Pickles the Great
*This post comes with a two-coffee, 10-tissue alert*
This past week has been quite something. An emotional rollercoaster of the most heart-rending kind.
(Please note, if you have already ridden it with me on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, then please, feel free to visit here or here or here for something a little less… heart-rending. As this blog is a record of the major events in this family’s life, on which I hope my children look back one day, it needs to be shared here. Thanks for understanding.)
Our family had already had a huge few days preparing and participating at a campdraft the previous weekend, and been rocked by news of serious illness of a loved one, so we had looked towards this weekend with a sense of weary anticipation – a gymkhana at a Pony Club Dash and Violet had joined just a few weeks earlier.
Pickles and Sandy (Dash and Violet’s beloved steeds respectively) had been washed and brushed and scrubbed and polished for days leading up to it.
On Friday morning, just as I was fueling up the car before heading out to meet an adorable new baby (cleverly brought into the world by my cousin and his wife) I noticed Pickles lying down. In his rug. And not getting up.
I got him up and he seemed okay, but a little uncomfortable at intervals. Our jackaroo Cal arrived home (he has lots of horsey experience) and recommended giving Pickles warm beer. (Yes I thought he was joking initially too!). We administered this remedy (he didn’t seem too fussy about the taste) and I left Cal to observe the patient while I made the promised visit. Upon my return, Pickles seemed fine although we kept a close eye on him the remainder of the day. We moved him to a yard close to the kitchen so I could check a couple of times during the night – at all stages he seemed relaxed and content.
The day of the gymkhana dawned and everyone packed up for the event. Shoes, boots, ties, jodphurs, brushes, Sandy, Pickles and another horse (Chimmy Chonga) in case Pickles wasn’t up for the action.
One arrival at the grounds 50km away. as we bridled and saddled up, the long lanky bay gelding seemed fine. Happy. Alert.
Now I have to admit (at this point) there aren’t many photos of Pickles competing – I was with Violet and Sandy most of the day, and Mr I stayed with Dash in his age group events. I did see him jump at the last event of the day and thought to take ONE photo. A bad one. Because, despite never previously showing ANY inclination to lift his hooves more than 1 cm higher than ABSOLUTELY necessary, Pickles decided he could jump on Saturday.
It was wonderful to see them both so enthusiastic… Pickles still scraped a few rails (his hooves were multicoloured by the end of the event) but most stayed miraculously in place. Dash got third in the event and immediately decided show-jumping was for him.
My niece Salina was strapper for the day, loving the grooming and caring for both horses. We all watched carefully for signs of distress after his small colic episode the previous day, but none were apparent.
Dash was delighted with his haul of ribbons… as was Violet!
Dash even received a little trophy (for a place overall in his age group) which brought a happy grin.
But while the presentations were on, Mr Incredible noticed something going on in Pickles stall. He was down and trying to roll again. He got him up, took him out and walked him, then hosed him down…
You know that feeling in your gut that something is really wrong? That started to seep into the edges of my day…
We packed up quickly, said our goodbyes, got some advice on treating colic from some experienced Pony Club people, and hit the road.
As he showed regular signs of the colic returning, we called in the vet. She arrived an hour later, examined him at home and gave him painkillers, tubed liquids, electrolytes, some kind of oil and other goodies into his belly and recommended we watch him and walk him through any spasms. Every few minutes, a spasm would hit him and he would try to lie down and roll. It was our job to walk him through these spasms in the hope whatever was causing them would work its way through his gut.
It was a LONG night. After an aborted attempt to sleep early on, I started my Pickles watch at 9pm. We gave him some more painkiller and he snoozed between each spasm episode. I instagrammed (and auto-tweeted and Facebooked each image) – partly to document his progress and partly to keep myself alert.
I hash-tagged it #PrayforPickles which followers responded to – I smiled with each encouraging reply and felt my heart fill with each prayer promised. I didn’t feel alone in my vigil.
I was kept company by Axel (so helpful having a Great Dane bounding around you in under the stars with a dim lamp to light the way), who enjoyed a drink at the trough on the way back. Pickles also drank well, which seemed like a great sign.
