking again from the cold wind against her skin. At this point, her tears were not as prevalent, and
her eye continued to ice over. The Deputies left. Perhaps, another fifteen minutes passed, and the vet finally arrived. When he saw Gracie, I
could see the immediate despair on his face. He confirmed she was still alive, but barely. She had a bowel movement, and there was a
considerable amount of drool streaming from her mouth. He agreed the horse had no quality of life, and no chance to regain it either. We had
received permission to proceed from the Prosecutors' Office. He quickly prepared the euthanasia serum. He had a difficult time finding a
suitable vein, as she was so dehydrated and stiff. He eventually found one and pressed the solution into her body. I thought to myself, finally
her suffering would stop. Unfortunately, her heart was beating so faintly the serum couldn't circulate properly to let her rest in peace. It became
apparent that we would have to roll her over to expose the other side of her neck to try again. Her body was very cold and rigid. The second
attempt proved to allow her final breath. Now that Gracie's pain was gone, I was devastated that these three young boys had to deal with this
on their own. The additional volunteer had let the oldest boy use her cell phone (their house phone didn't work) to attempt to contact their
parents or someone who could help them. They were unable to reach anyone. The boys had brought an old rug over to see if it would help
Gracie to get up earlier. We dragged Gracie over onto the rug to make it easier to move her later for burial. One of the boys was able to find
a large blue tarp and we stretched it over her lifeless body. The other brothers gathered various heavy objects from the yard to weigh the tarp
down and prevent other animals from disturbing the carcass. The Vet had explained that it was imperative the body be buried as soon as
possible, because it would make other animals very ill if they were to bite her. The oldest boy seemed to understand.
I tried to convey my sorrow for their experience and the loss of their horse, but I really wasn't prepared for such a responsibility. As fate would
have it my very first class I attended at the Conference was about making decisions for euthanasia and how to talk to families about such
decisions. In addition, it was educational as far as how to deal with the grieving process. It couldn't have presented itself at a better time. The
class was several hours long, and I had been
tardy for previously stated reasons. I could only think about Gracie, and if I could have handled the boys' questions any better. I stayed after
class to speak with the instructor. She was so kind in listening (actually practicing what she had just preached in class) to my blubbery story.
Her advice, find some way to make this sad tragedy into a positive experience, try to give Gracie's life a meaning moving forward.
This is my opportunity to share Gracie's story. I hope that if someone is experiencing trouble with an ill pet, please get help BEFORE the
suffering begins. Gracie didn't become emaciated and bald over night. If normal measures are not working to alleviate symptoms, you must
ask for assistance. I would be more than willing to help others find some solutions if they don't know where to turn. Second, for those of us that
may know someone in financial trouble, and they have more than themselves to think of, ask if they need help.
Better yet, make a visit to their home if you suspect trouble. Many people may be too embarrassed or their pride may get in the way of asking
or acknowledging they may need help. Bankruptcy and Foreclosure does not affect only people, there may be other lives at stake as well. No
body said it was easy to step in to someone else's life, but the results could be much better than Gracie's Story.
She was up against the high tensile wire fence, and her head was somewhat tangled in the bottom line ratchet. I heard a faint ticking
sound which typically indicates the electric connected to the fence was on. She began struggling to move, but she was on slicked over
iced mud, and there was no traction for her. It was quite apparent she had been there for some time. Her eyes were full of tears, but she
couldn't fully blink them away. Her eyes were physically icing over. The sun was shining, but it was one of those cold windy days with wind
chills in the single digits. She had no muscle mass left to her body, and was so thin you could count every rib. Her hip and spine protruded
to the point that her skin was barely covering the bones. I was concerned that if she could muster enough energy to get up, she would
promptly fall and break her hip on the ice. She was stiff and cold, but still clinging to life. The other two horses had been biting at her,
leaving some open wounds. I had a fleece horse blanket in the car along with some horse feed. I brought some food over for the two
horses (they were thin, but no where near the condition the fallen mare was in) to
keep them occupied while I tried to warm the fallen mare. I was trying to wrap the blanket around her, in addition to placing towels under
her head. I gently tried to get her head off of the fence line, and her hair was falling out by the tufts. She had no mane left on her neck (she
was completely bald). I phoned the volunteer coordinator back and expressed to her we needed to intervene as soon as possible. The
horse was now in full convulsions. We needed a vet and felt there was no other recourse for this suffering animal other than euthanasia. I
told her there was no one at home to assist in the decision. This resulted in phone calls being made to the Sheriff 's Office, the
Prosecutor's Office, the Veterinarian, and another volunteer to help document and help in any other way.
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