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More good-bye stories from our readers...


Fairwell to SAM        Story by Bonnie Davis

  It was February 20, 1987. A bright spring morning greeted us. New grass was pushing its tender green edges up through the damp ground. Birds were diving around the trees looking for places to nest. The promise of new life seemed as fresh as the morning breeze.

As my husband, Den, and I drove to the barn, I tried to distract myself. How many flakes were in that last bale of hay I'd opened? How many telephone poles from the bottom of the hill to the barn? When had I last seen the buck deer in the park? But as hard as I tried, I couldn't concentrate on anything else. Today we weren't going to the barn for a ride - but to put SAM down.

Our veterinarian was to meet us at the barn at 9:30. A livestock hauler was to be here, also.

SAM was waiting for us with two pasture mates in the field across from the barn. I had retired him there a little over a year before.

His bones now showed through his skin. for the last few weeks, jumping the 2-foot-wide stream to come to the fence for his daily oats had become increasingly difficult for him. He could hardly chew them with only a few back teeth. I could also tell that his joints were getting stiffer; after a nap in the sun, he had great trouble rising.

SAM was approximately 24 years old. Three years earlier, he'd had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. The vet had given SAM three to five years to live. In the last few months, my horse had dropped in weight from 1,000 to roughly 900 pounds. I could count his ribs. Some of the boarders at the barn often described him as "that poor old skinny horse in the pasture". They didn't seem to understand my love and affection for my horse.

SAMDen got SAM's halter and offered to get him. As he walked down the driveway, my mind flooded with thoughts of my 15 years with SAM. Our rides. All the pictures we'd posed for. The time he was bitten by a snake and I'd hot-packed his head for days. And how he'd stood so calmly. When we'd slid off the trail into a stream, and SAM had lain there until I told him to get up. The time he'd eaten my apples and tuna-fish sandwich on the trailer fender. Once, when he'd stepped on my foot and I threatened to break his neck if he didn't get off. The first time I saw him. The first time I rode him. All the memories came flooding back. I couldn't stop them or the tears welling up in my eyes.

The veterinarian arrived. He filled a syringe and then stood by his truck. Waiting. Neither of us spoke.

The livestock hauler arrived approximately 10 minutes later. He turned his truck around, lowered the ramp and pulled the winch out onto the ground.

Den brought SAM to the barn. Although SAM was stiff and thin, he held his head high with his long mane blowing in the morning breeze. As my husband led SAM by me, I reached out and touched my horse's neck. All the tears I'd been holding back started to flow.

The luster in SAM's coat, mane and tail were gone. His deep red sorrel color had been washed to a light red from all the white hair in his coat. The areas over his eyes were sunken holes and, even though his eyes were bright, they looked, well, tired.

The vet took the lead rope from Den's hand and handed it to the hauler.

"You've done all you can for him," the vet told me. "For an old guy like SAM, it's best to do this way so he won't have to suffer anymore. In time, you'll realize this was the best possible decision you could make."

For a brief moment, anger flared in me. No! It was not the best thing I could do. The best thing I could do would be to find some way to stop the hideous cancer slowly eating SAM's life away.

Afterwards, we'd be miles away from here on a mountain, riding along a clear meadow lake; or in the park looking for that buck deer. Not here in a barnyard waiting for an injection to end his life!

But as quickly as it had flared, the anger died. I knew we had done all we could for SAM - the vets, my husband, my friends and myself. There is only so long you can cling to someone or something you love before you suddenly realize it's not for that someone or something you're doing it - but for yourself.

Putting SAM down and out of his misery was a decision that I lone had to make. And three days earlier, after trying to feed SAM his oats, I had made that decision.

The hauler moved SAM to the back of the truck. he stood at SAM's head and, for a moment, I caught SAM's tired eyes. In that fleeting glance, my horse seemed to understand.

The vet moved closer by SAM's neck. He gave him a long stroke with his hand and then felt for the jugular vein.

At the instant the needle went in, my husband said "Go into the barn." But I couldn't. Not yet. I had watched SAM being delivered to this place. I would watch until he was taken away.

SAM flinched as the needle went in; the fluid was injected and the needle removed. SAM stood there.

