Sadly, I have more bad news to share. Over the weekend we had to say goodbye to not only a beloved family member but also a great athlete and partner who taught me so much, brought me so far, and saved my life a time or two throughout the years. Dino, you will always be in my heart and thoughts, with your sweet, hardworking attitude and over the top personality, through all the early morning lessons, late night shows and all the moments in between.
While he was certainly getting up there in age he was doing so great over the past several years. Right up until this weekend. Saturday he got an infection in his right hind leg from the tiniest little scrape imaginable. But his leg blew up out of nowhere from hip to hoof and he wouldn’t put any weight on it. Our vet, Eric, came out and gave him a shot of antibiotics and and an anti-inflammatory. Unfortunately, while his fever did start to go down, the swelling did not and we still couldn’t get him out of his stall to cold hose it, so Eric was back in the morning. He gave him a second, stronger antibiotic and we were able to get him out of his stall and cold hosed it, walked him for 10 min., cold hosed it again and turned him out so that he could keep moving around, which would help with the swelling.
At 5 that evening I cold hosed it again and put him in his stall with some hay. By then he was walking better on it and his fever was down a little bit more. At 6:30 he was fine. At 9 he was outside, laid flat out and unable to get up. Eric came right back out and couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. His fever was completely gone and the swelling in his leg was down, so the antibiotics were working. He wasn’t colicing and he really wasn’t dehydrated either. The only thing that he could find wrong was that his heartbeat was elevated and he had an arrhythmia but that still didn’t explain how weak he was.
We tried for just under 3 hours to get him back on his feet, alternating between actively trying to get him up and letting him rest. Finally in a last ditch effort, and since Eric could only hear one side of his gut, we gave him a shot of Banamine and then did a rectal exam. This would be the point where Eric gave up on the chances of Dino getting up, in his words, “you’re never going to try harder to get on you feet than when someone has his arm up your butt.” And Dino only made the most half hearted of efforts.
Eric thinks it is most likely that Dino already had some kind of “old man disease”, most likely cancer or the beginning stages of organ failure and his body just couldn’t handle the infection on top of it all. It was then up to me to make the heartbreaking decision to do the best thing for him and put him down. He was obviously not going to get on his feet, he was in pain, and he was breathing so shallowly that I kept holding my hand over his nostril to make sure he actually was breathing.
The past two days have been pretty much unbearable, I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much in my life and Robbie has had a very difficult time with it as well. I keep walking around the house reminding myself that I made the right choice and it would have been selfish to drag his suffering out just because I couldn’t stand to let him go.
What’s funny about it (if you can say that) is that whenever Jenna and I talk about buying and selling horses, Robbie remarks that he doesn’t understand how everyone can do that so easily. Our response is always the same, they aren’t pets! But at the end of the day, it’s almost like they are so much more than that because of the working relationship that we have with them. No matter how much I love my dogs and how close I feel to them, I feel like I’m more in tune with my horses minds and bodies, partly because we have to be in order to get the best performance from them, and partly because of the sheer number of hours spent focused solely on them, whether it be grooming, cooling out after a workout, during the interminable wait between classes at shows, or walking them for what seems like endless hours during a bout of colic.
I’m so grateful that I was able to keep Dino at home through his retirement and wasn’t forced to send him off to a retirement farm, where I would have been unlikely to ever see him again. I’m also extremely grateful that he had such a high quality of life right up until his last two days. But I’ll always miss him.