Our beautiful Harriet gently and gracefully crossed the Rainbow Bridge yesterday. This morning, Don wrote:

My first story about Harriet celebrated her first year with us at Morning Bray Farm, this story is about her second and final year.  We began to notice in early spring that Harriet was losing weight, so like any parents, we decided to spare no expense in making her right again.  So began our journey with Harriet that ended yesterday, Saturday, September 13, 2014 at 12:51 pm.

Harriet1

Harriet always took things in stride, gently and gracefully.  She let us fuss over her, poking and prodding trying to find the nature of her illness.  One night, she was especially bad, so we called in our vet because Harriet was obviously in pain, and not herself at all.  After several shots and procedures that involved shoulder length gloves, she began to perk up, probably to get us to stop, but it appeared that the danger had passed.  On a chilly morning not long after, she ate breakfast and loaded up on the trailer for a ride to the Blue Ridge Equine Clinic in Charlottesville.  She met new people who also wanted to poke and prod, but being Harriet, she greeted everyone as family.  So many people took an interest in Harriet, as she was once again standing among race and show horses, commanding attention.  She was there for an ultrasound and it was hard to see through her thick winter coat, so out came the clippers.  We all braced ourselves for her to throw us around the room, but she only sighed and stood perfectly still.  It took about a half hour (and two sets of clippers) to cut a path. We felt sorry for the million dollar horses who were not getting any attention because Harriet had every doctor and intern in the facility loving on her.  The ultrasound showed that her intestine walls were thickened, so she was unable to absorb any nutrients from her food. Because of her age, the diagnosis was cancer.

After the ultrasound Harriet came home to her herd who was waiting to hear all about her adventure.  It was still cold out, so we decided to put a blanket on her to help insulate where she’d been shaved.  Big mistake.  The others gasped in horror at the sight of the blue thing that had attacked poor Harriet and ran away snorting and pooping to the top of the pasture.  Not knowing what was going on Harriet ran after them, braying and pleading for them to stop.  After two days of this, we gave up and left the blanket off.  It’s kind of funny to think about now, but at the time it was so sad to watch.  Harriet became an eating machine: equine senior feed, alfalfa cubes, her absolute favorite rice bran, and all the hay she could eat.  She had good days and bad days, most were good though.  Harriet demanded her food on schedule and was given anything she wanted.

Harriet2

Love and attention is what she craved the most.  She was given all we had, no meal passed without hugs, rubs, and scratches.  She still enjoyed kisses and having her head held close to our bodies.  This went on for months, we’d given up on trying to medicate her, nothing worked anyway, so love and comfort was what she got.  For her part, Harriet returned our love even on days when she felt bad.  Always sweet-natured and kind, she never failed to bring a smile to our faces.

A week ago, we made the decision to have our vet assist Harriet on her way.  Yesterday morning Justina got up before dawn and went to the barn to spend the morning spoiling Harriet.  It was raining, not a downpour, but a steady, relentless rain.  While Harriet was eating the biggest breakfast of her life, a group of geese flew over, low and honking, our darling Fergus was checking in on her.  When she’d had her fill, Harriet joined her herd in the side pasture.  We sat with them under a tree in the rain watching our girl enjoy the morning.  The rain let up, so Harriet took the opportunity to lay down near us, she was tired and ready.  When the doctor pulled in, the sun came out, it really did.  With her herd around her, Harriet laid down one last time.   We were on the ground with her looking into her big beautiful eyes when she passed.  Gently and gracefully another beautiful soul left our lives, and she went to meet her brother Fergus.  When the door on the Paws and Remember trailer closed it began to rain again.  Our morning of love and appreciation ended and our afternoon of mourning began.

Please join us in grieving her loss, but take time to remember how she touched everyone’s life as well.  Let her do what she did best, bring a smile to your face, and touch your heart.

This is Don’s first story about Harriet from December 2013:

Harriet’s first year at Morning Bray Farm seems to have flown by. Our friends at LEAN have asked us to give a recap of our lovely girl’s first year.