Look! It won't work! He's not going to die, I thought.

But at that very moment, SAM fell over. Much like a cut tree, SAM just fell over.

The hauler pulled SAM's halter off his head. My horse's eyes were closed. The vet felt for a pulse, then looked at me. "He's gone," he said softly.

The hauler handed me SAM's halter, and it was then I did what my husband had suggested. I went into the barn.

As the truck's winch whined under the strain, I stood in the barn and sobbed as I had never cried in my life. My husband came in, put his arms around me and, when I looked up, I saw the tears in his eyes too. For a few minutes we stood together holding each other. SAM had been a friend, a companion, a member of the family.

As we walked out of the barn to return home, I watched the truck disappear down the driveway and thought, Goodbye, SAM, I'll miss you.

Do you have a good-bye story that you would you like to share with BAEN visitors? Have you come across suggestions or tips on ways to make saying goodbye a little easier? Please send them to us at In a future Horsetalk article, Bonnie will write about options for horse owners faced with the decision of what to do after a horse has died. BAEN has added a new category to our web site that provides some local resources; we welcome your contributions to this list.


Bonnie Davis is a Bay Area resident, free lance writer and horsecamping/trail riding advocate with over 30 years experience. Her stories, articles, and columns have been published in national and international publications such as Western Horseman, Paint Horse Journal, Horse & Horseman, Quarter Horse Journal, Western Side (Italy), Cascade Horseman, California Horse Review, Performance Horse Review, and San Jose Mercury News.  Bonnie is a featured speaker at the '99 and '00 Horsexpo in Sacramento.

? 1999 Bonnie Davis and The Bay Area Equestrian Network. The above story and photos are the property of the Author and may not be duplicated or redistributed in any way without permission.


More good-bye stories from our readers...

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Eggs1/26/00 - I'll never forget that morning. We had a good ride, a fun ride and I was finally convinced that Eggs was all healed up from his ligament injury. He'd been recovering slowly for over a year. The last five months I had been flatting him, slowly bringing him back so he wouldn't reinjure himself. It was challenging, difficult at times, and completely rewarding. I couldn't wait for the day when he'd jump again. And this morning, only two weeks until he'd go back into training and be allowed full flat work, he proved to me that he wanted to come back and that all the hard work was going to pay off.

It was later, after we were done with our ride, while I was having a lesson on my other horse, that I saw Eggs looking uncomfortable. He was pawing and pacing, lying down and getting back up. Could he be colicing? Was I overreacting? A friend went and got him for me while I put Chloe away and ran to the vet's office to get help. When I got back, only a few minutes later, he was in the arena, down and in obvious distress. He was colicing and badly too.

From there on everything is a blur, the vet gave him pain medications, but to no avail. I walked him but he wanted to go down a lot, sometimes at every step. We made the decision to bring him for surgery. All the while my trainer kept telling me he'd be okay, maybe he'd get off the trailer just fine, sometimes that happens.

He didn't and he did have surgery at Peninsula Equine. He had an entrapment, but the prognosis was good. He should be fine.

I was so optimistic. Eggs was a fighter, I knew. When I'd gotten him as a 10 year old greenie, he was skinny and scared of everything. But as our training progressed he became a bold jumper, and more importantly, a very forgiving jumper. He started winning at the rated shows. Only three years after I'd gotten him he was champion AA jumper and he had a bright future. That was our last show, before the ligament injury, before the nightmare I now faced.

Over the next week Eggs swung from great to terrible to good again. Something was wrong. There were spiking fevers, a loss of appetite, and finally diarrhea. His slide downhill was excruciating. Each day I hoped he'd be a little better, maybe eat a tiny bit of hay, and more often than not I was disappointed. The good days were so good, when I had all the hope in the world for him, when I knew he could make it. The bad days were dark, desperation and despair. The doctors were doing everything they could, we did everything we could and still he continued his slide. Finally, almost 3 weeks after his colic, I looked at him in horror. Gone was my beautiful boy. Only his face was the same. His muscle was gone, he had edemas collecting on his belly and his legs were swelling too, nitroglycerin patches on his legs kept him from foundering, his neck was swollen on one side from a thrombosed vein. Then I knew that maybe we'd gone far enough. Three weeks after we'd brought him in, when I thought the worst thing that could happen was surgery, I decided to let him go.

