I just got off the phone with my vet after making arrangements for him to come tomorrow to do a kindness for my tiny pony stallion Tony. Tony is ancient, and as I said “tiny”, Shetland size, but has been a huge driving force in the past several decades of my life. Tomorrow we will let Tony pass away with a kind injection that will put him to sleep and I will bury him and say a fond farewell.
Tony came into my life some twenty some odd years ago when I was beginning a breeding program with a few mares that I had bought and or bred and raised. I was planning to use artificial insemination from shipped semen, so I didn’t have to ship my mares off to far away farms, and also so I didn’t have to deal with any very large, hormonally driven, stallions. My problem was that I needed a way to tell when the mares were ready to breed without the expense of many wasted trips to my farm that my vet would have had to make based on my guess work and observation. A friend who knew my plight suggested that Tony might be the trick.
For several years I borrowed Tony for breeding season from a lady who owned him but whose mares would not tolerate him being around them. Since she couldn’t use or need him, I would go pick him up and for a few months, he would stay in a tiny paddock near the mares, talking to them in high shrill voice and swishing his tail, flirting shamelessly, hoping for a chance to prove his man hood. When the mares began to show him the time of day and act interested, then I would call the vet and he would come and check the mares to see how close they were to the optimum time to breed them. In twenty something years of being the teaser, he was, never ever, wrong. Sadly he was unrequited with his amorous intentions with my mares but he never gave up his enthusiasm and effort.
I finally bought him when I found out that the lady who I borrowed him from yearly, had gotten herself tangled in a messy personal situation. Tony, as well as her other horses, had become trapped in the middle of her predicament and his future whereabouts to live were questionable. So I called her and arranged to buy him, not for the 500$ she asked for him when I first asked his price, but she happily took my cash amount of 50$ instead. With that deal, Tony had a new life home.
There really isn’t a way to tell exactly how old he is and can only give it a good guess based on when and where he showed up years ago. I think the story goes that he came down a dirt road with several young black boys aboard, bareback and squeezing to all stay on. They didn’t know where he came from but had found him and hopped on the tiny little man. This was many years before I knew of him, so best guess is that he is possibly well over thirty years old, at least. He has, until just recently been in great health with only a few minor hiccups along his long life.
I quit the breeding any of my mares, years ago now, when bad luck caused one of my prized, and much loved mares to die in foaling. Tony was then retired from his official duties but still remained near to his herd of ladies, usually tethered to a long line with a swivel snap so that he was free to move about, with limitations. He became my moveable weed eater, cleaning my fence lines and keeping the grass down. More recently as he began to show his age, I moved him into the big barn, where he was tethered to the gate behind the barn so he had a stall he could get into and eat his meals in, and then when he wanted he could go out, eat grass, drink from the pond, or just lay in the sun resting.
It has been a good life for the boy here on my farm, and I am in his debt for all the help he gave me. In the past few days his health has swiftly declined and, on Saturday, Tony simply refused to eat. I am suspect of teeth being an issue at his age, but the quality of his life will not be improved by any heroic effort my vet might do to postpone the inevitable end. When we spoke this morning we both agreed, it is time.
The good thing about having pets and being responsible for the welfare of the animals we own is, the having an option when the time comes. The fact that we can decide what to do for them when the quality of their life becomes a downward spiral with no chance or hope of rebounding, is a humane and caring thing. I have put too many of my animal friends to sleep. I have held them until the life was gone, and have cried many a tear as I said good bye to them. But with each, as they slipped into death, my consolation was that their suffering was done and gone. I will simply not watch Tony starve and let him suffer. It is time to let go. He is ready.
I already know that I will miss his high pitched whinny every morning as I walk to the barn to feed. He has been a huge part of my farm success, and of all of our lives around here. He has been in our farm yard since my children were babies and he has carried my first granddaughter around like a trooper. I will dig his grave tomorrow and bury him with no line snapped to tether him any longer. Tony has earned his freedom. Farewell my little friend.