J.D. is a slang that my kids use when referring to farm animals dying. When a seemingly healthy goat or pig dies for no apparent reason, they say it, “J.D. — just died.” It is a glib way of stating the obvious — that there was no good explanation.
More often, however, we see it coming. They get sick, and no amount of medicine can save them. Heifers get bred too early and die while calving. Premature goat kids die when they can’t get enough colostrum. Other animals get snakebit or perish after getting tangled in barb wire. In any of those instances, we feel guilty. We rack our brains, wondering how or if it could have been prevented.
My neighbor, Mark is a country vet. He had a sickening experience a few years ago — something no one could have foreseen. He was working at a high powered horse breeding facility. An expensive cutting horse mare had been left there for a month, having spent enough time with the stud to make sure she was bred. She had come with a two-month-old colt at her side, a friendly little nipper that had been handled quite a bit and was at ease around people.
One afternoon the mare’s owner, himself a veterinarian, came to take his animals home. He paid Mark the stud fee and backed the trailer up to the stall where the mare and her colt were housed. Mark stood back and let the owner handle that job. It was always his policy to let the owners load and unload their animals to prevent any liability on his part. The mare loaded easily, and her owner quickly secured her in place with a rope.
But the little colt panicked when it was momentarily separated from his mom. He bolted out of the stall towards the entrance of the trailer. He’s eyes were trained on his mama so that when he jumped up into the trailer, he misjudged the height. The bottom edge of it caught him right at the hocks. The impact snapped both back legs like brittle sticks. The colt fell back on the ground in agony and began floundering and scrambling, trying to get up.
Both men watched in horror, knowing there was no remedy for the injury. After a moment of stunned silence, the heartbroken owner asked Mark if he had a gun. The mare was worth upwards of fifty thousand dollars, and her colt would be worth at least that much when he was grown and trained to cut. But that dream had been shattered along with those legs. The antsy mare whipped her head around, as much as the rope that tied her would allow. She walled her eyes around trying to see where her baby was and what all the commotion was about. Mark brought out a pistol, and with teary eyes and trembling hands, the owner put the injured colt out of its misery. The mare flinched at the sound of the blast, not realizing what had just transpired.
Afterwards, Mark reviewed the events of that terrible day, trying to determine if the mishap could have been prevented. Surely with the amount of combined experience of both men, they had the ability to load any animal in almost any situation. They had been careful and not hurried. After all, Mark concluded it was indeed a freak accident, a tragic loss of innocent life. ❖