The Force of the Horse

The Death of a Friend

Guest Editorial by Faith Bjalobok, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Duquesne University, Fellow of Oxford Center for Animal Advocacy

The Force of the Horse Binds the Human Soul

Last night I lost my 43 year old friend and horse, Dusty Rose. I had rescued Dusty Rose about 13 years ago in response to a call for a home for a 30 year old blind Arab Morgan cross whose first rescuer had died of cancer. Dusty Rose was not only blind but she could be as mean as hell. Over the years she inflicted numerous bodily injuries on me including a fractured wrist. Once when I was on crutches she knocked me down and walked over me but we were friends and I grew to love the cantankerous old lady.

Over the last several years Dusty Rose had begun to drop weight and despite all my efforts I could not put weight on her. Then last Thursday when a friend came by to check in on the horses while I was at work, she found Dusty Rose down in her stall. Fortunately, the blacksmith was coming to trim and he was able to help get her up.

Dusty was fine until I came to feed last night and found her down in her stall. I tried in vain to get her up. I became extremely upset because I am experienced in getting horses up by myself as I had done it for 5 years for my arthritic quarter horse. I called my friend and she along with her daughter and a gentleman that I met at the cat spay neuter clinic several days before came to help me. We tried but our efforts were also in vain.

I decided to call 911 and even though I am familiar with our county’s LART (large animal response team) I never expected the amount of help that I would receive. Two area fire companies arrived on the scene in a short period of time followed by another fire company that makes up the LART for our county along with the LART director and my vet.

Dusty Rose was quickly evaluated and we all agreed that the situation was bleak but that she deserved a chance. The vet administered warm fluids and vitamins while the LART members coordinated their plans to lift her. The firemen that lifted Dusty Rose up did so with kindness and compassion. The approximately 13 adults in the barn cheered when Dusty Rose stood with assistance and was able to eliminate her urine. Unfortunately it became clear rather quickly that Dusty Rose was not going to be able to stand on her own and that her vital signs were weakening. While the firemen held her up, my vet called me aside to discuss the situation and what she believed was in the best interest of Dusty Rose. I agreed that the time for euthanasia had arrived. The firemen ever so gently lowered Dusty Rose and propped her up with hay bales. They expressed their sympathy and the leader asked if it was okay to send them home. I said yes.

My vet sat on the hay bales and talked with me as I held Dusty Rose’s head and then she administered the euthanasia. Dusty Rose died in peace surrounded by people who loved and cared for her in her stall in a clean dry barn. I am deeply saddened by the loss of my dear friend. However, I am grateful that Dusty Rose never had to experience the pain and suffering associated with horse slaughter; the feelings of fear and abandonment. Last night my friends, the firemen and my vet restored my faith in humanity. They had all answered my call to help an ageing equine leave this earth in peace. I will bury Dusty Rose in the horse cemetery and place a marker on her grave. I will miss my friend but I will remain forever grateful to those kind and compassionate individuals who took the time to care about an old horse named Dusty Rose.

 

You have touched us, Faith, through your words.  In return, our verbaige may be weak but the passion and love that drives it wishes you peace, serinity and thanks for all that you have done and for all that you are.  Rest easy as you well deserve the quiet solitude of knowing that you gave so much joy to one who’s live was forever touched.

Thank you for sharing, Faith.

R.T.

53 replies »

  1. Thank you Faith for giving Dusty Rose a diginified end. Having been in the same situation this past Summer, I know what you are going through. Sweetheart was only in her 20’s (I think). As she was a rescued horse, who knows just how old she was. She never hurt me, she was so careful of us. We loved her very much but it was time to free her. She’s the first in our horse cemetery. RIP Dusty. You were one of the lucky ones.

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  2. Sorry for your loss. Its good to know she left this world, being held in your arms.
    I hope your memories of her, will provide comfort.

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  3. I am very sorry to hear the lose of a great companion ! May she rest in peace. She waited for you to release her. She trusted you. Have peace in your heart knowing she is free . God bless your kind heart.

