Miracle had certainly lived up to her name for almost four years, but sadly the day came last week when we had to say goodbye. Although carrying out the decision to euthanize Miracle was very, very hard for me and Jason, making the decision to say goodbye to her was easy.
Jason and I first learned about Miracle in February 2011. She had made her way into the care of Sunkissed Acres rescue and Lori, the force behind Sunkissed Acres, posted this update to their website:
"Dear readers, I warn you that this will just make your heart break. Please be prepared…
This horse was advertised for sale in www.nwgatrader.com under livestock as a 1-1/2 year old Tennessee Walker. Described as well broke under saddle for $150.00
So, a man looking for a companion for his weanling heads on over for the good deal. The photos are graphic, but please meet Miracle.
She was unable to stand on her own and the owner had her slung with chains. Note the damage to her chest, you will see the damage to her legs in the other photos. The man who went to look at her, simply told the man it was best if he just gave her to him so he could give her a decent burial if nothing else. Miracle could not stand or walk so they slid her up on a board into the trailer.
He was referred to me and so I went there armed for life saving battle. This little filly is no more than 8 months old. And just when you thought it could not get more inhumane, she apparently carried not only a saddle but was packing the owners grandchildren around as well. She has no legs, she has no chest, she has no hope. She is literally run into the ground. I can almost pick the little thing up by myself. She is eating and drinking well, when we stand her up, she can walk around but when she gets tired, she lies down again and cant get herself up. The decision, if in two days from now, she cant keep get herself up on her own, she will be humanely euthanized. We are able to lift her to her feet using the engine hoist, which is in the heated garage. This is a perfect solution for her right now since it is so cold and blanketing is not an option.
Friends, the rescue is full. There is simply no more room and no more funds to support another. Yet I received a call today from AC about taking in and housing a mare about to foal. There has to be an end in sight. Please, if you can…consider adopting one of our adoptables or sponsoring their care for a day, a month…no amount is too small. Veterinary supplies, blankets and donations for hay are in need. And as always, your help sharing the stories of our horses in need through email, on your websites and social networking sites is a blessing to us.
We will keep you updated on Miracle over the next 24-48 hours. Please keep her in your prayers!"
Although I had read about so many sad stories at Sunkissed Acres this one really tugged at my heart. I contacted Lori and told her that Jason and I really wanted to give Miracle a home if she was able to survive. As we all know Miracle did, indeed, pull off a miracle and she lived. For several weeks she continued to need the assistance of a sling to stand up as she was so starved and atrophied. In mid March we decided she was strong enough to make the trailer ride from Sunkissed Acres to Paradigm Farms.
Although she had already gained a lot of weight Miracle was still very skinny and had a lot more recovering to do when we brought her home. My dad made it his mission in life to teach her what treats were since Miracle had no idea what a carrot was. He was so thrilled the day she finally ate a carrot out of his hand and she became a treat hound after that.
Although she didn't understand the concept of treats Miracle definitely understood the concept of food. For months after we brought her home she wouldn't stop eating. Even when she laid down, which was still often as she was still weak, she would eat. It was so sad to watch this skinny filly lay on her side and eat. She clearly understood and remembered what starvation was like and was determined to never have that happen again. It took several months for her to be comfortable with the idea of NOT eating.
She was also terrified of other horses. She was friendly and very interactive if there was a fence between her and another horse. However if you took the physical barrier away she was terrified. Not scared, not nervous, terrified. My mare Sky was her babysitter for the first couple of months, and then we began changing up her roommate. With each new horse she would spend a few days as far away as she could get from the new horse literally shaking with fear. It felt like a true accomplishment when Miracle was finally able to happily and comfortably live with a group of horses. She ended up being somewhat dominant and very self assured with her friends. We certainly didn't predict that outcome!
Miracle never completely got past some of the mental issues from her abuse. Jason and I could handle her easily and she was comfortable with us. We could groom her, blanket her and pick her feet without a fuss. The one obstacle we never got past was giving her a bath. Miracle was beyond terrified of hoses. She would splash in the water trough and play in the water so water was not her problem, hoses were definitely the problem. We assumed she had probably been beaten more than once with a hose. We could sponge water on her but a bath with a hose was NEVER an option no matter how much desensitizing we tried.
Miracle was also very friendly to people she didn't know, especially if they had treats. However we advised anyone who wished to pet her to move slowly and to ALWAYS stay near her head and neck and only try to pet her from the shoulder forward. If a stranger forgot the rules and went to pet her anywhere other than her shoulder, neck or head she would sometimes strike out lighning fast with a hoof. She was always on full alert with a new person even when her body language and expression suggested she was totally relaxed.