We waited for my husband, Peter, to come, for he loved Eggs too. And then finally the vets were ready. We followed them from his stall into the dark and rainy night. To say I was inconsolable would not even scratch the surface. I felt as if a part of my mind was fleeing the horror, never to return. Some small part remained that knew it was the right thing to do, that knew an end had to come. But the other part, maybe it was the child that lives in us all, had fled my heart crying and left it broken. I could only think over and over to myself "it is a kindness you do to me, it is a kindness you do to me, it is a kindness you do to me". Some words from a poem I had read a long time ago that had drifted back into my mind when I needed them most. They were no consolation, but they served to remind me that maybe this really was the right thing and maybe Eggs would actually appreciate it. I was numb with terror and shock, but most of all sadness. It was more than any sadness I'd ever known and made every sadness before it seem insignificant. I held Peter's hand as the injections were given and I could only repeat over and over "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, so sorry, I'm so sorry." Peter was crying too and said "Goodbye Eggs" and wanted me to do the same so that Eggs could hear me. I am ashamed to say that in my grief and guilt I could not even speak to him so he could hear me. I could only whisper over and over how sorry I was and how I loved him so. It was over quickly, he simply stopped living. In a moment, he was gone and a part of my heart was broken forever, and a part of my youth was lost too. For I had never had to experience anything like this before. To loose a friend, a child, a loved one, and have it done by your own hand is a devastating experience. No matter how many people said it was the right thing, the only thing I could believe in my heart was that we had killed him, murdered him, stolen his life. In my mind, I knew he had to be suffering. I could see the old Eggs, healthy and strong and when I saw the sick Eggs, not defeated but in terrible, unrecoverable pain, I knew it was the right thing. But still there will always be a part of me that is horrified by it all.

We took his halter home and that is what I have left of him, besides the memories. Sometimes I see it and remember all the good times we had. It still brings sadness though. I hope one day it will only bring happiness.

Eggs died December 9, 1999 at Peninsula Equine. I'd like to thank the vets who did everything they could. They were more then just doctors, they extended their kindness and friendship to me and to Eggs and that meant a lot to us both. I'll always love you, Eggs.

Charlene Ku lives in Milpitas and boards and trains with Susan Crenshaw in Gilroy.

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Blue1/21/00 - I live in Arkansas and I happened on to your site. Your good bye stories touched my heart because I too recently lost a good old friend. His name was Pudden's Blue Boy, a wonderful gray stallion, a son of the famous quarter horse Pudden Head. We called him Blue. Blue was 24 years old when we bought him and a foundation quarter horse through and through. His breeding was just right so we took a chance on using him on our QH mares.

Well he never did get any mares in foal, but he sure stole my heart. He was one of those horses that you remember all your life if you have ever had one. He had been a cowboy's horse and was said to be so fast and strong when working a cow that he was very hard to ride. He was the sweetest gentlest horse I ever knew and trustworthy in all ways even though he was a stallion. A very classy gentleman.

As gray horses do sometimes he developed tumors that we treated at first and then when he got to be 27 years old and they came back with a vengeance, we decided to put him down while he was still able to be his old self. He had started the tell tale weight loss that old horses do before they pass on.

The day my husband put Blue to sleep, I went out to feed him, and also to say goodbye. I took my scissors and cut a piece of his tail for a keepsake. then I said goodbye to him. I held my face up to his old thin neck and smelled his lovely horsey smell the last time and told him I loved him. So on a lovely summer day, we led him up to the place where he would be buried and let him graze a few minutes, and then my husband gave him the shot that would help him out of his suffering.

I will plant some blue colored perennial flowers on his grave this spring. I braided the hair from his white tail and put it in an envelope that says simply: Pudden's Blue Boy, a good horse.

Thank you for your site.

Kim Pearson and her husband Phil,,, have a horse and cattle operation in northwest Arkansas

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1/16/00 - Today I am reminded of my horse Grant, who was put down almost one year ago. I have helped many people at our barn put down their horses when that time was right. I helped support and hug them and did it very well, but; it was not until I had to put Grant down, after many months of bringing him back to health, did I feel all those same emotions.