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  4. Faith, you were there with your Dusty Rose until the end, that is the greatest thing that
    I think that anyone can do for their best friends, I lost my best friend, Thunder, in 2008, he got fistulous withers and after a month of battling the infection we had to set him free as well, also lost my baby, Zepplin to the dreaded african horse sickness in 2009.

    You and Dusty Rose are blessed.

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  5. Dear Faith,
    I am so sorry for the loss. You gave her everything a loving owner could give.
    My heart goes out to you. I cried reading this . My love for horses is so great and compassionate. I have four rescues. Two of which are in their 20s. I think of how hard it will be to make that decision when it comes. I put down only 2 dogs in my life. At 15 yrs each one. I know how hard that was to say goodbye. I can’t even imagine how much it will hurt to say goodbye to my equine friends. God Bless You, you are truly an angel on earth.
    May Dusty now RIP.

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  6. Faith, no words can truly console you or any of the people who knew Dusty Rose. As with any passing, only time will lessen the pain. She had 43 good years, and you had the kindness to give her a good end when her time had come. It’s the last and most precious gift we can give any of the beloved animals entrusted to our care.

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  7. Even though Dusty Rose was “a cantankerous old lady”, if she had animal friends they may grieve as well. My cats, dogs, and birds have mourned the loss of their companions, and a friend’s ancient mule was off his feed and wandered the barnyard for weeks after his “molly” passed. He finally paired up with a grand old mare who defends the little fella from all comers. It’s truly a sight to see!

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  8. “…Somewhere in time’s Own Space
    There must be some sweet pastured place
    Where creeks sing on and tall trees grow
    Some Paradise where horses go,
    For by the love that guides my pen
    I know great horses live again.”
    Stanley Harrison

    This is one of my favorite poems, think of this and Dusty Rose. I am sorry for your loss Faith and I’m sending you a big hug. Lin

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  9. Faith, You will always remember your “Dusty Rose.” As the years go by, her antics and personality become sweeter in time. I know this does not help the pain you are feeling now.

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  10. Thank God for now taking Dusty Rose over the rainbow bridge & also for sending her to RT who took such wonderful care of her down here on earth. I pray for all horses to have the same respect Dusty Rose had & that all horses & other Earthlings deserve.

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  11. Dear Faith, i am so sorry for your loss. but it was a beautiful friendship, with love and respect, I wish that I could say something to ease your pain, But find comfort in knowing that she felt your love to the end !!!! God Bless Dusty Rose, she is with the other angels , and know that she now runs free and plays with the horses like herself and free of any pain ………………..

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  12. So sorry Faith 😦 I wish there was something I could say to ease your pain. RIP dear Dusty Rose. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

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  13. The end of a life is never ever easy. You have known love and have given love freely. Dusty Rose was an individual who was loved by you. God Bless those individuals (vet and fire department) who supported you and Dusty Rose during her last hours of her life. A horse in heaven roams the cloads looking down at you and loving you. Godspeed Dusty Rose.

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  14. bless you with many blessings, Dusty Rose. even your name is lovely. may you walk in Beauty.
    thank you, R.T. , for sharing. you are so generous. with us. thank you for reminding us of love, of death, of kindness, of surrender, of holding a loved one’s head on one’s lap when it is needed. when we are needed.
    thank you. stay safe (soft nickers, Dusty Rose)
    Lu x

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  15. i’m sorry, Faith, i overlooked the intro.
    thank you thank you for sharing, and i mean everything i just wrote. this is a gift.
    and soft nickers to you too. stay safe.

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  16. Faith – The loss of a loved one is never easy. The void left, and grief felt, within the heart can is so terribly acute and painful. However, this story is beautiful, and I know you had great peace, in holding Dusty Rose’s head and comforting her – in this last transition of her life, surrounded by supportive people. Dusty Rose was lucky she had you. Thank you, for sharing. I have enclosed a poem I wrote several years ago.

    To Our Horses who have passed ~ In Loving Memory
    By: Audrey Caprio

    Poetry in motion,
    Flight without wings
    Mystical, magical, soulful eyes
    In graceful movements, do they sing.

