Animal Memorials 2017
Each and every animal who resides with us on the farm is an important part of the whole family. Each one of them comes and touches our hearts and leaves memories that we cherish. Death is a part of life, a natural transition and process. Being an animal sanctuary we deal primarily with elder care and hospice care and, in that process, we are with most of our animal family as they pass from this realm into the next. It is sometimes very difficult, sometimes very hard, sometimes a shock, and sometimes it is an expected passing. But it is always an honor to be with them and to share in that most sacred moment. Here at the farm, it is an event that our whole staff shares in. Each animal who dies is given a memorial service and burial and whoever of our staff wants to participate, brings with them a parting gift to be buried with that animal. Whether it is some flowers or their favorite blanket or treat or toy, it is our way of paying them tribute. We laugh together. We cry together. But mostly we are there to share with one another the depth to which each animal has touched us. We share aloud the things they have taught us and the stories and memories we will always have. It is a chance to honor their heart and soul and a chance to thank them for sharing with us. It is an opportunity to say good-bye and to send them on their journey with our love and best wishes.
It is from this perspective that we share these memorials with all of you. These are not presented for the purpose of sharing sadness. While we do feel sad, the reason for sharing these memorials, is to impart to all of you a small piece of what we have been given as gifts from all of these animals. It is our way of thanking them for being here with us and to acknowledge them and share them with the world. It is a celebration for who they are and the mark they have left on this world.
Breezie - February 9, 2017
It is hard to chronical a life that spanned 26 years in a short memorial. But it is imperative to the heart and understanding and growth of this farm to be sure to acknowledge and learn from each life that passes through our hearts. Today, we lost one of the founding forces of our organization. Breezie was born May 5, 1991, just as Spring Farm CARES was moving from it's conception to it's birth. We watched her enter our lives and, in turn, she spent almost 26 years changing our lives.
Breezie was a most incredibly gentle, kind, and loving spirit. As a foal, she was like a puppy and loved to follow people around and would even try to sit in your lap if you sat down in her stall. She was full of trust of life and her human caretakers and seemed prime to enjoy an amazing run in this world. However, as she grew, we came to realize that she inherited a trait from her mother which proved to make life difficult for Breezie – she was extremely accident prone. From early on, Breezie seemed to attract the most amazingly bizarre injuries. We’d often say if any horse can get hurt on something, it would be Breezie and her mother Babe. Unfortunately, several of those injuries drastically affected Breezie’s career as a rideable horse. In fact, the horse so trusting of life, by age two had started to question trusting anything or anyone anymore. The horse we could once do anything with utterly changed into a horse that was very hard to handle and eventually even difficult to halter. One day, when she was about 4 years old, Breezie decided that going outside of the barn always meant trouble. She flat out refused to leave the barn. And if we pushed the issue, she pushed back at us with equal force. She was not going outside. Obviously, this was not the life we wanted for her. What horse would even choose that life when a wonderful herd of horse friends on acres of pastures was just feet away outside the door? Well, Breezie chose not to participate in any of that anymore. She’d go as far as our indoor arena/stall area and that was it.
In May 1997, something happened that should never have happened here – but it did. Two of our horse caretakers at the time decided to show off for a new employee and said they were going to prove that they could get Breezie outside. They thought they knew better than Breezie. Just as she had done for two years, she stopped at the door to the outside of the barn and steadfastly refused to go out. But the humans ….. well, they knew how to outsmart her! Afterall, we humans always know what’s right. They hatched a plan for one of them to scare her from behind by hitting a garbage can with a whip so that she would bolt out the door. Unfortunately, when they did just that, Breezie did not bolt forward but reared up in the air and fell over backwards, slamming her withers hard on to the concrete floor. To make matters worse, she also hit one of the sliding stall door wheels. Several vertebrae slammed upwards, busting through her skin and breaking off into sharp fragments. Lots and lots of fragments. And all of the sawdust, dirt, hay and whatever else was on that floor went flying back inside of her along with the rest of the bones. Breezie had just sustained an injury that would be with her for the next 20 years of her life. It was the last straw. The final piece that proved unshakably to her that people could not be trusted and that bad things happened outside those doors. She would never even step near that door again. In fact, for about a year, she never even left her stall.
