Today we had the incredibly difficult task to say goodbye to our Quarter Horse friend Ziek. Ziek was 24 years old, which is still young by Spring Farm CARES standards. He arrived here seven years ago, with a donkey we renamed Noah, after their owners could no longer care for them.
Ziek and Noah were very bonded because they only had each other. But once they arrived here at the farm, they each took up friendships with their own kind. Noah was overjoyed to be accepted into our donkey herd and became the wise mentor for our young donkey Murfee. While Ziek was thrilled to be in a herd of horses again.
Ziek had several medical issues that he was dealing with over the years. He had bad environmental allergies and Cushings Disease. More recently, Ziek started to show what we initially thought were lameness issues. However, these worsened and obviously showed themselves to be neurological in nature. Sadly, we discovered that Ziek most likely had a tumor that was affecting his spine. This past week, he deteriorated rapidly. And suddenly we woke up today to find that he could barely even walk around in his stall. Every movement became a monumental struggle as the messages just couldn’t get from his brain to his body, but his will was still so strong. Sheer will and determination were keeping him up and eating. But it was a challenge for him just to stand.
There was not a single thing anyone could do to help. Nothing we could offer but to help him leave this body behind. Ziek loved his life here. In fact, he loved it so much that he just didn’t want to leave. And while he knew and understood that he could not go on and he was only moments away from not even being able to stand up, he fought to stand and take in every last sight and sound that he could until his very last breath.
“I’m taking it all in,” he told Dawn. “Savoring every last taste of what you all mean to me. I thought I’d have so much longer, but I don’t. I trust you to help me now. But I need you to know I never would have wanted to go. So a part of me now will stay with you. Right in your heart. I need you to hold me there so that a part my energy will remain here safe with you. This farm is sacred to the heart of the horse. I think that you still don’t truly understand that. But we animals do. Every single day I spent here was a gift. From the minute the sun came up and the rooster began to crow and the donkeys announced the arrival of our human friends to feed us, I would face each day with knowing it was all going to be good. From the sounds of the birds and the breeze through the barn and the sound of the gentle creek flowing through the pastures. And oh how I love my horse friends. It is here that I found people who truly understood me. The first part of my life I couldn’t find that. I was never good enough to be what people wanted me to be. But here …. Here is where I learned that I only had to be me. I could breathe. And I could just be. I could spend lifetimes here with you and it would never be enough. But, and this is so important, as you help me to leave this body, I want you to know how grateful I am for it all. I will leave here filled with gratitude. My heart full. My body spent. And my spirit grateful to know the grace and love from all of you. No, I would never want to leave. But I know I must now go. Hold space for me. You’ll still feel me here. Of that I’m sure. Thank you for all you’ve done and for all you are. Now let’s be still and breathe together. Love. Gratitude. Peace.”
Ziek left us with dignity and grace, surrounded by love and all of his caretakers, as well as his horse companion Brandy. He left knowing he was treasured and that he would be missed as much as he’d miss being here. He left with a flood of our tears. And the very last words he heard were of our Veterinarian Dr. Christine saying, “Good boy Ziek. Good boy!”
And a horse who walked into this farm feeling lost and uncertain of who he was, left here filled with the knowing of who he was, that he was loved and cherished just for being himself, and that he could rest on a job very well done. Indeed, he was a very good boy.
Graze easy in that big pasture with your friends now Ziek. We will always hold you here. Forever in our hearts and history. Until we see you again…..