Sunday, May 25, 2008


Handsome Becomes Handsomer

Warning: Some pictures in this blog may be wonderful to view!

Sometimes a life changes forever.

Life is spent enduring and yet one continues. Waiting. Living and waiting. Waiting for that moment of change. Waiting for that lucky star or a Guardian Angel to appear and make that decision, take that action, or say those words that will change a life forever. Sometimes the life changes for the good and looking back one can see the point of change and thank the lucky stars.

Yes, sometimes a life changes forever. Changes because someone saw and cared and did something to change the life forever.

Handsome arrived at Refuge Farms in late November of 2007. A tall and lanky horse who seemed to move with grace, although with a slight limp in the left hindquarter. He was curious and eager to learn. Naïve in the ways of a lead rope and taking cues from the little Human on the end of that lead rope! Never having seen feed before, he played with it until finally some went down to his stomach and his life changed forever for the first time. Feed, Handsome had learned, was a good thing and he thanked his lucky stars for the change in his life that brought him feed.

And hay. Now there was a good thing! No longer having to scrounge in the woods for food, this huge mass of hay in the pasture was certainly a good change in his life! He was content with water available, hay available, and feed on a daily basis. Yes, his life had taken a change and Handsome was, indeed, thanking his lucky stars. His life had changed forever and changed for the good. He had endured and was blessed that his luck had changed and now, yes finally now, life could be easier for him.

But his eye. It still remained as it had been for years. Draining pus down his face. Weeping. Eating away at his lower lid and creating ulcerations in the tissue. Smelly. Even though his life had taken a gigantic step to the good, his eye remained an issue. Handsome was very aware of his eye and its appearance and its odor. In general, he stayed to the back of the herd. Seldom wandering up to the guests. And very aware of their twisted faces and sympathetic moans when his eye was revealed for all to see.

Yes, Handsome needed just one more change in his life. One more lucky star. One more Guardian Angel to bring the final, life-changing gift that he needed so desperately in order to be a horse again. Not a monster with the bad eye....

And Handsome’s Guardian Angel was there for him. Shortly after he arrived in the barns of Refuge Farms, Barb G. came to know and love the big horse. Her heart visibly became connected to the heart of Handsome. To those that were aware, you could see Barb’s face change when Handsome entered the barn. You could see the adoration and love she held for this gigantic horse with the bad eye. You could see the pleasure it gave her just to touch him and to maybe brush him a bit.

It was Spring of 2008 and Handsome was once again loaded in to a trailer and riding on I94. Only this time, he was heading west to the University of Minnesota Equine Center. In the truck was Barb G., his sponsor. It was time to get a professional opinion about this eye and discuss what options were available to help Handsome. His luck was changing one more time. And it was good...

A full examination complete with an ultrasound and biopsy were performed. Surgery was the only option to rid his body of the infection, the cancer, and the destroyed eye. Some of the lower eye socket bone would also be taken to help in the healing process, but also to do our best to insure that all of the malignant tissue was removed. His eyeball, the tumor, a good portion of the upper lid, and a large portion of the infected lower lid would be removed and sent in for medical evaluation and opinion.

That meant that Handsome would need to undergo general anesthesia. He was strong and healthy and so the decision was made to lay him down for the surgery. For me, the praying began at the very point of signing the permission papers. You see, Dr. Erin, one of the surgeons working on Handsome, and I have history. We have some good history, but more than that we have history of laying down the big ones. The big ones who get so comfortable laying there as they wake up. The big ones who half-heatedly attempt to get up, but think it is just so darn much easier to stay down on their sides. The big ones, who although heroic measures are taken by Dr. Erin and her teams, never stand again.

The day of surgery arrives. We are there early to hug him. Smell him. And pray with him surrounded by us and Dr. Erin. Handsome walks slowly and confidently down the hallway to the room where he would be sedated. One hour later, a report was given that the surgery was going well. Ninety minutes later another report that all had gone well and Handsome should be coming out of the sedation relatively soon. The next report told us that he was already sitting like a dog in the recovery room. Now he just needed to stand.

Ten minutes passed. Twenty minutes passed. Thirty minutes passed. Forty minutes passed. Something was wrong. He should be standing by now… Instinctively, I stood in the hallway and called to my Jerry. Help him stand, J! Get him up! Come on, Jerry! Step up, Jerry! Bring him up, J! Please help him get up!!! Please don't let him be one of the big ones that doesn't get up!! Jerry! Please! Get him up!