Harriet arrived last December to an overjoyed family. It really seemed like we were expecting a child, weeks (instead of months) of excitement followed by extreme happiness upon her arrival. Since she arrived late in the evening, we set her up in a separate corral area in anticipation of the next day’s meet and greet with her new herd.

Harriet

The next morning Harriet’s new Mom and Dad were up early and ready to start the interaction phase. We let the boys in one at a time, starting with Bernard of course. Harriet immediately chased him away, not unexpected. Then one by one she was introduced to her new family, saving Ellsworth for last. He was visibly upset that another stranger was joining the family, and went after Harriet right away. Harriet, being much larger than Ellsworth was not having any of it. The kicking and snorting was a little scary, but Ellsworth soon learned that not only was Harriet not going to back down, but the kicks to the chest were starting to hurt. Everything calmed down in about an hour, and they just agreed to disagree. Over the next several months Harriet became a natural part of the herd and even allowed Ellsworth to keep his job as herd leader.

Besides being very gentle and loving, we soon found out that Harriet could really belt out an ear-splitting bray. For the first several months she brayed almost non-stop. We couldn’t figure out if she just missed her old home or her foster home and was just unhappy, or quite possibly the bossiest donkey on Earth. It seemed like most of braying was going on at night, probably because we couldn’t sleep through it. Linda Carson of The 7MSN Ranch looked into our sandbagged eyes one day and suggested leaving a light on at night. Like a gift from the Sandman himself, the nightly singing ceased. These days our beautiful girl brays to greet us when we come out in the morning and when our cars pull in the driveway in the evenings. There’s no better sound in this world than being greeted after a long day at work by Harriet.

When Harriet arrived she had problems with her feet. Years of neglect had nearly paralyzed her, but her journey to good health began at the time she was rescued by LEAN. She arrived at Morning Bray Farm only a few trimmings away from complete recovery. We’re happy to report that you would never know that there was ever anything wrong with her at all. She has made a complete recovery and now enjoys a good game of “gallop around the pasture” with her herd.

Harriet is never far from her herd these days, although she and Patrick compete for the title of last to the barn almost every day. I suppose if you’ve lived as hard a life as those two, a leisurely stroll to enjoy the world around you is the most important thing that you can do.

It’s funny, but Harriet is not a big fan of grooming. She will walk out from under a brush almost as soon as it touches her. However, she will let you hold her head and hug her for extended periods of time. She will completely release herself to a good hug, and the weight of her head in our arms is a beautiful thing to feel. In that aspect, she is completely different from the rest of her herd; everyone else turns away and backs into you for a good butt scratch. It’s a welcome change to pet her beautiful face instead of facing the other end.

Bernard and Harriet6

Harriet has brought so much joy to our life here at Morning Bray Farm. Her gentle and loving nature is unrivaled. The way she looks at you with her soulful eyes will melt even the hardest of hearts. We have been so blessed to share this last year with her, and look forward to many more to come.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Oh, how we’ll miss you, Baby Girl. ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Harriet's birthday2

Harriet's birthday

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Harriet

Harriet

Ellsworth and Harriet2

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Harriet and Bernard

 

It’s taken me a while to feel comfortable sharing this, but here goes. And while we still don’t definitively know what’s wrong with her, Miss Harriet is doing well this week.

Back in December, shortly after we arrived in Virginia, we celebrated Harriet’s birthday and her first anniversary with us.

Harriet's birthday

She was doing well then, along with everyone else in the herd.

Harriet's birthday2

It was about a month and a half later that we called the vet. Despite the fact that she was eating, Harriet was losing weight. Here are my journal notes…

Wednesday, February 19, 2014:
Update on Harriet.  She’s lost some weight since we got to Virginia (no one else has) – despite the fact that over the last several weeks we’ve been feeding her unlimited hay, three cups of equine senior mash three times daily, plus a tub of alfalfa cubes daily. The vet was just here to see her – she said that Harriet’s teeth had a couple of minor but sharp points, so we’ll schedule a dental for her soon (this isn’t currently keeping her from eating though). All of Harriet’s heart/lung/gut sounds were good. The vet took blood and is going to run a standard panel plus send a sample to Cornell to rule out Cushing’s.  They also took a fecal sample with them.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014:
Cushing’s came back negative. Harriet’s protein levels are low. Took her to Blue Ridge Equine Clinic in Charlottesville for an abdominal ultrasound. Harriet has thickening of her small intestine that is preventing her from absorbing nutrients. A test for Lawsonia is pending. If that is negative, she likely has inflammatory bowel disease or lymphoma. An exploratory surgery with biopsy would be needed to differentiate between these and is not recommended. These may be treated with steroids.

