This weekend served as an unwelcome reminder that life is precious and things can change in the blink of an eye. Jason noticed that Buffy was NQR (not quite right) on Saturday morning. At first it didn’t seem to be cause for much concern. She was a bit lethargic but not anything dramatic. I say this not to make us look good but simply as a statement of fact, but if she had been in the all too typical retirement/pasture board situation where the horses are eyeballed but not really handled daily, no one would have realized there was anything amiss as her behavior changes were so mild. Thankfully we know Buffy and her typical behavior patterns very well so Jason knew just from watching her that something was not right with Buffy. We brought her into the barn and observed her for a bit. All of her vital signs (pulse rate, temperature, respiratory rate, capillary refill) were normal and we were thinking she might be having a mild gas colic and administered banamine.

I took this picture on Buffy’s 2nd day with us in fall 2007

The banamine did not seem to have any effect on her one way or another. She stood quietly in the stall with some pacing and an occasional call to her pasture mates. Typically Buffy would be screaming her head off to her friends and pacing in the stall relentlessly. At that point we knew a veterinary exam was in order. Buffy continued to act the same, not getting better nor getting worse. When the vet arrived she also checked vital signs and all were normal. When she listened to her gut sounds unfortunately she did not hear much. However a rectal exam found nothing major amiss although a few things were noted. A gastro-nasal tube was passed and unfortunately did remove a lot of reflux from her stomach, a sign that things were not passing through.

I took this picture on Buffy’s third day with us. She became hysterically bonded to the goats after meeting them, and would refuse to eat after being put back in her stall. She would just stand in the barn and call to the goats. She was so happy to have friends that separation from them (be it goats or horses) was traumatic and painful for her.

Since her clinical signs were not pointing us in any definite direction, just indicating that something was not right, the vet recommended we take her to the clinic for further diagnostics and observation. I was a little worried about how Buffy would feel about getting on the trailer but she hopped right on after a minute of hesitation. An ultrasound showed a pretty distended small intestine that was not very active but also not completely inactive either. Her bloodwork was normal. Buffy stayed at the clinic for further observation and was started on IV fluids.

Buffy was a gorgeous Thoroughbred mare

Buffy continued to confuse us throughout the weekend. She would start showing stronger signs of distress, then she would rebound. A conversation with the vet in the middle of the night Saturday night did not leave me hopeful. She said Buffy was starting to act more and more painful when the sedatives would wear off. It was decided that an abdominal centesis was in order to test the protein levels in her abdominal fluid. We were expecting the numbers to come back high but they came back normal. The better/worse cycle continued.

One of my favorite pictures of Buffy simply because it captures her curious, intense expression that was so typical of her.

In the neighboring stall at the clinic there was a miniature donkey and her week old baby. Buffy loved that baby mini donkey. Every time they would lead mama and baby past her stall Buffy would instantly go from droopy to alert and rush to her stall door to nicker at the baby donkey. None of the other patients at the clinic had this effect on her, just the baby donkey. I was not surprised by this at all. Most who have read this blog regularly will know that Buffy loves all things small and claimed Missy as “her” pony. Buffy adored Missy and was extremely possessive of her pony.

The miniature donkey foal at the clinic that Buffy loved so much

She seemed to be holding steady when we visited her on Sunday morning after having a fitful night so we were hopeful. When we were back visiting her in the afternoon things were starting to go downhill steadily. She was not responding as well to the pain meds and each time a tube was passed several liters of reflux were removed from her stomach so things still were not passing through. When she laid down and had no interest in standing up this afternoon we knew decision time was coming. I sat in the stall with Buffy and she rested her head on my shoulder while she laid there. Her eyes had lost their sparkle and she seemed to be telling me it was time, and that it was ok.

Buffy standing over Missy while she napped

Buffy and Missy

We briefly thought about surgery but decided against it. The surgeon had no idea what he would find when he opened her up, and strictly from a mental health standpoint Buffy was not a candidate for a long recovery. With some horses you know they could handle a convalescence with no problems but Buffy would have been miserable. Having lived most of her life with no turnout at all she had grown to really hate being separated from her friends and her freedom and she did not like stalls. Knowing it was a good possibility that euthanasia might be recommended even after attempting surgery it just didn’t seem like a wise option with her. Her clinical signs began to steadily deteriorate. We got her up and took her outside for a short walk and a few last bites of grass. She wasn’t interested in grazing. A few minutes later we let her go and she passed peacefully. Buffy’s amazing owner was wonderful through all of this. A hard situation was made easier as Buffy’s team of her mom, us and the vets were always on the same page.

Buffy hanging out with her good friend MyLight. Buffy thought she had died and gone to heaven when she had the chance to live outside of stall, graze 24/7, and have friends. Buffy was a social butterfly and in addition to her pony Missy she loved all of the horses she lived with.

Another picture of Buffy and MyLight

Buffy had several jobs through the course of her career. First she was a race horse and actually managed to win a few races. Then she was a hunter, and mixed in with that princess Buffy had the opportunity to be a supermodel as well. Anyone who knows Buffy knows that supermodel would have been her absolute favorite job! A torn tendon spelled the end of Buffy’s riding career and she made the trip from Los Angeles, California to Tennessee for retirement. Buffy’s mom wanted her to have the best retirement possible and she knew that it would be hard to find what she wanted for Buffy in California.

Pictures from a fashion shoot that Buffy participated in; I have no doubt she loved every minute of this photo shoot.

On Friday evening Buffy was the picture of health. Her weight was perfect, her coat had a gorgeous shine to it and she was full of energy and life. It is hard to believe as I type this on Sunday evening that she is gone. I won’t be putting her pink plaid halter, which suited her so perfectly, on her anymore. She won’t be hanging out with her friends or commandeering her pony Missy. From the minute Buffy arrived she loved everything about her life here. She loved the goats. She loved being able to be turned out. She loved to graze. Most of all she loved having friends and being part of a group. I am very grateful to her owner that we were able to give all of that to Buffy.
I miss Buffy and her pink plaid halter. Her name and her halter could not have been more tailor-made for Buffy. I will always think of Buffy with her pink plaid halter, they just went together.
The biggest and only downfall to having a retirement farm is experiencing the circle of life, and unfortunately at some point you have to go through it with every horse. It only gets harder, never easier. I dread the emotional aftermath and the memories that will consume me this week. Especially that pink plaid halter.