Cookie’s story: Love isn’t enough

EQUUS - - Tack& Gear -

It was Jan­uary and the snow came up around my boot tops as I traipsed across the yard and knocked on the door. Rose and Dan, an el­derly cou­ple, were wear­ing coats in­side the frigid house. Peo­ple had been call­ing the au­thor­i­ties about a thin mare they owned and be­fore a horse is con­fis­cated, a vet­eri­nar­ian must ex­am­ine the an­i­mal. That was the rea­son for my visit.

As we walked to the barn, Dan ex­plained how they had un­ex­pect­edly had to move sev­eral years ago when re­tire­ment funds were lost in the crash­ing econ­omy. They had tried to sell “Cookie,” but when she be­came thin, no­body wanted to buy her. They had also talked to the lo­cal horse res­cue, but the res­cue was al­ready over­flow­ing. Rose had been told there was a wait­ing list and then never got a call back. The cou­ple had even tried giv­ing Cookie away, but only one per­son had looked and Rose feared the mare was go­ing with him to a kill pen.

Cookie had a body con­di­tion score of 2 out of 9. She was sweet, and I could tell that Rose loved the mare. In an­tic­i­pa­tion of my in­spec­tion, Dan had pur­chased a sin­gle bale of fresh hay and a bag of grain. I dis­cussed how sud­den di­etary changes could be ex­tremely dan­ger­ous to horses that were this thin. Dan told me that Cookie be­came pretty thin each win­ter, but she al­ways picked back up when the grass grew.

A few days later, I re­ceived an­other call from Rose be­cause Cookie couldn’t get up. When I ar­rived, it was ob­vi­ous her body had shut down. Cookie had ex­pe­ri­enced refeed­ing syn­drome. We all cried as she took her last breath.

Rose and Dan never paid the in­voices to the vet­eri­nary prac­tice. We soon learned that they had filed for bank­ruptcy and may have lost their home. Th­ese peo­ple knew their horse was thin, and they cared about her. But they couldn’t keep heat on in their home or feed them­selves, so feed­ing Cookie just wasn’t pos­si­ble. They had hon­estly tried to the best of their abil­ity. For me, this case was a wake-up call about the judg­ment that we some­times feel with­out know­ing the en­tire sit­u­a­tion.

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