February 10, 2009

Rocky's Story

I made almost daily trips up to Robin's place to photograph Ozzie. My goal was to photograph before, during and after of her giving birth to her foal. The trip took about 2o minutes each way and I visited 2-3 times before she popped out Rocky. Ozzie is an Irish Thoroughbred and was in foal to a Irish Draught Stallion. Ozzie was a dream to photograph. She was good looking and gave textbook examples for all the stages a mare goes through shortly before foaling. Only thing is Ozzie put on such a good show that they all lasted for days... such a tease! I don't think I could have asked for a better example of "waxing" or softening of the muscles.

Ozzie was a sneaky mare. She gave birth to Rocky in the wee hours of the morning in between Robin's crawling out of bed to check on her, which happened hourly. Robin did get to see Rocky stand up and suckle for the first time and was satisfied that he got his colostrum, the very important first milk. I got a call in the morning announcing the birth of Rocky. I was bummed I missed his birth but gladly went up in the afternoon for baby pics. I got some super cute images of Rocky but noticed that during my hour of hanging with him that he was developing diarrhea and it was tinted with blood. I notified Robin and suggested she call a veterinarian promptly. I had seen several other foals at another clinic I frequent that had diarrhea with varying results, many not good.

The vet came out promptly and gave Rocky some medication for a bacterial infection and diarrhea relief. He came out several times over the next two days to attend to Rocky but with no improvement. Finally Robin sent a plea out to another vet who worked out of a clinic and he had her bring the mare and foal into the clinic.

Rocky was a fighter. The second vet decided that there was a possibility that the foal was allergic to Ozzie's milk so they switched to Foal-Lac. Rocky drank and drank both the Foal-Lac and water from a bucket, a huge boon. Many foals need to be bottle fed or won't eat/drink anything at all. With him willing to drink from a bucket it made keeping his hydration and nutrients all that much easier. Also a good sign that he was not giving up the fight. In addition, Rocky was also on I.V. fluids. The vet also allowed Robin to spend nights in the stall with Rocky so she could keep giving him his Foal-Lac and water around the clock. Rocky was also acting colicky on occasion so the vet would leave her with a dose of pain killer to administer into the I.V. drip if he got painful in the middle of the night.

Three more days go by with this arrangement. Robin spent every night with that foal and then would go home to sleep while the vet clinic had regular personnel tending to Rocky. I stopped by twice to keep Robin company at night and chat and see what progress had been made, if any. Turns out, not much. The third night Robin stayed at the clinic I stopped by again for a while and Rocky was obviously not doing well at all. I took a few images of him and the stall arrangement. He was alternating between no activity and short moments of thrashing, which we assumed was due to colic spasms. She told me the vet would be returning soon, and she asked me what she should do. I told her it wasn't looking good for Rocky and that maybe it was time for her to let him go but that I could not make the final decision for her.

While we sat there, waiting for the vet's return, she administered one of the pain killer into the I.V. because the spasms were getting more frequent. The vet came back to the clinic within the hour and I stayed with Rocky as Robin went out to talk to him about the probability of this foal recovering. Both the vet and Robin came to the conclusion, quite quickly, that it was time to let him go. They had done their best. Robin wanted to have a necropsy done on Rocky so she would know what his killer was for sure. Everyone, by this time, was sure Rocky had Clostridium. Clostridia-associated Enterocolitis.

I asked Robin and the vet if I could photograph the euthanizing and necropsy of Rocky. Both were more than willing to allow me. The image I took of the vet euthanizing Rocky is one of the most haunting images I've ever taken. It is a such a sad moment to let a cherished animal go but at the same time it is one of the greatest acts of kindness one could ever grant to another being. To end suffering and pain in an irreversible situation. There is absolutely no doubt after the necropsy that it was the highest form of compassion that Robin could have ever done for that colt.

Rocky had been suffering from the ulceration of the hind gut due to the bacterial infection. There was no level of treatment that would have saved him at that point. The intestinal ulcers had perforated and trying to fight it any longer would have been cruel. He was going to die a painful and toxic death regardless of treatment or painkillers. The vet sent many samples to to a lab for conformation for the diagnosis. You can see the images of Rocky's necropsy here. Graphic Warning: it IS a necropsy.