Obituaries

I’ve been avoiding this. Danielle’s been avoiding this. Everyone has been avoiding this. For the second time this year, I announce the sad passing of another beloved horse. On Sunday, Cholla was euthanized.

I can not possibly do justice to the memory of Cholla. She was a best friend, a loyal companion and a princess. I have been around horses my whole life and I have never met a horse that was so gentle around people. She was also the pickiest eater of any equine I have ever known but the way she did it was charming. We were helpless slaves for her. She would decide one day that she no longer liked her grain, at which time she would politely push the tub away and say, “No thank you.” And we would say, “Oh sweetheart, can I get you something else instead?” Then we would promptly depart for the feed store without a hint of crankiness towards the diminutive mare, who turned down meal after meal. I’m convinced she was french in her last life and was concerned about keeping her girlish figure.

If you’ve been following the blog, you know Cholla had been having some problems with her arthritis. After the fire department came out to get her up, the day she couldn’t, Dr. Heather Baker and Danielle came up with a plan to ease her pain and make her mobile again. It worked amazingly well at first but the wolves of old age will only be held at bay for so long. Dave and I took the kids out there on Saturday and I noticed She was stiff for the first time since we started the heavy treatment. I gave her two different shots of joint-juice that day and let her out to wander around the property to graze for a couple of hours. The kids got out the brushes and took off her remaining winter coat. The Boy fed her all the leaves from the willow tree that she would eat, which wasn’t many because the grass was new and far more tempting. Moo sat on Cholla, so she could reenact a photo she had seen of Danielle, sitting backwards on Cholla. Cholla, who thrives on attention, was content.

The next morning, she couldn’t get up. I was at work so Paula called Dave and he went down there to help. Dr. Baker came out to help and gave Cholla all of the drug she had on her truck. Paula’s entire extended family was at the house for Easter, rooting for Cholla. Cholla still could not get up and it wasn’t like the other times. She wasn’t fighting for it, like she had before. For those who have been at that pivotal moment in a horse’s life when you know that euthanasia is the kindest thing but your heart still worries if it’s too soon for that, there’s a conversation that happens between horse and human. It starts with forgiveness and ends with “please.” Cholla was having that conversation. She told Heather, then she told Dave. Then Dave called Danielle so Cholla could have the conversation with her. I don’t know if the conversation transcends that sort of distance but Dave tried to translate as best he could. At the end of the conversation, Cholla sighed and went to sleep, completely peaceful.

Paula called me at work to let me know that she had been put down. I kept it together long enough to get through my last hour. When I tried to call Danielle on the way home to offer my condolences, I turned into a complete blubbering idiot. I don’t know if my message made sense but I do know it mostly consisted of high-pitched squeaking noises.

The humans sat with Cholla for hours. By the time I got there, Dave and Paula had prepared the body for burial in a way that is oddly traditional, though no horse owners that I know talk about it. They had braided her tail and cut it. We sat with her drinking Moscow Mules and repeating the phrase of the day, “Fuck Easter.” Paula’s sister brought us snacks. Maybe she was concerned about the grief and alcohol mixing with the family tension and causing the scene or maybe she was just merciful. Either way, it was appreciated.

After the family left, we took Cholla to Redemption, where our neighbor with a tractor buried her. She’s next to Galaxy. When Dave has some time, he’s going to clean up the brush and vines in that area and I’m going to plant flowers. Lots and lots of calla lilies for Galaxy and whatever Danielle wants for Cholla.

Blue Piggy was also euthanized on Sunday, an hour after Cholla. We had been treating him for a mystery illness that had come on fast and strong. I don’t know much about pigs but I do know it was the worst sudden illness I have ever seen in an animal. When we decided to put him down, he was almost unable to move and was gasping, despite two days of antibiotics. Blue Piggy did not go gently into that good night, he raged, raged, raged against the dying of the light. I can’t say anything more about his death except I never hope to experience a death like his again. He is also buried next to the girls. I’m not sure if he’s the type of guy who would like flowers on his grave but he’s getting them. Maybe I’ll just plant ferns for him. Big bristly ferns.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by husband on April 29, 2011 at 07:25

    I will miss Cholla.

    Danielle introduced her best friend to me almost 10 years ago. I left with one of the best farrier stories (“…really I’m not into drama, but…”) and a serious like of her horse. Danielle tore through a couple boys and traveled the world. Cholla fell in love with me. I told this to Danielle. How she would ground tie, hold her own feet up and keep my neck and ears warm with her breath. I know you said she would do these things for you too, but you may not have seen the way she looked at me when you weren’t there.

    We made it through several illnesses. And this is where I taught her that trick you hated Danielle. See Cholla holds her foot up for me to work on, But during our founder times she was unable to stand on three feet by herself. What to do. Cholla, a petite girl of around a thousand pounds was allowed to lean against me. We beat that illness also. Sorry Danielle for teaching her the lean. I hope your back heals someday.