For 20 years, Breezie was at times a perpetual volcano of bone chip eruptions. She had a sterile abscess that never closed. Sometimes it got infected. She most every day had thick discharge that had to be cleaned and scrubbed off of her skin. In the beginning, she wouldn’t even let us touch her. Veterinarians were unable to treat her or sedate her. All of this because humans put their own egos and agendas ahead of what was right for Breezie. Breezie taught us all so many valuable lessons. She taught us all to listen. She showed us the importance of respect. And she reminded us every single day that these animals have their own paths in life. It is not about us molding them to the image we choose for them. It is about looking at each of them as feeling/thinking/loving individuals. Every single day she reminded us.
Breezie learned to open to trust again. It took years. It was totally on her terms. But she eventually not only let her caretakers clean her every day, but came to enjoy her time with them. However, she would not let us do any medical interventions of any kind. And we all kind of held a worry in the back of our heads about what would happen if something critical happened to Breezie and she wouldn’t let us help her.
The thing is that under all that fear, mistrust, and resistance, the real Breezie was still there. The kind, gentle, loving horse that came into this world was still in there – hiding from the world that seemed to betray her trust. A “normal” horse life was not a fit for her. While we bemoaned for years that we couldn’t give her a “normal” life, we finally came to realize that Breezie was extremely happy living THIS life. Indeed, she needed a small life. She was incredibly empathic and the bigger world was too much for her to filter and handle. She easily overwhelmed and shut down – and had accidents because she couldn’t think properly. Yes, Breezie actually had a very special gift that we fully discovered and began to understand a few years ago. Because of her exceptional empathic abilities, Breezie knew in an instant when there was anything wrong with any of the animals in the barn. And when she knew that, she’d begin spinning in her stall and whinnying at the top of her lungs. People would always come running. And after a couple of instances of this, we knew if Breezie did that behavior then someone in the barn was in trouble. Breezie helped us save the lives of 3 animals over ther years who went into anaphylactic episodes and would have been dead in minutes had she not alerted us to their crises. These would have been missed as no one was around to catch it. Breezie herself was not even in visual connection with these other animals. But she knew. That was how sensitive Breezie was. That was how amazingly special she was. To label her a difficult or “crazy” horse, as many did, was a complete misunderstanding of who she was.
Breezie was one of the most incredibly gifted and special horses to ever have graced this farm. In the past few months something started to change with her. She could no longer eat hay and we thought she had a bad tooth. So we fed her a hay free diet. Indeed a swelling showed up on her face and our vet thought for sure she had a tooth root abscess and we’d have to wait it out for the tooth to loosen up and fall out. Our vet after a long patient time with Breezie actually was able to get an injection of sedative in – and for the first time in nearly 20 years, she had a dental work up and a full physical. All seemed good. She seemed healthy. She had enough teeth missing that eating hay was not going to be in her future but she was fine with her new diet. We were excited that we were able to help her and she seemed to learn a new bit of trust with us again too. It was all good.
But Breezie kept slowly declining. We all knew something was wrong and we were missing something. This week, she suddenly stopped eating. Once again, she allowed the veterinarian to come sedate her. A catheter was put in so that we had a way to deliver medications to her in as unobtrusive a way for her as possible. She allowed all of that. She knew she needed help. All of her blood work was normal and at first our vet was at a loss for a diagnosis. After another day of decline, we sedated her again and took radiographs of her head, looking for a tooth root abscess. Only, this time, we found our answer. Unbeknownst to all of us, Breezie had been living with a major problem for some time. She had a huge mass in her sinus that took up a huge portion of the front of her head and it had even spread to a mass in her throat. She never let on to the pain she must have been in. She hid that from us all. We had reached the end of the road together. Breezie hated injections and being poked. It terrified her. But with the catheter already in place, we knew that we had one last way to help our friend. The moment we had all secretly feared would come was suddenly upon us. And thankfully Breezie would not have to be poked again. She was not afraid. She was surrounded in love. And she looked at each one of us over and over again as the veterinarian prepared the final injection. She studied us in great detail. And she looked at every inch of the barn.
“What are you doing?” Dawn asked her.
“I’m studying all of you and everything I love so dear so that I can remember every second and savor it forever.”
And it is with that peace, trust, love, and joy that Breezie left our embrace and went on with her friends in Spirit who she nickered to as she left her body. Her life wasn’t small at all. It was huge. And her impact on us, on this farm, and in all who we touch is enormous and will go on forever. Breezie, we are sorry for mistakes we made in the past. But we learned from you how to pick up and move on. You taught us so much and will be in our hearts forever.