Thursday, 20 December 2012

Day 146: Death of a Horse


Today we put down one of our horses, Titan.

A few days ago, he came back from the field with a big lump by his throat. Since it appeared just like that out of nowhere, we figures it may just a lymph node that is swollen and fighting off some infection, or maybe an allergy or an abscess that was forming. The lump didn’t seem to bother him until about three days ago he started making coughing sounds in his stable when eating the hay, like maybe some food got stuck in his mouth or went through the wrong hole and he was trying to cough/snort it out. Then the day before yesterday, as I was ready to leave the stables I heard him cough and wondered if maybe it wasn’t connected to the lump. I came around to see what he was doing and as he saw me come check up on me he came close, had a big cough, and splashed my boots full or green slime with small pieces of grass in it. He was having trouble eating and was just coughing and sliming up the whole place.

The next day we got a vet to come and check, and he thought that maybe the horse had “choke” which is where some food gets stuck and then the horse has a hard time eating and drinking. The slime that was coming out of his nose was actually the saliva from his mouth that he couldn’t swallow because of the obstruction, so it went out through the nose – along with anything else he ate.

He tried to tube Titan, which is where they put a tube through the nose down into his oesophagus, to see whether the tube could go past the lump/obstruction. The tube didn’t get through and just hit solid mass, which made it unlikely that it was food. We then considered cancer since he had cancer before in his eye, but since the lump appeared over the span of 8 hours, we thought that this would be unlikely. The vet then tried to draw fluid from the lump, if it was an abscess some puss should come out – but nothing came out except for a little blood when penetrating the skin.

He took a sample from the lump through a syringe and gave him so muscle relaxant in case it was food stuck, so that it maybe could start moving. We’d have more information after the lab tested the sample.

The next day, we got a call and the lab let us know that there were definitely cancer cells present, but that they would know more once they grew a culture and would phone a later. In the meantime, a horse specialist came out to look at him. He immediately did a UV scan like how they do with a pregnancy to check out the baby, but in this case to see what the lump/mass consisted of. The vet suspected cancer since it was solid and didn’t show characteristics of being an abscess, and also not a bacterial infection since touching or pushing the lump did not seem to hurt Titan.

We knew that if it was going to be cancer that we were going to have to put him down. He was already an old horse and has seen many things happening through his body, and another episode of cancer would indicate that his body is just not able to work through things properly anymore and is deteriorating, and so causing unnecessary suffering.

The vet then called the lab to see if they had more info, and this time the result was definitive: it was cancer, and it was highly aggressive – which is why it manifested into the giant size it was in only a day. It is a very rare type of cancer for horses, and due to the position and size of the tumour – there was no way that surgery would help, it would probably kill him anyway.

When we heard the news, everyone started to tear a little, because we knew now definitely: it’s time for him to go. It was obvious that this was the best way to go, I mean he hadn’t been eating, he hadn’t been drinking and was obviously suffering from the obstruction. The sooner we’d put him down, the better. So even though it was clear this was the best way to go, it was still an unfortunate point – not that I wanted him to live like this, but because we live in a world where things like cancer exist which cause much suffering – a world that we created through our acceptance and allowance.

We then had to quickly make some practical decisions, because we’d have to put him down on the farm and he has a big body, so we had to decide where we would bury him so he could die close to the spot. Once that decision was made, we walked him to the spot, the vet sedated him and once his was sleepy he gave him the final two injections that would put him down. After the two injections were in it was a matter of seconds before he fell down on the ground and was gone. It all went pretty quick. Once all the reflexes stopped in the body, he took a sample of the tumour as the people in the lab wanted to study it, since it was such a rare case. We then got a proper look at the tumour and it was real nasty – it was big and spreading down in throat, and up into his mouth and to the other side as well. We then also saw the jugular that had been feeding the tumour, which was also massive.


Everyone with a horse or other animal knows that this day comes, the day the animal dies.

I knew this within myself as well when I got Charlie, but always projected it to be waaaaaaay in the future and something I would deal with when the time comes. Believing, just like when I had my guinea pig, that his death would still be years away and that I would by that time have ‘toughened-up’ and be able to deal with it. Truth is, you don’t know when these things happen. This whole thing that happened with Titan, happened in the course of a week or less, and the same with Babitjie, the cat that was put down yesterday – it was all sudden and it was all quick.

All in all, I must say it wasn’t as bad as I had expected. A decision had to be made, it was unfortunate, but it was the best decision and anything else would have been a compromise. I was sad, because like all animals on the farm, Titan as a horse has been great support to Gian and also to myself when I have worked with him, I was grateful for him having been here and the time we shared.

He was an old stubborn horse, and he never cared much about us humans and our quirks. If he didn’t want to go somewhere, and didn’t want to move – you could scream and shout at him, and try and force him to do what you wanted, and he would just stand his ground and not move. Anytime you would go into some emotional tantrum, he would just stand there and not move, so everything you threw at him, bounced right off of him back to yourself, so you could see what you were doing. He’d gone through a lot of abuse in his life before he came to us, and even though humans had previously treated him as crap, he had accepted Gian to be his partner and walked with him every day.

It was the best thing to do to get him out of his misery, so his death in itself is not sad, since we’re all going to die at some stage, but what was sad was that this was the only solution to his suffering, as this was suffering created as a result of the world we live in, which is a world we collectively created.

Each time an animal has to be put down as the result of undue suffering – it is testimony to our legacy of fucked-up-ness.

Each time a child dies of starvation, while it could have been provided for, but we didn’t care to create and structure the world in a way to make it possible for all to live a dignified Life – it is a testimony to our fucked-up-ness.

I’ve dealt with a lot of deaths on the farm, and this is the one point that keeps on striking me, because most of the time the death was not a natural death where an animal’s life had been lived to completion – but most of the time the death was the result of consequence as a ‘negative side-effect’ of the world we’ve produced and participate in, which means it was each time an untimely death that could have been prevented.

We really need to sort out this reality, there are way more uncool things happening than there is cool stuff happening – it’s really not worth it to waste your time trying to chase the few good things in this world which give you a momentary experience of happiness while the majority suffers. This is not a cool world to live in, and we do have an alternative. We can eradicate world poverty, we can get rid of famine, we can get rid of crime, we can get rid of fear of living – where we fear living in this world simply because we KNOW that this is not a cool place and we KNOW that shit can hit us at any time from any corner.

So, instead of trying to be the ones that don’t get hit by shit in this world and living in constant fear, we can simply decide to change the conditions of this world to one that is truly Best for All, so that you can come into this world, and you can simply be and you can simply live. We’ve really screwed things up for ourselves, and we’ve screwed ourselves over believing that how we live is fine and acceptable: it is not.

If we can stop unnecessary suffering then it is our duty to do so – there should be no choice in this.

Work towards making this world one that is Best for All – learn how it is possible to change the nature of self-interest of the human to one that is Best for All Life at Desteni, and learn how we can put into place the structures and institutions that reflect a nature that is Best for All at the Equal Money System website.

We don’t have to live like this, so let’s not.





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