Monday, 17 February 2014

Do animals mourn, do they sense, do they need to grieve.

The answer is absolutely yes.

Sadly one of our Rescue Horses, Boxer,  had to be put to sleep last week . . .- the dark bay in this footage.

Boxer, previously owned by a lady down in the Dells, who suffered from a brain tumour, who then couldn't cope with him, he was re-homed but clearly wan't a happy hoofer. His old owner took him back and thanks to Mossburn Animal Centre she discovered us. We suggested she came up here to see the rest of our menagerie, shortly after Boxer discovered he was on his way to Scotland. . and we were one horse more . . .

Ten years has passed by since Boxer arrived here and we have to admit he was an awesome individual to care for,  one of the most gentle giants we have known apart from an old 18.2 we had a few years ago. Boxer cared for everyone, looked after who ever was on his back and an absolute trusty steed as well as a fantastic solid wall for our little Shetland pony to hide behind when Cheeky C.Barnie attempted to pull toadie faces at him.

Shortly after his arrival he managed to befriend a mare called 'Didget Doo' which was extremely unusual as she rarely accepted a newby! although she surprised us all by allowing our Little Shetland to brush past her on his first day - accepted instantly - perhaps the size of him was not a threat!  However, Sadly Didget Doo passed on about 2 months ago.

On arriving he was a bit unsure of our black Lab Bo, but that was understandable when you saw the black dog his old owner used to have - he barked and jumped all the time - one of those 'canine pests' actually.

Boxer became used to our pet sheep, geese, flapping sheets, lorries and large vehicles and realised, after all that life wasn't so scary after all.

At the age of about 26 Boxer sadly took a turn for the worse one early morning with the odd grunt of unhappiness and roll of discomfort, Judi stayed with him, nursed him, massaged him, and gave him all that he asked for but it was clear that he was wanting to be released. In the morning the dreaded phonecall was made, outwith his ear shot of course. The others were eating their hay and feed as if there was no tomorrow but Boxer was just not interested in anything at all.  - which was totally abnormal for him. A few minutes after he asked to go out to his field - on his own - another unusual request. He started whinnying, and cantering round the field as if he was hunting for someone - could it have been Didget Doo he was looking for, could he sense her presence. Well, no one would have believed this had they not seen it for their own eyes. He sniffed the ground hunting for something, perhaps Didget doo's old hoof prints but as a follow on from this he went straight up to her gravesite and rolled on it . . . and then proceeded to the area where Didget Doo last rolled and rolled himself. By this stage he was not only muddy but also quite exhausted by this time. If we all listen to our animals, they can tell us whether they want to go or not, and sadly this was the day that Boxer wanted to go over to the Beautiful Rainbow bridge.

With the other horses still being in at this stage the Vet arrived with stethoscope and injection in hand. We specifically said no internal, no deep examination, because he didn't want to be inflicted by this. Boxer was a gentleman to the end accepting the injection gracefully and slipped away extremely peacefully with much dignity surrounding him and his mare by his side, although invisible to us,
but finally with his broken heart, from the lack of Didget Doo's presence, repaired. We stayed with him for a while and then let the other horses out. Charlie Barnie and Ralphie knew through the evening that something wasn't right and, abnormally kept, their distance or gave Boxer  his space. Judi walked with them all (halterless) up to the field, at their pace, an abnormally slow pace, but left them to slightly lead the walk, just by a horses neck distance away.

Now some of our sheep, actually one of them in particular thinks he is a horse, so tends to stick with his equine friends rather than the Bovine type . . Since Didget Doo's passing Greedy, this one shorse! (Sheep) would share his day with Boxer or Chessie.

Whilst we were walking up the field two of our sheep joined in - Lambie and Greedy - walking parallel with us as if it was a funeral march they walked all the way up until all of us stopped.
it was an incredible experience.

Judi sat down beside Boxer, and the rest came near. Charlie Barnie first, Ralphi second, Greedy just barged his way in and the other two kept their distance initially.

They all sniffed from a few yards away to start with,  with their heads hung low. Greedy started to paw Boxer, as if to say, hey matey, you're meant to be up, come on get up, However Ralphi took umbrage at this  and chased Greedy away as if to say - eh, you, I have known him for longer, don't paw him, he's at peace, leave him be. Judi stayed with them all for about half an hour, or at least until they were settled with the situation then headed off to organise for a digger from a very accommodating neighbour. She had to drive past the horses a little later on only to find they were all lying down beside Boxer, Charlie Barnie fractionally behind him, which is where he would always stand when Boxer was alive. Boxer had been his mentor for ten years you see. Ralphi was at his side and the others kept their distance in comparison.

Once the two closest horses had paid their initial respects and started to wander off, the others came in, Chessie started to lick boxer and stayed with him for a good 40 minutes, Lauder lass then paid her respects but lay beside him for a good hour. Greedy returned often during this time and as a last respect lay beside his neck. Ralphi and Charlie Barney watched from a close distance away but did not seem annoyed that the others were now paying their respects.                                                                                                                                                

Often we do not appreciate that animals can  suffer from a broken heart just as elephants and humans can but we do hope that this little true story will give others an appreciation of how animals can and need to mourn and heal in the same way as we do.

Next article -  The Burial . . . .

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