As the night wore on, it got colder. As it fell below 10 C I found an extra blanket (Violet’s special one) and added it to his hessian rug. He slept with his muzzle resting on the lawn (12.30pm).
Middy the cat, notoriously the worlds LEAST cuddly cat, decided to get in on the action. She clawed my lap lovingly at around 12.50pm.
2.22am. Spasms seemed to be slowing and sleeping a little more soundly. Still not game to let him lie down.
At 3am I wearily called it quits and woke my husband to take over.
At 7am (when I woke) he was much the same.
This next shot shows Pickles actually enduring a spasm.
Violet did her bit, offering him water and picking bits of couch grass to tempt him to eat.
Dash wrote a special (stencilled) Get Well message to encourage him. It reads:
‘PICKLES YOU ARE WORTH $99999999999999999999 TO ME. I ♥ U.’
Yeah. I know. Got me too.
The day progressed much as the night had. Except he stopped wanting to drink much water, and then about 3pm some blood appeared under his tail.
We rang the vet, and she rang some equine health experts… the only options really were to euthanise him or get him the 50km into town so IV fluids and more drugs could be administered in the hope that he would ‘pass’ whatever was ailing him. The thought was the intestine had ‘telescoped’ itself and might be able to reverse to a normal arrangement with some time. If it was survivable, town was the only option.
So we packed up a weary horse, two weary kids, two VERY weary adults and headed into town.
Our sweet vet was reassuring but realistic – not much blood had passed. A good sign. He was exhausted and not eating or drinking. Not good signs. His abdomen seemed a bit more distended than yesterday. Not a good sign.
We said quick goodbyes and attempted an upbeat mood with the kids – sending positive vibes to our ailing boy.
We dropped in to see Mum and Dad, leaving the horse float (in the hope it would be needed to bring home a horse soon) and picked up pizzas on the way home.
As I walked in the door, the phone was ringing.
It was the vet.
After I had put Dash and Violet to bed, I scheduled a Facebook post to run at 7am this morning. I wanted to tell our kids the news after a good night’s sleep, and before the rest of the world knew.
Last night the world lost the sweetest, most trustworthy, beloved horse ever.
Our darling Pickles did not make it through, and our house will be a sombre place today as we share the terrible news with Pickle’s master (and his sister).
I want each and every one of you to know that each thought sent our way, each prayer said for Pickles, and each sweet message left for us has made the world of difference. It helped me through that long Saturday night, I am sure it gave us 24 more hours than we might have had, and Dash avidly read each message of encouragement left yesterday. If he is up for it today, I will read the ones left here too.
♥♥♥ RIP Pickles the Great. ♥♥♥
You will ever be remembered as Dash’s long lanky equine partner-in-fun and the tall bay horse adored by one and all.
There are many hard lessons in this life. Enduring seeing our son fight for life as a baby was one. Having to share the news, and then let him absorb the reality that his horse was gone, is another. These lessons take your breath away.
I know he’s a tough kid – for all that he’s a sensitive young man too – and he even said to me: I suppose life goes on Mummy.
His emotions have been up and down, alternately distracted by TV or visitors, then wistful and down.
He also said: You need to stop looking at photos on the computer Mum – they are making you too sad and that’s making me sad.
Made me smile through the tears, that one!
I am so glad my children know the joys and sorrows of having animals to care for. I wish I could change that Pickles leaving us happened at age 8 instead of age 38. Other parent’s had lined up to have Pickles in their family, for their kids, next. He would’ve been the best little kids’ horse of all time. But that is not to be. We don’t get that .
But we did get four years of Pretty Bloody Fantastic.
I am glad our kids know the ups and downs of it all. As painful as that can be. That is life.
I am glad that Pickles and Dash finished their special partnership in glory – festooned in ribbons and lathered in the kind of love only children and horses can know.
I am glad that social media is here – if you click on the photos from my night-shift you will see the wonderful reponses I got on Facebook from each image sent into the world from deep in the Aussie bush. If you click here you will see the amazing sweet messages for my son from this morning’s difficult post. You people are incredible…
Thanks for being there. We felt the love. And it mattered.