Thursday, July 31, 2014

Harvey: Staying in the moment

Years ago, my grandpa had Parkinsons Disease -- and it eventually took his life. When the family got together, there was a tendency to spend time enumerating the things he could once do but now could not -- at every gathering there was a hushed conversation about grandpa's decline. As a young adult, I hated it. Nothing is gained by obsess each and every sign of failing, I reasoned, why chronicle each life skill or ability lost? I felt sorry for grandpa and felt sure he knew about these conversations. It was heartbreaking.

I thought that then, and I still believe this. It accomplishes nothing to focus on what is lost.

Today's post is a Harvey status update, and I'm breaking my own rule.  Harv is failing. I don't know for sure, but it seems to me he is failing at a faster rate.
  • He has trouble moving around in his stall. He catches himself, but the tight turns make him sway and correct himself. 
  • He has trouble getting down to roll. Getting up has been a mild struggle for awhile, has has pulled himself up by his front legs for years. But now, getting down is harder for him. He can curl his front legs fine, but somehow the hind legs don't want to fold. He has just given up on a gentle landing. He drops down in front, but he can't lower himself down behind -- he basically falls heavily to the side like a falling tree. 
  • The incontinence is worse. I used to occasionally find a big pee stain in his stall, which told me he could sometime evacuate his bladder somewhat. This has not happened in weeks.
In the moment
I enjoy seeing the things that Harv enjoys. Last week, I walked him to the outdoor ring for the first time in about a month. Harv knows the outdoor is for running around, and as we walked toward the gate, he started a little passage. He coudn't wait to tear around.

As soon as I unclipped the halter he kicked into full gear, even cantering a little. He would trot the perimeter at full tilt for a lap, then come into the center and stand with me--it felt like he wanted praise ("did I do good?"). After a few minutes he would go out and do another lap. He repeated this 4-5 times. He looked really happy and I'm so glad he likes to move out like this.  I'm guessing his bladder is basketball-sized on a permanent basis -- to me this energy indicates that he doesn't feel uncomfortable at least.

Oh, and his trot. Harv's trot is a little out of synch -- the hind legs are definitely draggier than in April, like he can't lift from the stifle. Watching from the rear there is an "egg-beater" action, hind legs swinging out, that is more pronounced. I try not to notice his movement, and focus on his happy face and he trots around.

He has his horsey friends, he is the fattest he has ever been, and the hay right now is soft enough for him to eat. Bob is par-boiling his carrots, which is an act of love that confirms my choice in spouse.  I'll keep you all posted. 


  1. Love the par boiling of the carrots - that is love - I would do it too. As painful as it is to read this and as painful as it is for you to observe and report Harv's failings it is important every day to access his quality of life. So far life wins but taking the best care of him is to admit when the tipping point has been reached. This is so important and it is a positive thing overall, as you well know. You are lucky that Harv got to this point.

    1. And it is a kindness we can do for our animals when they are truly not enjoying life any longer, and not always for our relatives.

  2. I watched the video in the more recent post then read this one. For some reason, it has me feeling a bit wistful--almost as if it were my horse. Mine are 15 and 16 and I don't want to think about the days when I have to watch and wonder. We've all been through it when a horse gets lame or sick, even temporarily. We always wonder if that was the last time we'd ever be able to jump, canter, ride, etc. that particular horse friend. We always kind of scared ourselves a little with the "what ifs" and the "whens."

    But my face unwound near the end of your post because I felt you characterized the sunny aspects of the golden years particularly well. I could see Harv gleefully running around the outdoor, I could imagine the anticipatory "passage" and I enjoyed the thought of a pot of parboiled carrots, compliments of your doting hubby. Thank you for all that. :)

  3. I enjoy hearing your Harvey stories, and will be sad to hear when his day comes. I still miss the old OTTB who was my first regular ride. Thank you for sharing your boys with me.


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