Home Again

Earl is finally home at LowCountry Acres /// Nikon Z 9 Photos by Andy Dunaway

After spending two weeks in critical care at Tryon Equine hospital, Earl is home. The day before going to pick him up was so stressful. I kept fretting. Did I have everything I needed? Was I really ready to take on the responsibility of something so fragile and precious? Would he even survive the ride home? What if my trailer got a flat? Needless to say, I had a hard time sleeping. I took a couple Tylenol PM and woke with a start at 2:00 a.m, Instead of trying to go back to sleep, I got up and read through the 150 emails I’d left unread from the day before. Lately, I’ve lacked the concentration required to read and respond to my clients, colleagues and friends.

Andy’s alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. and we made ourselves ready for the journey. As we dressed, I said to Andy, “All this stuff with Earl has me thinking a lot about my neck, my pain and my recovery. I remember the pain being so intense and wishing it would stop. I was crushed when the doctor told me, ‘it won’t spontaneously get better,’ and that I’d, ‘just have to learn to live with it.'”

“What are you saying,” he asked. “Do we need to put Earl down?”

“No, that’s not it,” I explained. “Back then, the pain was all I could focus on. But over time, I adapted my life, my mind to it to concentrating on other things. The pain is never, not there. I just do what I have to do to live and it falls to the background.”

If someone held my fate in their hands, and they would’ve asked me back then if I’d prefer to end my life, I might’ve said yes. Overwhelming pain can blind you from seeing the future. I didn’t know what my future held and all the experiences I’d yet to live.

Our conversation wended its way around dark, delicate subjects like humane euthanasia, quality of life, financial burden and emotional toll. We’ve been through this before with our dogs’ Porter, Penny and Lilly. Making the decision to transition a living, breathing being whom you love as a family member is immensely hard, but so too is watching them suffer. That’s something we’d never do.

“I’ve asked the doctors over and over again if he’s in too much pain,” I carried on venting, “And they’ve all said, ‘yes he’s in pain, but that I would be too if I’d had been in the same kind of accident. He just needs time to heal. Give him time’.”

That’s the hard question isn’t it? How long is enough? The doctors say Earl will need to be on antibiotics to clear the bone and wound infection for at least six to eight weeks. Okay, we for sure give him eight weeks and then we’ll see. The doctors think Earl will need four to six months to develop enough scar tissue to support the subluxation. Okay, we give him six months and then we’ll see. The doctors believe Earl may romp too hard at any point and drop down dead. Okay, we’ll let the chips fall where they may.

Finally, it was time to hit the road. Andy drove the three hours up, while I plugged away on my laptop catching up on work. After no time at all, we were there.

Tryon Equine Clinic /// LowCountry Acres Earl /// Nikon Z 9 Photos by Andy Dunaway

We pulled to the backside of the hospital and Earl was there looking alert and thrilled to see us. When I approached, he immediately nestled into my chest, sniffed deeply and nibbled my jacket playfully. Through all of the horrendous injuries, the insurmountable traumas, he was still himself – sweet, loving, bold, brave and alive. The will to live apparent.

Dr. Emelie shows the wound care routine. /// Nikon Z 9 Photos by Andy Dunaway

Dr. Emelie walked me through Earl’s wound care, meds and follow-up vet care plan. Earl was already excited having already seen the trailer pull up outside his hospital stall. The moment the halter went on, he was ready to go.

After hugging Dr. Emelie and bidding farewell to Tryon Equine Hospital, we hit the road for home. I white-knucked the steering wheel, agonizing over every bump and crack in the road. I stayed a steady 60 mph, stopping every so often to check on him. About 10 minutes from home, we felt a giant lurch in the trailer. Earl had stumbled, fell, something. When we pulled up alongside the barn at LowCountry Acres, I hurried out to open the trailer ramp. There he was, standing backwards in his slant stall.

“What did you do?!” I exclaimed

He just looked at me slyly as if to say, “I didn’t do anything mom.”

Earl comes off the trailer at LowCountry Acres /// Nikon Z 9 Photos by Andy Dunaway

He was friskier then I’d seen him be since the trauma. He stepped off the trailer and stood there unblinking, taking in the vista of the pastures and his friends on the horizon. His pal Sir Prize perked up and nickered out to him. Earl hollered back happily. His eyes were shining with elation. He was happy to be home.

Earl nickers to his friends at LowCountry Acres /// Nikon Z 9 Photos by Andy Dunaway

After getting Earl settled in, his meds lined up and his wound cleaned, Andy and I headed back to the house. I scrolled through messages of support and encouragement, and much-needed prayers for Earl. Everyone has been so overwhelmingly generous and I’m truly thankful. Before hitting the sack, we drove up to check on Earl, who was contently eating hay and resting. Andy and I could finally rest too.

