I spent a good part of yesterday reading, through teary eyes, the very thoughtful and much appreciated emails and posts about Ambrosia – and the artwork is lovely. First, let me say she is, and always will be, quite the mare – she had a heart of gold. Even though humans let her down tremendously by ignoring even her basic needs and by turning her loose to wander a rural community as a homeless horse – she didn’t hold it against us. This was Barbara comforting Ambrosia the night we met her.
The next day when we picked her up and took her to the rescue she walked off the trailer, looked around, and held her head up high – for the first time we saw light and life in her eyes. She was immediately started on antibiotics. She settled into her stall and went to eating her hay and Fibre-Beet mash – she loved food! She got groomed at least a ½ a dozen times a day and was pampered to the max. The day we loaded her up to go the hospital she loaded without hesitation. Once there, it took her all of about a minute to settle in before she started eating her hay.
After her initial assessment at the hospital we discussed her diagnosis – pleuropneumonia (infection of the lungs and pleural space). Her care team determined that to get a good indication of whether or not there was a chance for her to recover they would need to drain her chest and see how quickly it would refill. This procedure (drained about 7 gallons of fluid) gave her quite a bit of relief. Her breathing was better – she stayed upbeat. She trusted humans to do to her what was needed – I truly believe she knew we were trying to help her. She cooperated – always. Her temperature was normal and her heart rate went significantly down – she continued to have a good appetite. She was only 13 years old. Through every step of the way we evaluated her quality of life – it was constant throughout our decision making process. It was identified early on what aftercare would be needed and we were committed. While we knew from the start she likely would never be horse to be ridden we did think she would be happy being a pasture pal. And we agreed, from the beginning, that should her comfort level not be able to be controlled, or should she develop another issue such as laminitis, and her quality of life was poor with no relief in sight, we would help her to cross. We would not let her suffer. One of the key tools in determining her quality of life was by observing her will to live which was enormous. She had a great appetite and didn’t appear depressed. She would hold her head up high and was interested in what was going on around her – she would even whinny to Billy the goat or a passersby.
I spoke with the doctor on Thursday night – he recommended giving her some time to recover from the first surgery before going through the second. Friday morning the doctor called and said overnight Ambrosia’s temperature had risen as did her heart rate but she was quite the Champion – she was still eating and drinking fine. She did have increased swelling in her legs. The doctor decided to ultrasound her heart and said he had some concerns and said that he wanted the cardio team to conduct an ultrasound. While we waited for them we took Ambrosia out to graze for a bit, which she really enjoyed.
Once he was left she seemed tired – her breathing had been getting more labored and she began to sweat. I played songs for her on my cell phone – she seemed to really like “Lost in Love” by Air Supply. I guess I did too – we must have listened to it about 4 times. I told her about the many people that loved her and were helping her. I apologized for what humans had, or hadn’t done, for her. And I prayed. The cardio team arrived and did another ultrasound. The cardiologist determined that Ambrosia had developed congestive heart failure. Her heart had been working overtime to compensate for the decrease of lung function. The right side of her heart was weak. We once again reviewed her quality of life and determined that, while we could prolong her life it was not in her best interest, the time had come to let her go. This is never an easy decision or one taken lightly – but we loved her enough to do what was in her best interest. She had several days of a full tummy and clean fresh water, she had been kept comfortable, she was doted on constantly, light in her eyes had returned, and she was genuinely interested in humans and what was going on around her. She had regained her dignity and was loved by so many and that’s important – she crossed Rainbow Bridge knowing she mattered.
I want to believe that at some point in her life she was loved and properly cared for. We will never know but we were able to prevent her from dying alone, hungry, and in pain. We knew going into this that she could take a turn for the worse at any time and we may have to let her go. God had other plans for her and we accept that. I held on to her and told her she was so very loved and I hummed “Lost in Love” as she crossed the Bridge. I could picture her holding her head up high towards the sky and running, reaching for the stars, as her body grew whole and strong again – what a glorious vision it was! I sat by her and held her and let the tears flow. Before returning to the rescue I sat for a long time in the car in the parking lot at the hospital. I folded my arms across each other and rested my head on them against the steering wheel – as I did I could smell her. I had washed my hands but not my arms and her scent was still on them – a sense acceptance came over me. Acceptance is needed in order to move on. And I know that Ambrosia wants us to continue to help others that end up homeless, hungry, cold, alone, or in a bad situation – and with your continued help we can.
I’m sorry that Ambrosia was dumped in a rural community and had no human to care for, or about, her. I am sorry that we could not fix her health issues. And I am sorry that we could not keep her comfortably with us for a long, long time. But I’m not sorry, not in the least, that we tried. God bless each and every one of you for caring and helping in some way. Ambrosia had a huge love for life. She would have kept going until her heart burst – she was that kind of horse. She was quite the mare and had the heart of a Champion!
I have learned to fight the good fight to the end
And if I had to I would do it all again
And when the sun goes down
I won’t fear the night
I will keep my head towards the sky
Knowing that the Lord is on my side
And when the darkness falls
I won’t fear the night
I will keep my head toward the sky
Knowing that the Lord is on my side
(From the song Heart of a Champion)