Saturday we put embryos in. I love working cattle, but by the time we’re done, I’m tired and sore.
And, making things a little harder, I had to stop and get Finn up and feed him. The girls had been taking the overnight, but I tried to help out starting with the early morning feeding, since I’m up anyway, and doing what I can through the day. It’s made things hard since I’m also trying to write two books each month, and, actually, I have two extra books to write this month.
Anyway, at ten I fed Finn, then I let Hope and him out, since the cows were done, Watson had left to go to PA and Hope could eat in the yard and Finn would have a little room to move. He didn’t do much playing or running like a normal foal, but he’d been getting stronger and stronger.
I walked to our porch, then, before I went in to start my writing for the day, I turned around and watched Hope and Finn.
For the last three weeks, Finn had basically walked with his head down, just no energy, but Saturday, as I stood on the porch, I saw him sniff a flower, then act all startled the way foals do, turn and almost fall, then he trotted to his mom.
I was so thrilled to see those few steps at a trot – it was the first time he’d moved faster than a walk and I was thinking in my head that he’d be getting himself up any day since he would strengthen those muscles by using them. I was pretty excited and couldn’t keep from smiling.
I went inside and cleaned up a little and started writing.
An hour later Pie came in and cooked lunch, and she called me down and she and I sat on the front porch and ate. Julia had been up most of the night with Finn and she had just gotten up an hour or so earlier, so she wasn’t hungry.
Anyway, Pie and I were watching as our dog, Diesel, ate one of the Brussels sprouts Pie had thrown off the porch, when my phone rang.
It was Julia.
Julia said, “Mom, I need you to come over here right away.”
I said, “Okay,” and stood up, shoving my phone back in my pocket and putting my plate on the banister. I didn’t bother to ask what the issue was. I could tell from the tone of her voice that there was a problem, and I’d rather see it than hear about it anyway.
I power walk to the barn and Pie comes with me.
Julia is in the barn, Finn is on the floor and Hope is standing beside them.
“What’s up?” I ask this as I come over and stand beside her and Finn. We’ve been flushing Finn’s wound and sometimes Julia needs me to hold him for her. I thought she might be struggling with that.
“Finn can’t stand on his front leg and he keeps falling.”
Okay. I’m not sure exactly what might be causing that – had he broken something? – so I help Finn up. He doesn’t even stand for a second before he falls to the ground. I help him up again. This time, he balances a bit and I’m hopeful he’s going to stay up, but as soon as he tries to take a step, his leg gives out and he falls.
I don’t think it’s broken. It’s holding his weight. But there’s something.
It’s one thing for him to not be able to get himself up. It’s a completely different story for him to not be able to stay up once he’s standing. Add on to that the fact that he still wasn’t eating as well as he should and also the wound that he had that we were flushing and draining and trying to keep clean and free of flies, and I stood there for a moment, then I stepped back and looked at my girls.
“I think it might be time to have that hard conversation.”
We’re all exhausted. They’ve been up almost around the clock, all night some nights, and then we’re still doing all the regular farm work, and we’d been working hard at getting our rental up and our other one has been booked solid, plus Julia is still doing covers and I’m writing two books a month, which isn’t easy even if that was the only thing I was doing.
We are so, so tired.
“I don’t mind getting him up, but if he can’t stay up long enough to eat…I can’t hold him up and feed him from the bucket at the same time.” Julia is standing beside me, looking at Finn who is sprawled on the ground.
“He’s too big and too heavy for us to do that by ourselves. We’d need two people to get up with him at night.” Pie was right.
“I think we need to talk to the vet.” My heart hurts.
It’s Saturday, but our vet answers her cell phone. We explain how Finn had been doing so much better and had even trotted a little! But she said if he can’t stand, it’s time to put him down.
Dr. Shane, who did the ultrasound, is on call, so she relays our info to him and he says he’ll be out in an hour or so.
The girls and I sit in the barn and we talk again about whether we’re making the right choice.
We get up, because it’s better to be working, right? So Julia cleans the barn, Pie takes care of the garbage and I go clean the refrigerator (which says more than anything about how upset I am).
Dr. Shane comes.
He palpates his leg while Finn’s lying on the ground and can’t feel anything wrong.
I get Finn up for him. He sees how Finn’s leg is fine then just gives out. He says it’s probably a nerve issue. One that he can’t do anything for and he can’t tell us when it will get better or IF it will get better.
Finn collapses under Hope. Still, I ask the doc if we’re making the right decision.
