She was standing in the Kill Pen at Unadilla, a fly mask on her face. This old, used up mare, skin and bone. Beneath the fly mask, her eyes were ruined. Untreated uvitis. Like many of the Kill Pen horses, Ellie stood calmly, accepting her fate. They know the end is at hand. So many seem to know: no one will save them.
You have a blind horse in the kill pen, Linda told the auctioneer. It's illegal to transport a blind or injured horse for slaughter. The auctioneer said he would close the bid at $30 so Linda could take the horse. Otherwise, the mare would be returned to the awful people who had brought her.
Will you give her a life? he asked, leaning down from the podium as he closed the bid.
We did. We did give Miss Ellie a life--though in truth, we brought her home expecting euthanasia might be her only option. And the vet did recommend euthanasia. Ellie had digested all visible muscle on her body. Her eyes were an agony. The loss of muscle around her rectum had caused it to collapse; this created a situation in which fecal matter was getting into her urethra and vagina, causing infection. There were lameness issues from a tendon and overgrown feet. Her mouth was filled with sores from untended teeth. Ellie was a wreck.
But just as obvious as all the things wrong, was Ellie's desire to not give up on life. She dug into fresh hay and grain, with gusto, and most heartwrenching--she quietly responded, with nuzzles and nickers, to human kindness. And so, one by one, her issues were addressed: a quick surgery and a regimen of antibiotics brought relief from the rectal problem. Proper dental care and hoof trimming brought improvement in the areas of teeth and feet. Two eye surgeries, reluctantly performed but seen as the only option for Ellie, relieved her from the ongoing distress caused by her destroyed vision. In about six months time, Ellie reached a plateau that seemed very much to encompass what it was we wanted to give her: a life that was pain free.
Though lacking sight, Ellie used her remarkable intelligence to map her stall and paddock, and her grazing areas. When frightened, she would not bolt; rather, she completely controlled her flight response, an amazing achievement.
Her decline began this winter with a sudden weight loss. The cause was not determined. Breathing issues also evolved. Cancer was a strong, grim possibility. Steroids brought Ellie much relief, and the spring grass gave her many days of contented grazing and luxurious naps in the sun, stretched out on a mattress of lush timothy and clover. When the day came that Ellie laid down, and did not want to get up, we put aside, with great sorrow, our own wishes to have her with us, forever--and let her go.
Dearest Ellie. Our dear sweetie girl. My good friend. Seven years was not enough. You were a gift to our lives, and we will miss you always, and forever. Death is peace.
Questions about parrots? Diet, behavior, disease--you name it, go to the New York Birds website: NewYorkBirds.net.