Posted in Animals and conservation, Family life

Am I cruel or kind?

I feel like I’m playing God. I don’t want to and I don’t like it, but what else am I to do? As a family we made a decision that we wouldn’t let Boss suffer. The problem is she couldn’t tell us what she though about it. Does she want to be put to sleep? Would she understand that it means she’d never see us or Mahli again?

My favourite photo of Boss, taken when she was two.
My favourite photo of Boss, taken when she was two.

I guess she has an inkling after the resent visit to the vet. She absolutely knew she was sick when we got there. She walked out of there with a spring in her step, as if to say to me, “You finally took my hints and got me to the vet to get better.”

Lately she looks at me with sad old eyes, one partially blind, the other brown and full of animal sense. I’m sure she knows she’s dying. She must wonder why her breath is so laboured from where the tumour is pushing on her lungs. She must ponder why she can no longer fit out the doggy door, when she could only last week. So, I think sadly where is her quality of life so I thought if I had a list of what she can’t do and what she can I’d come to a conclusion that is right for her. Her wellbeing is all I care about and if that means she should be resting in peace, as much as that makes me cry, that’s how it has to be.

The things Boss can no longer do (I thought I’d start with the sad and build to the good):

  • Play with Mahli (and Mahli seems confused about it) Boss tries a bit of tugging but cannot run
  • Eat big meals (or she’ll throw up)
  • Bark properly (it sounds like she’s got a cold her voice is so raspy)
  • Jump up on the bed (she now has a comfy bed beside me on the floor)
  • Walk around the block (we only get to the park in stops and starts, but she’s still keen to go)
  • Play wrestles with Blake (she just dosen’t have the energy)
  • Walk properly (it’s not the arthritis that used to worry her, it’s the weight of the tumour)
  • Wade in the water trying to catch fish
  • Chase a ball and bring it back (actually she’s never done the bringing it back part anyway, she just catches and chews)

On the bright side things Boss can do:

  • Still give lot of I-Love-You licks (though her breath is reeeeaaaallly smelly, or foul as Blake says)
  • Get on the lounge beside me (but likes her own space)
  • Bark excitedly at dinner time
  • Give Mahli maternal company (and growl at her when she’s too annoying)
  • Greet us at the door when we arrive home (though Mahli pushes past her to get to us first)
  • At least walk to the park
  • Follow me like a shadow around the house, as I do my housework
  • Curl up on her bed in the sunlight
  • Beg for food (well she only sits on her bum and barks) while we are eating
  • Reprimand Mahli when she’s barking too much or excited over visitors
  • Remembers everyone with a wag of the tail and a lick
  • Gives me that your-the-most-important-thing-in-the-world look

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that she’s okay for now. When she loses her dignity, then it will be time to shed a tear, enjoy a final lick, look deeply into those aging eyes, with grey hair around them that used to be black, and say a fond farewell.

Maybe then I’ll have to cope with my grief. There’s help at: Coping with Pet Loss, Ten Tips on Pet Loss and one to help Mahli cope from the RSPCA.

Okay, whoo back! Not yet, Boss. I can’t wait to get home today and have you greet me at the door with your wet tongue and wagging tail.

Posted in Animals and conservation, Other stuff

Who cares about this cute horse?

I’ve been working in the remote mid-west Queensland town of Dingo for over six months. During that time I walk regularly with my workmates and we know the few streets of Dingo well. There’s not much more than a pub (of course), school, library, tennis court, church, run-down caravan park and a couple of saw mills, all set in about eight blocks. There’s nice houses and neglected houses but in general I like the little town. It can’t be helped that the coal train runs through it, or that it is the hub of the mining industry at the moment.

However, it can help one starved and neglected horse but for some reason the people of Dingo have chosen to ignore something in their own backyard. We’ve fed the horse (we call him Billy, after Billy Slater) grass that we’ve pulled out as we’ve walked. We wondered if he was being looked after as his paddock was looking a little bare. We decided to keep an eye on him. Every two weeks (that I worked) I would visit Billy. This last stint I became increasingly concerned. A workmate had contacted the RSPCA weeks before but Billy still looked to be unfed and his water troughs were nearly empty and the water stagnant.

This time as I walked past him he was more skittish than usual. I pulled out heaps of grass and put it in his feed trough. He head-butted it nearly knocking the steel fence down. He stamped his hoof on the ground and whinnied and scoffed down the little grass I could find.

Back at camp I spoke to our chef Cathy who suggested that we save vegetable and fruit scraps for Billy and take water to him. So that afternoon we pulled up in our ute and he whinnied again when he saw the food we were putting in the food bin. He scoffed it and gradually let us pat him. Billy’s ribs show and the bones in his neck poke out. He is ungroomed and his mane and tail are matted. His hoofs look split and his beautiful eyes are full of gunk. There is not a blade of grass in his paddock and now stable for shelter. No water and no food. How could someone treat an animal like this? How can a town just ignore this gorgeous creature?

Next day we pulled up again. This time he stamped the ground and whinnied. He was definitely excited to see us. When I got back to camp I rang the RSPCA and reported the cruelty. There was still no sign of any other food or water. They said they would check Billy out.

Cathy feeding a very grateful Billy. Notice how there is not a blade of glass in his paddock and no shelter from a storm.

The next day the water trough was full of fresh water. We couldn’t see signs of food but Billy would have eaten every crumb. We fed him for two more days. Each time we pulled up he got more excited and would now let us pet him without even shying away.

I heard this week that the people who own Billy are in the house next door. Can you believe that? They have totally ignored his suffering. Billy is a beautiful gentle horse who someone would truly love. These people don’t deserve him and hopefully the RSPCA will relocate him to somewhere nice where he is appreciated.

Here’s to you Billy and the next stage of a happier healthier life.

PLEASE NOTE: RSPCA responds to reports of all cruelty, neglect and abandonment complaints of companion and farm animals, as well as injuries to wildlife. Last year Inspectors investigated nearly 14,000 cruelty complaints, and nearly 8,000 wildlife patients were admitted to the RSPCA Wildlife Hospital. To support them please see their website