Just over fifty minutes later, Dr. Erin arrived to tell us that Handsome indeed was up. Weak and sweating and shaky, but he was up! Dr. Erin told us honestly that he really didn’t want to get up. She told us that she was going to give him one more try and then re-sedate him to put him in the harness and lift him up with the hoist. And it was on that last try - that very last try - that he stood up. Thank you, Jerry. And thank you, Dr. Erin.

Within a few hours, we were standing next to Handsome and massaging those big hind hips and legs. Encouraging the muscles to recover from the surgery and not to atrophy. Hugging him and treasuring the fact that he had truly come through the surgery. And quietly, at his head stood Barb. Just watching and observing. Watching over this gigantic horse that had stolen her heart.

It was almost time to head home. Seeing that he was standing and progressing out of the sedation, I felt my body start to crumble. A massive headache began as some of the stress was relieved. Now, it was just a matter of time to allow his system to expel the fluids and for his body to “right itself” again. His team would watch him throughout the night and honestly, the best thing we could do for Handsome right now was to leave him by himself. He was in capable hands. We needed some rest.

I walked to stretch my legs before the ninety minute ride home. Down the hallway to the “mattress room” where Handsome had rested. Standing in the hallway I let the tears roll as once again I realized just how close we had come. The horse needs to want to stand and want to get up. The harness works but seldom does the horse make it through if the harness lifts them. They need to want to stand themselves.

But Handsome had come back to us. Now it was a matter of watching him for clues that he was healing and returning fully. Now it was simply a matter of good care and time.

I came down the hallway to Handsome’s stall and felt the intrusion immediately. I was pursing my lips and wrinkling my brow as I came to his door. Was something wrong? Had he gone down? What was going on? No, there was nothing wrong. The intrusion that I felt was me.

Quietly, at his head, stood Barb. Leaning in to him and talking to him. Quietly. Privately. And then it happened. Barb leaned forward and kissed this big horse on his long nose. A kiss overflowing with love and compassion. With the pure joy of being his Guardian Angel and changing his life forever. The kinship between these two was so evident you could feel it in the air. Handsome looked directly at her then. And I could feel the mutual affection. It was one of those times that you will never forget. I’ll never forget that scene and that feeling.

Soon after, we decided that Handsome had become Handsomer. Yes, we would change his name as a symbol of his new beginning! All of his pain and hard work and the chains and whips and pulling and plowing were left back on the surgery floor with the decaying flesh. The tumor had been cut out and his past was thrown out with it. Handsomer it is! A new beginning for this big, lanky work horse.

The healing process for Handsomer has not been without its bumps and worries. There was the trip to the U of M to check on the drainage that appeared during the daily bandage change. We learned a new term that day: schmu. Yup. One of those technical terms to describe the drainage that occurs as the regenerative tissue builds and must secrete these fluids to ward off infections. Schmu. Who would have thought...?

Then there was the morning a small bump on his neck by the catheter site began to swell. The size of a golf ball then the size of my fist then the size of two of my fists. In to the U of M we go and this time, Handsomer stays for a visit as we examine and ponder what this swelling is. The tissue over the jugular is swelling, yes. Is it a blood clot? Doesn't appear to be. Officially, this swelling is in his records as "undetermined and unknown source". Hot packs and careful monitoring have followed and the swelling is dissipating. Thankfully.

And so finally, Handsomer is home, we believe, for good. He is back in his pasture and the King of his domain. He is frisky and feeling good. He is finally eating his normal daily ration of feed. And yes, he is eating his fair share of the hay, too! All is good for Handsomer. Yes, all is very good for this remarkable creature.

Barb is Handsomer’s Guardian Angel. She has made a decision and has taken action to change his life for the good forever. And her decision was not just a check in the mail. No, Barb was there for the evaluation. There for the discussion and the painful decision. There for the surgery and there for the recovery. And Barb is there for the after care and the healing. Visiting Handsomer often at THE FARM, Barb continues to hold those private conversations with her big friend.

The mutual respect and adoration continues. Our walks in the pasture send Handsomer away if I approach him. But Barb? Well, she walks right up to his face. Looks him in the eye. Has one of those private conversations with him. And then it happens again. A gentle caring kiss on that long nose of his. And once again, his big brown right eye looks right at her and you can hear it. You can hear the appreciation and gratitude pouring out of this creature. Pouring out of his heart to this Guardian Angel of his standing in front of him.

Sometimes a life changes forever.

Life is spent enduring and yet one continues. Waiting. Living and waiting. Waiting for that moment of change. Waiting for that lucky star or a Guardian Angel to appear and make that decision, take that action, or say those words that will change a life forever. Sometimes the life changes for the good and looking back one can see the point of change and thank the lucky stars.

Yes, sometimes a life changes forever. Changes because someone saw and cared and did something to change the life forever.

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?