Ten days ago we both lost that battle, and I made the decision to have her put to sleep. I agonized over the decision, because she seemed to pull out of her lameness earlier in the year for a few months, and felt good enough to playfully run and buck around the pasture a bit. Her lameness became worse and worse as the year progressed though, even with all of my care, but I kept hoping for another miracle. I spoke with my vet, asking him when it would be time to let her go. "When she has more bad days then good days," he had told me.
The last few months, Josie mostly just minced around the corral, walking on eggshells. Lying down more than normal, she began to develop sores on the outside of her knees. I knew, but I didn't want to know. I kept hoping and praying she might pull out of it again, that I might have a few more weeks or months with this wonderful, gentle old soul. And some days, she would mince out into the pasture wearing her grazing muzzle and seem to really enjoy herself, standing in the sun and having wonderful rolls in her dust pile.
Don't you wish that our animals could actually speak to us, so we could ask them where it hurts, and how much it hurts? But we do the best that we can.
In the end, Josie did tell me, in her own way. She stopped braying in the mornings when she first saw me. And she began to shrink from my touch when I'd brush her, not wanting to be caught or touched at all. Josie appeared to be in pain at all times, even with the large amounts of painkiller I gave her.
When my wonderful vet came out to put her down, he gave her a tranquilizer first, and she sleepily munched grain and apples and carrots from her feed pan, barely able to keep her eyes open. That's what she was doing when he gave her the final shot that put her to sleep, and I felt like my heart twisted and broke in two. It is so difficult, when you love an animal, to make that decision to end their life.
But I have to believe I was giving Josie the final gift. I know she is now, finally, out of pain. My vet sat with us for a long time afterwards. I stroked Josie's long ears, and we talked about what a wonderful animal she was.
An old stockman told me one time - when you raise animals, you will lose animals. And when you love those special animals, it's heart breaking.
If any of you have to make this decision for an animal that you love, whether it be equine, canine, feline, or something else, I wish you well. It goes with the territory, and it's part of the job of being a responsible, loving animal owner.