by Kelly Griffis
My best friend, Jeanine, was feeding her horse and mine on Wednesday, April 27, 2005. We take turns feeding since we board our horses quite far from our homes in northwest Arkansas. My horse, Red, is 26, with worn teeth and other problems associated with elderly horses. When he suddenly stopped eating, Jeanine knew something was wrong.
He coughed and a watery feed and saliva mixture streamed from both nostrils. Alarmed, Jeanine called various area veterinarians for help and advice. It’s difficult for a doctor to diagnose over the phone, but several vets believed Red was choking on his feed and unable to swallow.
She was instructed to massage his throat to loosen the obstruction, but no one was available to come out. Red needed help, but we don’t have a truck or a trailer to transport our horses to the vet. Jeanine finally contacted me after work, and I made more calls while driving the half-hour to the farm.
Reaching our large animal vet, I requested help as soon possible. Dr. France and his assistant arrived at the farm a half-hour after I did. Red had been choking for over three hours. Dr. France tried to put a tube through Red’s nose, down his esophagus, and into his stomach. Unfortunately, the tube kept kinking and would not travel to the problem area.
After 90 minutes we had to try something else. Red was tired, his nose was sore (even with painkiller), and the tube wasn’t working. One way or another the obstruction had to be cleared or Red would die a slow and painful death.
In desperation, I got into my car and drove down the highway until I saw a house with stock trailers and a Limousin cattle sign. I knocked, and a stocky fellow with short dark hair, dressed in jeans and T-shirt answered. I poured out my story and asked for help.
He wanted to help, but was leaving for a meeting, so asked me to check across the road with his neighbors who have horses, to see if they could help. But they weren’t home, and when I hurried back to my car, he came out and said he’d help.
He cancelled his plans, hooked up his truck and trailer, and drove my horse the twenty-plus miles to Dr. France’s office.
At the horse barn with the proper set-up, the obstruction in Red’s throat was eventually cleared. Red was kept overnight for observation and put on an antibiotic to reduce the risk of aspiration pneumonia (caused by food entering the lungs).
I brought Red home on Friday; he nearly dragged me off my feet he was so happy to see his pasture.
I don’t know the name of the man who helped. But knowing where he lived, I dropped off a card, gas money, and a gift certificate for dinner at a restaurant. I just wanted to thank him again for his extraordinary act of kindness to a total stranger and her horse.