Cookie’s story: Love isn’t enough
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.