He says some pretty nice things about the care that we’ve given Finn. The girls did most of it and he calls their efforts valiant (the writer in me smiles at his use of that word – I love it!) and heroic (I love that word, too). He says that if it were him, or most people, he would have quit long before this. That in his opinion, the ethical thing to do is what we were going to do.
I guess I needed that validation, because, while I’m not a very good fighter, I’m an even worse quitter. And no matter how tired we were, and how impossible our odds and how we were making the only decision that made sense, it still felt like quitting. Like we were letting Finn down. Like I didn’t want to let go.
Doc goes out to his truck to get the stuff he needs and Pie and I pull Finn out from underneath Hope so we don’t have a 2000 pound draft stepping on us as we work.
Dr. Shane comes back, gives Finn a shot to relax him and asks for someone to help hold Finn while he gives the shot in the neck. I step forward. He shows me how I need to hold him so his neck is stretched out and he can’t jerk away from the needle.
The girls leave, but I call Pie back to hold Hope in case she decides to move. Pie turns her back on us, holding Hope’s halter.
The stuff is powerful and acts fast.
I follow the doc out to the truck to pay him, and he leaves us with some gel to give to Hope to “make her drunk” (Dr. Shane’s words) so she doesn’t go crazy and hurt herself when we take Finn from her.
As soon as doc leaves, Pie gives it to Hope while I hold her. It is absorbed through the membranes in the mouth and that reminds me of the morphine I gave my mom during her last days – same deal. I used a dropper to put it slowly in her cheek to be absorbed through the membranes in her mouth, since she was no longer waking up or swallowing.
Anyway, it takes forty-five minutes to work, so I leave the stall and Julia is standing on the other side of the barn. She holds her arms out and I walk to her and hold her while she cries.
I’m so terrible at this.
I’m not crying and I’m not going to cry. I hate crying. I’d rather laugh and that’s how I cope. So I apologize for not being a better mom and then I make stupid jokes that make Julia criggle (which is cry and giggle at the same time for those of you new to my newsletter. Julia does this all the time.)
She knows, but I explain that I cope by laughing. Then I joke that Pie needs a picture of the dead body so she can make one of her sad TikTok videos that will make everyone who watches it cry. Before Julia can say anything, Pie says, “Oh, I already did that last week when we thought we were putting him down.”
Pie also jokes that at least it’s not her birthday. (We lost five horses on her birthday last year from botulism and I never told that story, because who wants to hear a story like that?)
Bill, our neighbor who teased the girls about being sissies because they didn’t want to work the Akaushis, came and dug a hole with his bulldozer for us.
I sat on the porch for a while with my dog and stared down the hill and across the creek at the horses grazing on the other side, and at the herd of cattle on the hill and watch the ponies eat and play along the driveway.
I wasn’t really thinking about anything, just being still and knowing that God is God and God is good and that it’s okay to be sad and it’s okay to hurt and it’s okay to cry. Jesus cried at Lazuras’s grave, even though He knew He was going to bring him back to life.
Finn isn’t coming back.
I thought back to some of the losses we’ve had over the years – there have been a lot of them. I don’t think it gets easier, exactly, and the sadness and grief sometimes feel heavier than a person can handle, but it is SO much easier for me to turn to God immediately and know that His plan is perfect. I don’t wonder why, unless I’m trying to figure out what lesson I’m supposed to be learning, and I don’t question Him. He’s God and I’m not. That has definitely gotten easier over the years.
So, I sit there for a little bit. The hardest losses are the ones where you know you cut a corner that you shouldn’t have, or when you feel like you could have done more, but didn’t. With Finn, I looked back and didn’t see a single thing I could have put more heart and effort into. That isn’t always the case, and it doesn’t help the sadness, but it does a lot to soothe any guilt or regret. Maybe that’s one of those lessons I’ve learned over the years. That I would rather put my whole self into something than look back with regrets.
And, of course, there are no hard times in your life that aren’t there to make you a better, stronger, more compassionate and wiser person.
This time isn’t any different. We learned a lot, and the girls gained confidence as they shouldered the responsibility for Finn. And, honestly, if you’d have told me a year ago that Julia would take a syringe and put it in a hole in an animal’s coat and flush the pus and infection out, I never would have believed it. But you do what you have to and it makes you a better person.
God has plans for us, and taking care of Finn – and losing him – the things we learned, the things we did and the wisdom and knowledge we gained, was part of those plans.
So, Saturday night we all got a full night of sleep for the first time in weeks, but it was bittersweet without our brave boy.
Thanks so much for spending time with me today.