Grant - BeforeYou see I rescued Grant. He was an old white Arabian, who stood in the muddy part of the barn we called the 'ghetto'. He had been a lesson horse at one time, but had lost his usefulness in someone's eyes and his owner did not ever come to see him. One day I could stand it no longer and begged the Barn Manager to allow Grant to come into a barn stall that was open, across from my own horse. To my surprise he said yes! That started a wonderful journey of friendship, good food and, for the first time, shavings.

Grant had the personality that needed people around him and he would get depressed when he was without attention so, once he knew I was to be there 2-4 times a day to see him and hug him, he responded quickly. It took more time to put weight on him though, at least a couple of months. He would nicker to me when I drove up, toss his head as if to say "HI" and enjoyed our walks and grazing time together. He quickly became my best friend. I enjoyed every minute with him. In time he was well enough for me to get on his back a couple times a week. When I was sad I could always count on him for comfort. As I write this I long to have just one more hug.

Grant - AfterJust when he seemed to be doing his best, one morning I walked into his stall and could see right away that he was not well, he had left his feed from the night before and he was laying down, which in itself was not unusual. He often lay in his shavings. Did I mention he was 32 years old? But this was different; something in his eyes said 'Help me'. I walked over to him and could tell he was in pain...I tried to get him up and he did, but not comfortably. I knew I must walk him. The
next few days brought the vet several times and many hours of walking, as he was colicking. It was February and cold and rainy. I remember walking through the barn aisle with four layers of clothing on me and two blankets on Grant. The wind was blowing so cold at times, but I could not leave him. At times he rallied. I sensed he knew how much I needed him to live through this. For the next week my daughter got up early and came and injected him with painkillers every 6 hours and walked and helped with whatever else he needed, waiting for the results to change. It appeared that he had a stone or a blockage - This was going to kill him. I watched in helplessness, as friends came to support me and pray with me in his stall. I was losing a good friend.  The next morning I knew what I had to do. I called the vet again and talked in length with him and together we agreed that Grant was suffering far too much and there was no turning around a horse, of his age, with a stone. Surgery certainly wasn't an option.

I called the truck and the vet was on his way, I felt a sense of relief, as I knew it would be over soon. My daughter, Jen, was at school and I needed her there so a friend picked her up for me. Jen was an
incredible source of strength for me that morning. She helped me brush him and braid his tail. Her friend Michelle and I walked him around the stable, feeling the hot sun on our backs. This was to be the first sunny day in a week. We gave him carrots, apples and he ate grass. This was hard, as it gave me a false sense that everything was normal and that we were doing this for nothing. I naturally started to doubt my decision, hoping instead that there was a way that he could be with me forever.

When the vet arrived I began to feel anxious. Grant looked so good, so happy! How could this be happening? He looked at me and I could see the pain in his eyes. I knew his stomach was bloated and that the stone would kill him soon. My own selfishness was getting in the way. I hugged him and he hugged back. I had helped several others do this with their horse, but I could not go this time...Michelle cut off a piece of his tail - the long, beautiful braid was mine to keep. This left a short little tail, much like he would have had when he was a colt.  Michelle led him to where the vet was standing. He let out a long bit of gas and his tail flopped up and down. I had to laugh. He was making me smile, even as he walked his last steps.

I walked to the office of the barn and sat with friends, as they finished what I knew they must do. In a few minutes Jen handed me Grant's halter and lead rope and we stood and hugged and cried. She loved him
also, but she knew how important he had been to my life. It would never be the same again, but I knew he would not suffer another day. The few short months that I had known him had changed my life forever and I am so grateful for that time.

Janice Carabine,, is a riding instructor at a barn in Orange County in southern California. 

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Do you have a good-bye story that you would you like to share with BAEN visitors? Have you come across suggestions or tips on ways to make saying goodbye a little easier? Please send them to us at In a future Horsetalk article, Bonnie will write about options for horse owners faced with the decision of what to do after a horse has died. BAEN has added a new category to our business directory that provides some local resources; we welcome your contributions to this list.