    Courageous and noble
    Peaceful warriors are they
    Teaching us to be strong yet gentle
    Is what these creatures convey.

    All horses are sent from heaven
    A precious gift, but for a season
    To take our burdens upon their backs
    And give us love without a reason

    And when their lives end here on earth
    Surely we must realize
    On Pegasus’ wings do they return
    Where an eternal pasture lies

    In tears of sorrow, we release them
    Memories – a moment in time
    Lessons learned, devotion bestowed us
    Will forever remain behind

    And God sends us reminders
    Of beloved horses passed
    Within the roll of thunder
    Is heard, their hoof beats across the grass

    Until we meet again

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    • That was the most beautiful poem I think I have ever read. It describes just how I imagine the afterlife is for our equine brothers and sisters.
      I’m sure that was truly appreciated by R.T. and his human and equine family.
      Thank you for your amazing connection to our noble and majestic friends, the horses.

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  17. I am sorry for your loss. Its very difficult to lose a beloved family member. I hope and pray Dusty Rose’s spirit runs free with all the other horses that have died (in vain) somewhere, in a place some call heaven.
    In my mind I see all the spirits finally finding peace from the cruelty of this earth, running and playing and doing out their heritage, as they should.
    At least Dusty Rose died with those who love her, not in some slaughter house..

    RIP Dusty Rose, you were loved by your family, equine and human.
    I’m sure you taught many lessons to those whose life you changed by
    being here with us on this place called earth.
    You will be missed I am sure, and the spirit of you will roam the pastures
    and those whose life you touched will feel your presence, and give thanks
    for you.

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  18. JUST TO READ THE END OF YOUR STORY, I BEGAN TO BREATH EASIER. I AM VERY TOUCHED BY YOUR STORY YOU SHARE HERE AND I CONGRADE YOU ON TAKING THE MOST BEAUTIFUL DECISION, TO EUTHANIZE THIS HORSE, WHO-EVER DOES THIS, IS AN ANGEL IN MY EYES. BLESS YOU, AND LET ONLY, BUT GOOD MEMORIES REST YOUR SOUL NOW..TKS FOR SHARING YOUR STORY AND EDUCATING OTHERS AS WELL..~R.I.P~ DUSTY-ROSE, YOU ARE IN HEAVEN NOW WITH ALL YOUR FRIENDS AND MAY YOU HAVE PEACE NOW…XX (s) FROM Qc… merci

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  19. From A PET’S TEN COMMANDMENTS
    Although horses may not be considered “pets”, they are equally valued by those who have the priviledge of owning or caring for them:

    9. Please take care of me when I grow old.
    You too, will grow old.
    10 On the ultimate difficult journey, go with me please.
    Never say you can’t bear to watch. Don’t make me face
    this alone.~
    Take a moment today to thank God for your pets.
    Enjoy and take good care of them.
    Life would be a much duller, less joyful experience
    without God’s critters.
    ~Now please pass this on to others.
    We do not have to wait for Heaven, to be surrounded
    by hope, love, and joyfulness. It is here on earth and
    has four legs!

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    • Beautiful Louie, The love and passion here for the horses is felt by all here everyday ,see how good for the Human soul all horses are , angels come to us in many forms.

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  20. I, too, lost a friend last night; our relationship mirrors so closely that of Faith and her Dusty Rose – old, cantakerous, tendency toward meanness & injury toward others, stubborn, broken – but my loss was on a smaller scale – a beat-up truck-wreck of a cat named Mr. Grape (no, I didn’t name him. That was my daughter’s joke on this poor old man.)

    So how’s come the loss doesn’t FEEL smaller??

    There are days, like today, when I rant at My Father for giving me a heart that cannot refuse anything seeking refuge – but that’s also His gift to me. When it comes to The Bond between me and those I care for, who am I to question such a gift?

    For those I have loved.

    For those I still love.

    For those I will love….

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    • Your loss is no less grieving then that of Dusty Rose all animals we have loved and cared for will remain in our hearts forever, there pleasures to us mount everyday (even if they are a little on the mean side ) they love us no more or less then the ones who can show there love in a loving way, we are the caretakers ,we were Blessed to be able to give them love……….and caring just like them un conditionally………….