Harriet (with shaved sides) after her ultrasound:

Harriet

Wednesday, March 19, 2014:
Lawsonia test came back negative.  I just talked with the vet… she said that based on Harriet’s age, she would more likely assume some form of lymphoma.  She wants to start Harriet on 10 mg dexamethasone (steroids) – if Harriet’s issue is inflammation of the bowel, this could help for years… if her issue is indeed lymphoma, it would help for a shorter time period. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014:
The vet just left – Harriet had a bad day today.  She started feeling bad after lunch and wouldn’t eat at all this afternoon. She started having diarrhea, hid in a corner and kept her head down, postured to pee and didn’t… we took her temperature and it was about 103.5.  Gave her Banamine while we waited for the vet and her temperature went down to normal range.

The on call vet came and did a complete exam… her heart rate is double the normal, her gums are dark red, her breath is bad and she’s generally distressed.  She doesn’t appear to have had any (positive) reaction to the steroids and she’s continuing to lose weight.  The vet fears that if the diagnosis of lymphoma is correct that something may have perforated – that would explain the fever.

She tubed Harriet and forced water/electrolytes into Harriet in case she was dehydrated…

The vet took blood and we should know more tomorrow… our regular vet will be here at noon for spring vaccines for the herd, so we should know more then.  The vet tonight left antibiotics to fight any infection, which we’re giving to her every twelve hours for the next week to ten days.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 (morning):
She looks good this morning – she’s got a spark back in her eye and is her feisty self. No temperature, administered her antibiotics and she’s eating. I’m heading to the grocery store to get her favorite strawberries – our regular vet will be here around noon today.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 (afternoon):
Our regular vet was here. Harriet has had a regular poop, peed, no fever, heart rate normal, gums normal color again… she’s still not herself, but she’s not at all distressed like she was yesterday afternoon.  Her blood work came back – her total protein is still low, which means that she’s still not absorbing what she needs from her feed – and it is likely that the steroids aren’t working as we had hoped. We’re going to keep a really close eye on her – looks like time will tell. 

It’s amazing how much our herd loves Dr. Hecking and how at ease they are around her. In this picture, Dr. Hecking was on the phone consulting with the vet that did Harriet’s ultrasound while Harriet listened in:

Harriet with Dr. Hecking

Tuesday, April 8, 2014:
Just got results of Harriet’s diarrhea panel and it came back completely negative. The other good news is that she has her poop back in a group these last few days and is again eating and acting well… we’re keeping our fingers crossed that things stay this way.  The positive thoughts and prayers must be working.

Thursday, April 24, 2014:
Another blood test. While Harriet’s total protein is lower now than it was at the beginning of April, she hasn’t lost any additional weight.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014:
Harriet continues to eat and act well. We know that the thickening of her small intestine is preventing her from absorbing nutrients, but we don’t know what is causing it. Lymphoma? Inflammatory bowel disease? There’s no way to know without an exploratory surgery, and we aren’t going to put Harriet through that.

What I can tell you is that Miss Harriet has finally realized that she really is a donkey and that she can’t stand to be separated from her herd – even for a moment. Go figure, Bernard seems to be her best friend in the herd. He spends a lot of quiet time with her, which is contrary to his nature.

We will be watching her closely, working with Dr. Hecking to monitor her condition. We’ll make sure that she’s eating and drinking and not showing us signs of distress. And we will be hoping that she will make it for a long while longer. 

Here’s what Don wrote about our first year with Harriet:
Harriet has brought so much joy to our life here at Morning Bray Farm. Her gentle and loving nature is unrivaled. The way she looks at you with her soulful eyes will melt even the hardest of hearts. We have been so blessed to share this last year with her, and look forward to many more to come.

Truer words were never spoken.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