On 5th November 2004, I arrived home around late morning to discover that the livery yard had been trying to contact to tell me that Jock had not come in with the herd that morning but instead had been found up the hill unable to walk. The vet had been called but could only get him back to the stables by gentle coaxing and strong pain-killers.
I arrived to find him looking utterly miserable. The initial diagnosis was pus in the foot but after a week with no show, he was x-rayed and discovered to have broken his pedal bone. The decision was made to give him a chance. His hoof was put in plaster and so began what was intended to be a very long period of box rest.
This plan lasted only three weeks as during this time he suffered two horrendous bouts of impaction colic and I knew I couldn't make him carry on. The poems that follow are accounts of his last two nights.
The Long Night
Deep shadows lying dark within the corners
keep hidden all the years of joy and heartache,
the winter breath, like mist, sits on his lips.
It's cold in here, I sit quite still and shiver,
as evidence of sweat breaks on his shoulder,
the mist now gathers deep inside his eyes.
Above him, sleeping hens perch on the rafters,
all drama over now the vet has gone,
but down below the tragedy continues.
Don't let him die, not here, not now - not ever,
not racked with pain, alone on prickly straw,
please let him keep quite safe tonight, I'm pleading
just let him stay with me a few years more.
The Last Day
No turning back, decision made,
take out the drip that all this day has
stopped him finding comfort in the straw,
his folding legs and drawn out sigh
shout silently his pain and sadness,
I cannot watch him suffer any more.
The vet returns to coax him up again,
a stoic effort, this, his final hour,
still trying to please. He follows on,
slow motion steps, stop, go, in jerky time,
a pause, a hop, then on once more,
till finally we reach the corner of the yard
in darkness, the spot on which he'll die.
The death was quick, too fast to call,
as heavy bulk hit hard on concrete floor,
repeat his name so many times
and all the while still stroking, stroking,
I take his final warmth for something to hold onto
and in return, to guide him in the darkness,
I give him the light from my soul.
The Last Night
I want to mark his passing
with noble words or anecdotes
of all the happy times we've had
these last few years. But tearful thoughts
sit wedged inside my tired mind
and will not shift. Eyes, lacking sleep
stay open wide with images
of hurt and grief and will not budge.
I could have spared him all his pain
if, on that day, three weeks before
I had accepted then, that Fate
had chosen us, but now he's gone.
An empty space fills times ahead,
all future plans of summer fun
died there along with him tonight.
No words can ever make this right.
The First Morning
I couldn't sleep, so when light came
I drove to be where horses are -
Lochletter Farm - and all around me
where I sat, the song of birds
joined with the sound of water -
a fitting tune to send him on his way.
Then suddenly, as if on cue,
a rainbow formed against the sky,
and torch-like, shone above my head,
till fading back to grey.
Jock is at peace now.
All is well.