Welcome to Gracie's Program!
Below is the True story that inspired Gracie's Program, written by Lynne Petitti
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.