Just when you think that things cannot get much worse, they do.
Last Friday afternoon, we comfortably floated into our last weekend before the surgery. Lise packed her bags, once again. In the evening, I drove her to my sister. On Saturday morning, they were all leaving for the south of France, where they rented a beautiful house for the next two weeks. A COVID proof vacation. Lise enjoys spending time around my sister, and the nephews are fun to play with. And it means she will have a week of distraction. By the time she will get back, I should be well on the mend. I was wearing the orange dress I like so much. In the car, Lise played her favorite songs and we sang along as we usually do. When we got there, we were met by two smiling nephews, all enthusiastic for their upcoming vacation and Lise’s arrival. Bags half packed, the house in disarray, my sister and her husband, a happy place. Aside from Aidan, I can’t think of anyone closer to me than my sister. Especially today, I feel more comfortable with her next to me. Probably because we truly are two peas in a pot. As children, we shared a bedroom for many years, talking endlessly each night before drifting off to sleep. We all sat down at the terrace for dinner, me keeping a safe distance from the others. Strange not to be able to cuddle the nephews, strange to be isolated at the table. Yet the last thing I need is a COVID infection and the surgery being postponed. The end of a hot summer day, the sun setting, and time for me to drive back home. I was truly relieved to leave Lise in the loving arms of my sister.
Sunday was hotter than Saturday, that was hotter than Friday. Aidan and I were by ourselves spending a lazy Sunday afternoon, on the couch watching television. So very different from my usual active rhythm. Towards four o’ clock in the afternoon, we went to Desert, Po, and Daydream. The plan was to give them a shower to cool them a bit. Daydream’s box is oriented towards the southwest, and the afternoon is a true scorcher for him. When we got there, Desert was acting weird. Her tongue was half hanging from her mouth, and she was not well responding. Maybe a wasp that stung her in her mouth, but maybe a lot worse. I carefully went into her box, and gently caressed her. I filled a bucket with fresh water and held it up to her mouth. She drank a little, spilling a lot of it because she couldn’t close her lips properly. But she seemed a bit more alert right after. She couldn’t chew any hay though. We called our vet. After a quick examination, he considered two options: probably a cerebral hemorrhage, or else a meningitis. Yet, a quick blood-test didn’t reveal any signs of infection. To give her the benefit of the doubt, she was injected with antibiotics. We took out the wall between her box and that of Po, which gave her more space. Po was moved into an outside box. Po’s restless behavior indicated to us she sensed that her neighbor and long-time friend was in trouble. All we could do was wait. Aidan and I returned home in silence, both hoping for the best. The hours dragged on. We had dinner outside without much talking. Finally the clock reached ten, and we left to check back on Desert. Her condition seemed stable but she had not improved. Offering her a bucket with fresh water again seemed to lift her a little bit. Feeling quite helpless we got ready to drive home and go to sleep. Mika’s dad promised to watch over her during the night. We knew the night would be decisive for her.
We wake up early today, and after a quick breakfast, we hurry back to Desert. Seeing her, we immediately know things took a turn for the worse. Desert is now keeping her balance through leaning against the hind wall. She is moaning but her voice is weak. I gently caress her, yet it is as if she’s already left. When I look into her beautiful brown left eye, I see she is blind. Aidan cries out and holds her, his arms spread against her side, his face in her fur. We call our vet to come examine her as soon as possible. She barely has the strength to drink now, her hind legs are trembling. Aidan demands that we stay out of the box because it may be dangerous. Our vet doesn’t take long to get there. There is no doubt that she is going through a cerebral hemorrhage that is getting worse. She is in an enormous pain. A lethal injection is her only option. She panics when the needle is injected, tries to escape, loses her balance and falls against the wall. Such a beautiful horse, what a waste. After what seems an eternity, she calmly passes away, and we can get back inside her box to give her a last cuddle. Her strong legs, which I brushed a million times, which took us on countless happy walks, lay unmovable. Our beloved Desert, damn it. My face is covered in filth and tears.
There is no time to waste. We have to get back home because I have the scan of my backbone at the hospital. Arriving home, I eat and change in no time, and hurry to the hospital. I check in quickly and walk to the waiting area as fast as a I can. Having arrived, I receive a couple of cups of water that contain a contrast molecule for the scan. Every fifteen minutes, I need to empty a cup. The examination will take place in one hour. Sitting down, the impact of what just happened dawns on me. Time and again I need to remove the mask to blow my nose. The mask gets soaked with tears. I can’t pull myself back together, what an immense loss. There’s another person in the waiting area, accompanying his old mom. He eyes me with compassion, probably thinking I have received my death sentence. Seems like a stupid spell I cast on Desert, and which I know isn’t true. Yet I will not whisper to any other animal of ours I should outlive it.