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    • Lisa–So sorry for your loss of Mr. Grape–and I think that is a wonderful name! How lucky he was to have landed with you with all your kindness and love for one others might have thought “unlovable.”

      The loss of a cat is no smaller and no less than the loss of a horse–or an elephant, for that matter. Mr. Grape is proof that size doesn’t matter.

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    • Lisa – So sorry for your loss as well. The size , or relative “value” (that ignorant humans place) on any living thing never mattters. They are all so precious. This reminds me of one of my numerous animal family members…a chinchilla. Willy Chinchilly was a gift to my daughter. He was the CUTEST little thing. He loved his dust baths, and running around when we let him out of his cage every night – often leaping onto our laps. When my daughter & I moved to CA from the east coast, of course we brought Willy along, with our cat and dog…..no one would be left behind. As life would have it, Willy grew old and feeble. We took him to the vet, but nothing erases time. One evening, I noted Willy hovering at the bottom of his cage, shivering..and I knew his life force was ebbing. My daughter was, at that time, 14 years old. I told her…Your chinchilla is dying, and he must not die alone. He is your chinchilla, and it is your duty to be by his side. Willy was not the first of our animal family (nor the first of our human family) to die -but, up until this time, my daughter had been spared. Now – it was rightfully her duty. I gave her a towel to put on her lap, placed dear Willy there, and said – Now, you comfort him, hold him, and be with him …until the end. She did. This sweet little being, in the last gasps of his life, gave my daughter a lesson about compassion and responsibility, beyond what I could have given. We both cried at the end, and gave sweet Willy a proper burial. All creatures, “great and small”, deserve this……and my heart breaks over and over again – for those that do not get it. Bless you for giving Mr Grape a good life, and a loving end. Your father’s gift was that of a sword – a powerful one of graciousness , love, and strength, as well as one with deeply cutting edges.

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  21. Thank you, Faith, for sharing this with us…although sad to lose a friend, it is helpful to know what happened with Dusty Rose and how you handled it with compassion, empathy, efficiency, and a huge amount of love. Many of us will no doubt go through similar experiences as we help our horse friends go gently to the next level of their existence, and it’s helpful to learn from the experiences of others on how best to do that when the time comes.

    I’m so very sorry for your loss and hope you are comforted in knowing that you gave Dusty Rose the best of the earthly world and more. Thank you for helping not only Dusty Rose, but so many of us humans by sharing your and her story.

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  22. I am so sorry for your loss…They are our babies, friends, someone there when we need a shoulder…Dusty Rose lived a long life, she now runs free of pain & she can see…She knew the love you had for her…You were her “Hero”..You are truly a “Hero” to the many you help…Thank you…
    God Bless you, Dusty Rose will always be close in your heart..
    Janet

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  23. We are about to celibrate the birth of a man born among the horses and barn animals. His love and caring for them caused his death. PEACE my friend for your loss has truly found another friend in a beter place.

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  24. Thank you for sharing this experience. It is a fabulous example of how the horses that have trusted and served us for their whole lives deserve to die. If everyone followed this example, there would never be a single horse sold for slaughter.

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  25. We all are diminished by your loss. I lost my friend two years ago that I’d raised from 5 months old – he was only 8 years at the time, and there was no warnings. I know he’ll be waiting for me at the Rainbow Bridge, but it’s hard to remember everyone has their own calendar – no matter what WE think it should be. The fact that you had her surrounded with such love and caring was a great gift and send off. Blessed Be.

