Miss Lacey Duster, a bay quarter horse mare, was foaled on July 5th, 1978. She spent her first 13 years doing 4-H, and according to one of her previous owners, was ‘trained for heading, not the fastest but always honest (good in the box), and a good beginning roping horse. Used 2 years on a women’s’ drill team. Used for trail & pack for three seasons.’ This was the description of the horse that came into my friend Angie’s life in 1991.
I met Angie and Lacey in the summer of 1998, when I needed a place to board my Lucky during the fair, when they kicked everyone out of the fairgrounds horse barn to accommodate the fair horses. Angie lived with her husband Kent on several acres and had a barn and pasture where she offered horse boarding. When they divorced in 2004, Angie gave Lacey to me.
Angie and Kent’s property was just north and east from town and only about a 15 minute ride to the beach. We loved to take them to the beach, and they obviously loved it too. There were a lot of places to ride out there, and we took advantage of them often.
Then Lacey and Lucky lived out on Sam’s Creek Road for about three years, and then I moved them closer to Toledo so I could see them more often.
Lacey loved my Lucky; they were always looking out for each other. But Lacey was getting older, and in the last few months, really started to age fast. She started losing weight no matter how much she ate and ended up with a bad hip, which Angie says has troubled her for as long as she can remember.
So, Miss Lacey Duster was laid to rest yesterday, August 12th, 2010. She was ready.
The decision to euthanize an animal is never easy… knowing when it’s ‘time’ to let them go. Knowing when to ease their pain before they become miserable. I honestly couldn’t stand the thought of Lacey languishing out in that pasture, in the long cold rainy nights of winter, and letting her die naturally out there, probably alone (except for the company of her herd, of course), and quite possibly in a lot of pain. I needed to spare her that.
So yesterday, I arranged for a backhoe (lucky for us, a mutual friend has one, and I’ve known him since grade school) and a visit from a vet to come out and put her down.
I went out a little early to say goodbye to my loyal old friend. I sequestered the rest of the herd (and the land-owner’s goats) in another part of the pasture and led Lacey up to the barn. I gave her some grain – she’s always loved her grain, but tended to let other horses and even the goats push her out of her bucket. I always had to stand guard for her and shoo them away so she could finish it.
I snipped a couple of locks from her beautiful long tail, one for me, one for Angie. Then I let her back in to spend some time with the rest of her herd. The backhoe got there and dug a big hole for her in the pasture near the apple tree. Angie arrived and we talked for a little bit while we waited for the vet.
I’d gone in to the vet’s office earlier in the day and picked up a syringe of sedative for her, hoping to make her transition as gentle as possible. So when the vet called and said ‘give her the shot’, so it could take effect before he arrived, we went and got Lacey, gave her the shot – she was always such a trooper about injections, not like my Nancy-boy Lucky – and didn’t even seem to notice it. I expected her to get really sleepy and want to lie down, but she didn’t, she just patiently stood there and let us love on her.
When the vets arrived, we chatted for a few minutes, and one of the doctors asked Angie and me if we’d ever witnessed a horse euthanasia before. Neither of us had, so he warned us that it can be a very traumatic experience for the humans, because they tend to flop. We both decided we really didn’t need to see that, so we kissed and hugged her goodbye and went around to the other side of the barn.
A few minutes later they came up from the pasture and told us that Lacey was one of the easiest euthanasias they’d experienced. He said that she was ready to go. I noticed the rest of the herd’s rapt attention was on Lacey, now just a body lying in the grass next to a big hole.
So the vets left, and Mike and Angie and I went down to bury her. I got down on my knees and took her halter off. I knelt there with her for a few minutes as my tears fell on her face. I kissed her and told her goodbye. Mike gently moved her into the hole and started to bury her.
We noticed a tiny mouse running around in the hole he was filling. Mike tried several times with the backhoe shovel to gently move it out of the hole, but after several attempts, decided that wasn’t going to work. So he started filling in the dirt… and that mouse stayed right on top of it. When he’d covered Lacey with dirt and still saw that mouse, he got down off the backhoe, got down into the hole, and caught the mouse to put it up on solid ground so that it could live.
He finished moving the dirt back into place and packed up to leave. Angie left, then Mike, and the land-owner showed up to feed and milk his goats. After we closed the gates by the road, I let the horses back out into the big pasture.
They instantly ran over to where the dirt was disturbed to check it out. There must have still been a little bit of blood on the grass where Lacey laid down. The vets had installed a catheter in her neck to administer the drug, and a little blood had seeped back out after she died. They sniffed the ground and then got very excited. They whipped around, bucking and kicking and tossing their heads, as if to say goodbye. As if they were paying their last respects to their old friend. Then they headed back out into the pasture to graze.
I can’t help but wonder what they think, how much they are really aware of. I think they know their old friend was dead when they saw her lying there. I think they know she is buried under all that freshly-disturbed dirt. I don’t know. But I think they notice that she’s gone. Angie and I agreed that we’ll plant a tree over her to mark her grave and to honor her long life.Lacey was 32 years old, which I understand would be about 96 in human years. This picture is from about a week ago, when Angie and I agreed that it was time to let her go.
You can see how skinny she was getting, and that bad hip that made getting around difficult for her.This is one of the last pictures I took of Lacey. That's my Lucky in the lower left, looking at me. Miss Lacey is the dark butt, grazing among a herd of at least a dozen elk, right there in their own pasture. She had a good life.
Goodbye and Godspeed, Miss Lacey. You were loved.
My friend Kathy sent me this poem:
Don't Cry For The Horses
By: Susan Humphrey
They were ours as a gift, but never to keep,
As they close their eyes forever to sleep.
Their spirits unbound,
On silver wings they fly.
A million white horses,
Against the blue sky.
Look up into heaven,
You'll see them above.
The horses we lost,
The horses we loved.
Manes and tails flowing,
As they gallop through time,
They were never yours- they were never mine.
Don't cry for the horses,
They'll be back some day.
When our time is gone,
They will show us the way.
Do you hear that soft nicker?
Close to your ear?
Don't cry for the horses,
Love the ones that are here.