Promoting understanding
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Saving Duke

Posted in: Di's diary6 Comments

Is it just me or has anyone else had a bad couple of weeks?  I am still deeply affected by the whole Live Export saga and feel no better for the Government’s temporary suspension of the trade of live cattle to Indonesia. But I will not go into that for the moment, only to say that I keep having this ridiculous feeling that I want to collect all of the animals that we abuse and go and live on some other world with them and other likeminded individuals. I have an overwhelming sense that we have lost our way, that as a species we have evolved to a position of great power but that development has not been matched by a growth in compassion, kindness or empathy. We think we are entitled to take what we want, at any cost to any other species. That animals are there, only to serve us and our needs and we blindly disregard their pain, their suffering and their rights.

The past two or three weeks have been a blur. Home responsibilities, the animals, work and the sense of desperation I feel, have meant that I have had to prioritise and focus on what is really important. Checks on homework have been sporadic (much to the kid’s delight) and housework has slipped off the scale into total oblivion. It seems that at the start of each week, I set myself a goal of ‘getting through the week’. One thing I didn’t count on this week though was losing Duke.

Duke is our 26 year old thoroughbred. He is a retired Police Horse and has been living here for nearly two years. Duke has always been a high maintenance horse. He requires more food than any of the other horses and has had the vet called on two previous occasions – colic and a foot abscess. Amazingly the other three horses have never been sick. In the past week we have called the vet for Duke a further two times.

It started a few weeks ago with a dramatic loss of weight. I noticed that Summer was eating her food and then going over and finishing off most of his. That in itself should have been a warning sign as he always stands up for himself but suddenly was content to share his food with her. I started locking him in a yard and increasing his rations in an attempt to put the weight back on him. Then last weekend I took off his rug and noticed that his coat was covered in dried sweat. I thought back and tried to pinpoint a day when it had been hot and could have caused this but was perplexed, it had been cold all week. I thought maybe he had been running around one day as he is highly strung and tends to get worked up about things so I thought no more about it. Then on Monday morning he was weak and had trouble walking in a straight line and I called the vet. She took blood and left me antibiotics and an amino acid supplement which I started him on. When the blood results came back I found out that his white blood cell count was high although his liver and kidney enzymes were normal, which was good news as one of the things that the vet suspected was renal failure. I continued with the antibiotics and supplements and wormed him again as although it had only been ten weeks since his last worming I had used the same brand of wormer the last couple of times and sometimes they build up an immunity to it. He seems to pick up slowly and my hopes were raised but then Wednesday night he went down while I was at work. My friend Margaret was feeding the animals for me and medicating Duke. Thanks to her and another friend Dimity, they managed to get him up on his feet and call the vet. I got home and spoke with the vet who told me gravely that he was an old horse and that it was likely that he wouldn’t recover. That he would probably go down again in the next couple of days and that I would need to consider euthanizing him. I agreed with him but said that the fact that he was still eating gave me hope that he hadn’t given up and that I couldn’t either.

Kelsea and Kitty, Duke and I ( and Alana) about to go for a ride.

Kelsea and Kitty, Duke and I ( and Alana) about to go for a ride.

I have an overwhelming feeling that Duke deserves more time. He served the public for most of his life as a police horse, working the beat, being used in riots and providing demonstrations at shows and events. Two years has not been a long enough retirement. He is content here and he loves going for quiet leisurely rides through the Blue Mountains with Summer. He has no demands placed on him and is happy to just be and relax. But I am aware that his needs and his comfort come first and would make the difficult decision if he gave me the sign.

In the past couple of days I have really come to understand the significance of the phrase ‘one day at a time’ for that is what it has been like. He hasn’t gone down again and seems (dare I saw it) to be marginally stronger. He will go onto his second course of antibiotics tomorrow and is still eating but the bitter cold is a factor that I cannot control. It drops well below zero here at night, even during the day it is freezing.

All of the other animals are well except we have had trouble with Kitty and a stone bruise to one of her feet which has taken a long time to heal. I am dumbfounded as to how this happened as none of the paddocks have any rocks in them – a fact that the farrier also commented on. But our tough little mite is doing okay although has the opposite problem to Duke, she is still terribly fat despite the onset of winter. Obesity is a big problem in ponies (although it is dangerous in all horses) as it can cause them to founder. So Kitty is on strict rations and hopefully now her foot is healed we can start exercising her again.