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  26. I’ll lend you for a little while
    My grandest foal, He said.
    For you to love while he’s alive
    And mourn for when he’s dead.
    It may be one or twenty years,
    Or days or months, you see.
    But will you, till I take him back,
    Take care of him for me?
    He’ll bring his charms to gladden you,
    And should his stay be brief
    You’ll have treasured memories
    As solace for your grief.
    I cannot promise he will stay,
    Since all from earth return.
    But there are lessons taught on earth
    I want this foal to learn.
    I’ve looked the wide world over
    In my search for teachers true.
    And from the throngs that crowd life’s lanes
    With trust, I have selected you.
    Now will you give him your total love?
    Nor think the labor vain,
    Nor hate me when I come
    To take him back again?
    I know you’ll give him tenderness
    And love will bloom each day.
    And for the happiness you’ve known
    Forever grateful stay.
    But should I come and call for him
    Much sooner than you’d planned
    You’ll brave the bitter grief that comes
    And someday you’ll understand

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  27. Sorry for your loss R.T.
    “What we have once enjoyed, we can never lose.
    All that we love deeply, becomes a part of us”. Helen Keller

    Dusty Rose died with dignity. I hope you will have a special little memorial service to honor your friend.

    “Grieve not,
    Nor speak of me with tears
    but laugh and talk of me
    As if I were beside you…
    I loved you so –
    “Twas heaven here with you”. Isla Paschal Richardson

    Stay strong RT Fitch. You are needed.

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  28. I am so glad to hear that you were able to hold her head and comfort her. It is VERY hard to type…tears are rolling here for your loss. Thanks for the wonderful years you gave her, and I am sure she will be there with an entire herd waiting for you –and for many of us — when we cross that rainbow bridge!

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  29. Faith, I feel your pain. But I was also inspired to hear about all the help that arrived. It does give a bit of hope that all is not lost in humanity. Love Pat

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  30. Thnak all of you for your kind words. As you are probably aware after Katrina, all counties are suppose to have large and small animal response teams in order to be able to receive federal emergency funding. MY LART was wonderful. I strongly recommend that you join your area LART program because they are the ones who are dedicated to saving our beloved horses.

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  31. Dear Faith,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story about Dusty Rose. I am very moved by your quiet devotion and beautiful tribute, both to Dusty Rose and to the responders who answered the call in such a gracious manner. I, too, am so grateful that you provided such a loving and gentle passing for this mare, she was so fortunate and I am sure she felt your love and caring.

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  32. Thanks for sharing and reminding us of the ever changing, precious, and uncertain nature of life. Wishing all hearts heavy with sadness and loss—peace.

    On Joy and Sorrow
    Kahlil Gibran

    Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
    And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
    And how else can it be?
    The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
    Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
    And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
    When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
    When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

    Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
    But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
    Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

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  33. “IRISH” was his name. He was a beautiful red horse. He first “raised” my foster son … then on to me … then on to my oldest daughter … then on to my youngest daughter. We all loved him. He died in my arms. I understand.

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  34. Faith:
    As I type, the tears are flowing as I know yours did that night with Dusty Rose. SHe loved you so much for all you did for her and the compassion you had in attempting to keep her just a while longer. The decision was not easy but you kept what you knew was best for her in making that decision. I lost a beautiful grey Arabian, former breed and show horse, that I wanted to adopt that was at a sanctuary. I drove 1-3/4 hours each way approximately each weekend. My original intent was to go twice a month but with each passing week, my love for him increased. I know he kept my blood pressure in check because after that I ended up with high blood pressure. I was with him his last day but did not know the next morning that that was the end of my time with him. I had a very uneasy night that night and still believe he was trying to tell me. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t cry for him. He was waiting for Dusty Rose to play and run with when her time came. DOn’t we wish all our beautiful horses would go with those that loved them holding their heads and giving them that last kiss. Obviously, there are too many people that don’t really care about their animals or we would not be fighting to stop the BLM, the slaughter plants, animal shelters from euthanizing our dogs and cats, and hoping more rescues and sanctuaries could keep those that are in need. Morganlvr, your poem was beautiful. I don’t know if I will ever have the connection with another horse as I did with IBN, but the memories of him will last until I meet him at that Rainbow Bridge. GOd Bless you Faith, and enjoy heaven, Dusty Rose and all those that we have sent there.

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  35. My heart melts, and tears flow, from the beautiful and amazing stories, comments and poems here. It’s up to us – human kind – to help, care for, and aleviate the discomfort of our furred and feathered friends when ever and where ever it is in our power to do. Thank you all for your beautiful expressions of caring.

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