I tucked our dogs into bed, then laid down myself. I scrolled through my messages one last time, stopping short on one that read….

“I pray for you daily.. Earl has to be in incredible amounts of pain. I don’t know how you have the courage to continue to accept that his quality of life is so compromised and he will suffer for the Remainder of his life. I am actually surprised you would put him through this. I wish the best for all of you.”

My heart pounded. My eyes welled with tears. Was this a compliment or an admonishment? I couldn’t tell. Every minute or every hour of every day since Earl’s trauma I have questioned my decisions. And every minute of every hour of every day, Earl has demonstrated that he wants to live; he wants a chance.

So to the individual who sent the message, I am not courageous. I am a human who is grappling with unimaginable choices. I am doing it through doubt, fear and anxiety. I am doing my best to do what’s right for Earl. In many respects, I have lived through what Earl is living through right now. I have felt the fear, pain and depression. All I can do is give him the love and support he needs at this moment. I can care for him, lift him up and when the time comes, whenever that may be, for him to transition then I will be there holding him tightly as he lets go.

Until then, he’s home again thanks only to all the people who help make that possible and Earl’s perseverance.

Earl munches on hay in his stall at LowCountry Acres /// Nikon Z 9 Photos by Andy Dunaway
Earl’s home for the next few months while he heals at LowCountry Acres /// Nikon Z 9 Photos by Andy Dunaway

9 thoughts on “Home Again

  1. Stacy my daughter has taught me that every living creature has their own journey. Please don’t be so worried about Earl that it takes your joy from you. This is Earls journey be it days weeks or years. Please let it be. Earl needs YOU to be strong💕

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good morning, praying for a happier and healthier New Year for Earl and you. People who admonish are only showing information about themselves and their weaknesses. Bless them , move on. Only you, Earl and Andy are living this moment. I pray your doubts and worries are outweighed by love and hope. I pray for all of you and the support system that sustains you friends family doctors. May you receive comfort and support in all the ways you need it physically emotionally and spiritually. May you hear the still small voice, the whispers of hope that let you know in your heart you have done all you can and that the God of miracles will do the rest in the best way for you and Earl.


  3. Continuing to prayer for you and Earl. Prayers for his continued signs of recovering and his pure joy of being home with you and his family. Prayers for you to continue to listen to your heart and your strength to care for Earl and for your passion to try to give him the time to heal reading the signs along the way. Prayers for all the support you need to move forward, for all the care that he needs and that everyday you feel the love and caring for you and Earl through this difficult time.


  4. I wish you could erase the comment you quoted from your mind. It is so full of negativity and that is the LAST thing you need at this time.

    I have a chihuahua who has – in people terms Rheumatoid arthritis. There is no cure. But, for 3 yrs he has had the best care money can buy and all the Momma love I have. He is happy and content. But, he will never be better than he is at this very moment.

    That last thought haunts me but it does not stop me from caring for him. Yes, I’ve spent $$$$ on a hopeless situation. We are always on infection away – he takes 3 immune suppression medications- from that awful decision that I too have had to make in the past.

    I know you will never give up on precious Earl and I also know it is a precarious situation. Keep your courage up and please do not listen to negativity. It is the least helpful thing for you, Andy, and Earl.


  5. Good Morning and Happy New Year to Earl and you and your family. I truly think that Earl’s recovery will a lot faster and better now that he is home. God Bless and remember you have support in this journey although we can’t be right there with you.


  6. So good to see Earl home! I would bet that just being home and having friends and family around will do him a world of good. My best thoughts for you all and here’s to a much less dramatic 2022!


  7. I am elated that Earl is finally home! I have watched this event unfold since I initially found out about the accident. Here are a couple of thoughts….
    *You are such a blessing to Earl! The connection that you have with your animals is apparent. There were reasons why the series of events unfolded the way they did when you woke up early that morning. No doubt about it.
    *Do not dwell on the ‘what if’s’. The past is now behind you.
    *Do not give power to the negativity of others. Earl could care less what an internet troll has to say and you should care less too. Only pay attention to what Earl is telling/showing you. No more. No less.
    Gentle virtual hugs to Earl and massive supportive virtual hugs to you! All your animals are beautiful and I would be SO lucky to ever be in the presence of all that awesomeness there! Keep up the great job and rest easy knowing that he’s now home.


  8. So happy Earl had a great and safe ride home. He is fighting and he will let you mom know what he needs !!
    Please don’t let any negative comments enter into your ❤️ !!!! Earl needs positive feeling only !!! You are doing what Earl is showing you he needs
    My goodness look what he has already made it through!! He is a strong! Survivor!!!
    He would have already said enough if that was what he wanted. So KEEP fighting fir himI am pra for you and him and Andy
    The live Earl feels from you is keeping him strong
    Love to you all Jerri. Boales


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