The other animals are all well. Simon and Patch continue to make their presence felt loud and clear. They greet me enthusiastically every time they see me and jump up on me like a dog. I don’t know how I will cope when they are fully grown and weigh 70 to 100 kilos! I was ecstatic to finally get the photo I have been trying to get, last weekend. As you can see it shows their true beauty and gives a hint of their wonderful, mischievous personalities. I hope you like it as much as I do.

True beauty

True beauty

I cannot finish this post without mentioning our wonderful dog Marlee. Throughout all of this he has never left my side. He has gazed at me with unfailing confidence and unshakable faith. If only I could borrow just a little of his faith.

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  1. Shona said on 10/06/2011 at 4:08 am

    Hello Di-dee,
    DON’T lose faith. Duke could not have found a better place for his twilight years. I hope he isn’t suffering too much, and that it is at least less than yours.
    And we as a species have not “lost” our way. We are exploring new ways. Don’t forget Maslow’s hierarchy. It’s hard to value anything beyond your own level on the hierarchy, and MOST of the world is still on level 1, where their primary daily concerns are for food and shelter. We could improve our society much more quickly if we could eradicate drugs and provide free birth control around the world to reduce the pressure on resources and build EVERYONE’s wealth. Yet despite people’s fixation with trinkets, and the delusion that STUFF can bring happiness, I can see slowly, slowly, society IS changing – for the better. And people like yourself help.
    Lots of love,
    Shona xxx

  2. Margaret said on 10/06/2011 at 7:10 am

    Hey Di,
    I think everyone is going through tremendous upheaval and change in their lives right now. They say that a change is as good as a holiday and everyone would like a holiday from the mundane daily tasks we must go through. Hopefully this change will be for the better.
    As for Duke, it’s not the quantity of life but the quality of life, and you have provided the best quality of life Duke has ever known. He would never have found a better place to live out his days. I remember when he first arrived at your place, and how he was nervous being in the wide open spaces, and how he loved being able to wander around and nibble at the endless grass beneath his feet. He would never have experienced that if you hadn’t opened your home and your heart to him. I admire your courage, fortitude and determination to succeed in doing what you want in life. Don’t lose track of your dreams. Keep the faith that someone out there is listening. This blog is proof that you are getting other people to listen and think about animals in the same way you do.
    love Margaret xxx

  3. Diana said on 10/06/2011 at 9:32 am

    Thank you Shona and Margaret. You have reminded me how many good people I am fortunate enough to know. Maybe I should focus on you guys instead of the other people!
    And thank you Margaret for helping Duke when I wasn’t there. My animals are also very lucky to know you!
    I really appreciate what you are saying Shona except that I think back to the 80/ 20 rule where 20% of the world’s population consumes 80% of it’s resources. And the fact that abuse and cruelty to animals is not confined to developing nations – those on the bottom rungs of Maslow’s hierarchy. In fact it seems that as a nation becomes more affluent so does the level of cruelty that they inflict and tolerate. If you look at Australia – we still condone battery cages, sow stalls and other intensive practices- not because of any basic food need but so that a handful of companies can make mega profits. Live export is the same – most of the properties are not family farms but huge corporations with millions of hectares and thousands of head at stake. So I am not really sure that as wealth increases so will animal welfare. But as always Shona, I so admire discussing with you!

  4. Margi Thurgood said on 10/06/2011 at 11:38 am

    Last winter Oggie survived the cold with an injury and came home to those who loved him. Duke is surrounded by love too and no matter how many hours, days, months or years he lives in this world he knows that he is loved.
    Not able to write much as I need to sleep but I remember the tale of the 100th monkey. Here is a link to some discussion about this
    I believe positive change happens so slowly it can seem to have stalled or reversed. Progress is not uniform nor steady but as bad as things can seem we must never give up. Helen keller said
    “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

    Love you my treasure

  5. Bronwen said on 18/06/2011 at 10:42 pm

    Di – the photo of the piggies is fabulous!
    We’re very sorry to hear about Duke. Lucky man to have had you to care for him.

  6. sue lobsey said on 21/06/2011 at 2:22 am

    Sorry to hear about Duke, he was a very lucky horse to have you Diana, I know you would of done all you can. Love the piggie shot, those noses are just gorgeous, I can’t wait to see them again.

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