    When it was time for Danielle to fly off to school, she asked me to hold her girl for a couple of years. I thought of the old house and dirt we bought in Monterey and the lack of funds we had available and immediately decided we could not. But I wanted to. I asked wife how can we… Wife and Danielle had become Facebook friends and they worked out the details. I dug holes.

    When making the pasture I pictured Cholla in it. Told the kids. Told the neighbors about her. Wife picked out the fence because it was safest. Yeah like Cholla would charge it or dare to cast herself. She doesn’t do bad.

    In the meantime Paula offered her place. The family loved her and I’m sure Cholla loved them almost as much as me. Paula washed her and brushed her. She was the princess horse.

    I don’t know how many times Paula’s family got together to help her up. I think I got the call about six times so maybe six times they did it without me. I have a hole in my heart where you used to live Cholla. I will forever enjoy the memories and friends you have brought together. Welcome to our home where you and Galaxy may roam free.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Paula on April 29, 2011 at 21:24

    Cholla is definitely missed here. Not only by the humans but by her 4 legged friends as well.

    I met Cholla and Danielle from Dave and Marsha. They both seemed very nice and easy going. I’ve never had a horse live here I didn’t intend on owning. Infact several of us had to reasure dad that Cholla was owned by someone who loved her more then anyone could. Therefore leaving her priceless.

    I got to know Cholla quick and fell in love almost instantly. She was probably the (if any of you tell Casey and Ziggy I said this I will shoot you!!!) best horse I’ve ever met. She would greet me when I would get off work and try to tell me it was feeding time even though it was only 12! When feeding time came she would watch every move I made until her dinner was served.

    I wasn’t the only one that loved Cholla here. My whole family got attached to her. I think anyone who came into contact with Cholla fell for her, even if you were covered in her hair by the time you walked away. Somehow it was ok to have white hair all over you because it was Cholla hair.

    It seems like a lot of work to help a horse out when she needs a little lift. In reality I guess it is. But in the end Cholla helped us as well. She brought people together who may have never met before. She helped children and even adults who were afraid of horses before. That was just at my house. I’m sure while she was with Danielle she did more amazing things. Danielle was the best owner in the world by the way. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who went to the lengths Danielle did for Cholla.

    Roaming free isn’t enough for her, there better be plenty of grass! We all miss you Cholla.

    Reply

  3. Thank you for the beautiful notes. Words cannot express how much I appreciate how much you all have done for my girl- Dave and Marsha, Paula and her family, the Felton Fire Dept, Heather Baker, and the multiple neighbors who have helped in some way or another.

    Cholla and I shared 12 amazing together, and I don’t think there is anyone who would argue with me when I say that we made one seriously epic team. Both stubborn, sassy princesses who were crazy for each other. The day I met her was the end of her rocky life- she’d been passed around her whole life, dealt with bad trainers, and half-hearted owners. She was scared and untrusting, and she also ran off like a psycho the first time I got on her. Once I got her to stop I swore I would never get on the damn horse again… That obviously didn’t happen. I think it was probably my trainer who saw the potential and convinced/ forced me to give her another shot. We spent several weeks walking very slowly in the round pen before I asked her to pick up the world’s slowest trot ever. She didn’t run away, I didn’t die, and when I asked her to stop, she did.

    From that point on we only got better. I swore I would never leave her, and that she would never live the kind of life she had before I met her. She became my #1 priority and there was nothing I would not do for her. She learned to trust me, then to trust anyone I introduced her to, and finally to trust everyone. She turned in to a dog… Followed me everywhere, responded when she heard her name (people at the ranch we lived at in the summer *loved* this, and would call her name incessantly, until I made them stop because they were de-sensitizing my horse), and she probably would have sat in my lap if I let her. One day while we were on a trail ride I heard her tell me that this is where she wanted to be, so we started endurance riding. She was great at it, and she loved it- Which made her even better, and made me love it. The best times of my life have been with Cholla on the trails.

    I almost lost her to colic in 2006, but thankfully the barn manager, Tamara, found her before it was too late. We got her to Star Equine Hospital, and the amazing vet techs and surgeons took it from there. She pulled through that, and taught me to appreciate life each and every day. We made it through a few other major illnesses after that, but life was good. She had become the perfect horse, and I was so proud of what we had become together.

    When I decided to move to Manhattan to study design, it was the most bittersweet moment of my life. I knew the only person who could possibly love her as much as me was Dave, and thanks to some smooth talking on my part I convinced him and Marsha to “babysit” her for me. I am eternally grateful that out of all the people that could have been there for her, it was Paula, Dave and Marsha. Letting her go when I was across the country was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, and it went against every fiber of my being. I am so incredibly sorry I could not be there with her. I miss her every day, and I will never stop loving her.

    Reply

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