Our suspicions that she would have early onset arthritis were confirmed over a year ago. At first the issues were relatively minor and easy to handle, mostly being uncomfortable after holding her feet up for the farrier. Bute for farrier days addressed this handily. Her issues became more pronounced this past May and she was on daily bute at times and needed two grams of bute to have her hooves trimmed.
Eventually there were days when daily bute was not enough to fully manage her comfort. However the bad days were still the exception rather than the rule. Then the situation really began to fall apart when she foundered for no reason that two farriers or vets could find in one of her hind feet. We were able to manage it and get her through it and she returned to full comfort. However she was only granted a couple of weeks of peace when she foundered again, this time in a front foot.
Given that we were already doing all of the normal things to handle the situation and she foundered in another foot anyway we knew we were in trouble. Both of our farriers said she was showing signs that she was going to founder in the other two feet as well, again for no reason that anyone could find. Her vet said that he had seen one other case where severe metabolic issues developed for seemingly no reason when the horse had been severely starved at a young age. He said it was very similar to Miracle, that all was well for a couple of years after the horse was rescued and then suddenly it wasn't anymore.
Once Miracle foundered in the second hoof and her team all agreed that she was going to founder in every hoof the decision to end her suffering was easy. When you combined this with cervical arthritis that was already advancing there was really only one choice. When we initially brought Miracle home from Sunkissed Acres she was very clingy to me and to Jason, and she seemed to take a lot of comfort in our presence. After she had gained weight, muscle and confidence she completely changed. She had an ego the size of Texas and she didn't need us or anyone else. She loved to run at a full gallop in the pasture with her friends, to play, to groom, to graze - Miracle was a busy girl and always felt she had a lot to do. She was a total diva and Jason and I were there to attend to her at her convenience. It kind of felt like we had a teenager, Miracle knew everything about everything and certainly didn't need us anymore.
In the end Miracle never completely escaped the abuse and starvation that she suffered early on. It defined her life at the beginning and eventually brought about the end. No person, horse or any living being should have to suffer the way she suffered. She had an amazing will to live and a very forgiving heart despite having every reason not to be. I am sad that her life was far too short. I am sad - and angry - that the people who did this to her never spent a day in jail or even paid a fine.
However I am grateful to Lori at Sunkissed Acres and the Gurleys for giving Miracle a chance. It would have been easy to euthanize her right away and no one would have argued with that decision. However Miracle clearly wanted to live. I am glad that she was given the chance to live. I am glad Jason and I had the resources and the knowledge to give her a home and help her learn how to be a normal horse. She had three and a half years of what she appeared to think was a pretty perfect life.
The last couple of weeks she had reverted back to the Miracle we brought home in March 2011. Her self confidence was gone, she was clingy to me and Jason, she didn't want to interact with her friends. Although the decision to let her go was easy, actually carrying it out was very hard. As we stood with Miracle waiting for the vet to arrive she had her face buried in Jason's chest, looking at him with big, pleading eyes to make it all better. It was a look we had not seen out of her for three and a half years and it was heartbreaking to us.
Miracle stood very quietly for the vet which was not typical for her, and she had a quick and peaceful passing. She was only four years old.
Rest in peace Miracle. You had a life that was far too short but you certainly made an impact on many people.
Miracle barely alive in Mr. Gurley's trailer, starved and covered in wounds
Miracle in the Gurley's garage standing with the help of Mr. Gurley's engine hoist
Miracle with her hero Mr. Gurley the day she was strong enough to move to Sunkissed Acres
Some pictures of Miracle's first year with us
Jason meeting Miracle at Sunkissed Acres
Lori giving Miracle a goodbye pat
Jason feeding Miracle french fries at our lunch break on the ride home from Sunkissed Acres
my mom and Dad meeting Miracle and welcoming her home; note my mom was already armed with a bag of carrots
March 16,2011; with her babysitter Sky two days after she came home
March 31, 2011; Sky showing Miracle it's ok to have fun. Sadly Sky passed away in April 2013.
March 24, 2011
December 31, 2011
Some random pictures of Miracle's time with us
hanging out with Griselle
having her teeth floated
waiting for a farrier appointment with Jason
on the run with Sparky
hanging out with Sparky, Sky and Griselle
galloping with Sky and Griselle
hanging out with Griselle
snow day with Timbit and Griselle
Timbit, Miracle, Sparky and Griselle
relaxing with Griselle