The ~Texas~ Mustang Project's Blog

Working for better management options and cohabitation through compromise and communication for the American Wild Mustang

Mighty Mouse has gone to be with his India…

Posted by Texas Mustang Project on January 22, 2018

Please forgive my tardiness in posting this. It has been such a chaotic and stressful last 5 months, but if I am really honest, I think that by posting it here to all of you who loved Mouse as I did, it makes it really real.
Mighty Mouse the Mustang passed from this world on August 31st, 2017, due to complications and stress from the flooding of Hurricane Harvey. He was in a temporary stall after being evacuated due to rising flood waters. He was surrounded by loved ones and was euthanized to end his suffering.
Below is an account of the events leading up to and including his passing. I warn you ahead of time, it is long, a little rambling at times, and was largely written for my own therapeutic purposes, but you are welcome to read. ~TL

On August 25th, 2017, we received notice from the National Weather Service that Hurricane Harvey was likely going to make landfall, return to the Gulf, and then make landfall again on top of us here in Southeast Texas / Southwest Louisiana. We were already on what we call the “dirty side” of Harvey (the East / Northeast side). We had already started to see some winds and rain, but what got to Mouse so much was the thunder and lightning. The only good news we were getting at the time was that when Harvey did make landfall again on top of us, it would likely only be a tropical storm.
Tropical storms we could handle. Heck, we survived Rita and Ike as direct hits. Surely this would only be some rain, some wind, little of this, little of that. Heck, we probably wouldn’t even cancel school or miss work. Weather like this is old hat to us.
Boy were we wrong!
Starting late in the night on August 25th into the early morning of August 26th, the storms starting getting a little intense. Still, they weren’t anything we couldn’t handle. Our barn has a “winter side” that is a 24′ by 13′ run in shelter closed in on three sides, and also has a “summer side” which is a 36′ by 13′ run in shelter open on all but one side. Mouse and his buddies, Rowan (lead mare) and Pax (submissive gelding), had plenty of water, fresh hay, and feed. I had worked the week before clearing out all of the drainage to keep the standing water away. All was well… except Mouse.
You all know the beginnings that Mouse had with BLM & WH&B. His negative memory markers were something that I worked on since the day we met at the adoption. For the most part, Mouse did really well with just about everything. One of the main things he never got over, and had the worst reactions to, were very loud noises like gunfire, loud metal clangs and bangs, and heavy/continuous thunder and lightning.
He seemed to do ok for short, little storms. Mind you, he wasn’t happy about it at all, but would hide in his stall, and would only very rarely tremble. But Harvey didn’t let up.
We had 6 straight days of rain, thunder, lightning, and increasingly stronger winds.
Even though it was August on the Texas Gulf Coast, temperatures dropped to the high-60s to mid-70s where we live. Add to that the winds and rain and there was a bit of a chill in the air. The morning of August 27th, I went to the barn to check on everyone, feed, survey any damage, etc. and was shocked to see Mouse in full blown tremors.
He was only slightly wet on top of his back, not even close to being soaked or anything like that, and yet he was shivering uncontrollably. Further shocking to me was the amount of weight I noticed he had dropped in just a few days… the belly tape said he had lost 75 pounds since I had last checked him a week prior to the storm.
Now, I know not to trust a belly tape for much other than a good guess at weight, but looking at my guy standing there, I absolutely believed that he had dropped that much. Mouse has always been what I call a very “weight reactive” horse. His weight fluctuated more than any other horse I have ever owned or even known in my life to the slightest stresses. I have tried every manner of tips and tricks over the years to stabilize his weight, but between me and my vets, we all finally just agreed that he was a “hard keeper”. I was ok with that, and made adjustments as needed to maintain his weight due to stresses of life in general (new surroundings, construction, seasonal changes, etc.) just as I adjusted to many other idiosyncrasies and quirks that made Mouse, well, Mouse. I know some people don’t believe this because they have never seen it happen, but I have seen it happen in Mouse a few times and it is truly astonishing.
I have seen Mouse drop 30-40 pounds in a matter of 6 hours.
A prime example was when I left our place to take India to the vet for the last time. We were gone for about 10 hours. Mouse had an outright toddler-style fit when I loaded her onto the trailer and he couldn’t come with, and continued to throw a tantrum when we left. When I returned that evening with an empty trailer, Mouse had already dropped 45 pounds. He dropped another 25 pounds over the following night and day, but (thank God!) rebounded pretty quickly thanks to having Moon there with him for comfort. My kiddo was not happy about all the poo he had to clean up, and Mouse’s backside was raw for a few days from the diarrhea.
During this current situation, when I checked on them last around 10pm the night before, he was a little jumpy, but otherwise was ok. Then, in the early morning hours through to daylight, a huge thunderstorm hit. Hard rain, very loud thunder, and very frequent cloud-to-ground lightning along with 20mph plus wind gusts rocked on for about 5 hours.
This “weight reactive” response he had before is the only conclusion I can come to for the drastic weight drop in such a short period of time. I am still carrying a lot of guilt for not noticing sooner that he wasn’t faring as well as I thought, and I will have to deal with that in my own time and my own way. I just truly did not think he was doing that bad when I left him the night before. I mean, yes, of course, he had dropped a little bit of weight in anticipation of the storm, but I had added to his feed rations and thought that he would pull through like he always did in the past.
What I didn’t anticipate was the severity of the storm, nor did I realize how it would affect him now that he was getting a little older. All the vets that have ever seen Mouse have said the same thing: “Well, by his teeth and paperwork, he is “this age” in years (whatever age he was at the time of their visit). But, by his physical body, he is about twice that.” Thank God I keep good medical records with pictures on all the horses; I don’t know if any of the later vets would have believed I hadn’t been a horrible owner to Mouse.
The first proper veterinary check up that Mouse had after I adopted him was by a very well respected vet from Texas A&M, Dr. Hall. He explained to me then that Mouse’s histology and body condition showed a history of up and down weight, ranging from “outright neglect to somewhat normal body condition” multiple times over his 4 years of life at the time. I later found out from a BLM WH&B wrangler where Mouse was born that his mother gave birth to him prematurely after a great deal of stress. (Not gonna go into that right now, would only make me and all of you angry.)
When I let Dr. Hall know about this, he said, “Adding this information to what we already know from his blood work and exams, I want you to be prepared that this horse is not going to live to a ripe old age. You will be lucky if he makes 15.”
Well, he made it to 12 years old.
When I realized how badly Mouse was responding to the storm, I did a quick head to tail assessment and vital signs. His vitals were erratic, his temp was a little low compared to his normal “runs a little warm”, and he was still shivering. His backside already had a few raw spots from the diarrhea, so I addressed those, then got his lightweight blanket out. He had never looked at me with so much eagerness before as he did then when it comes to putting on his blanket. After 45 minutes or so, the shivering had subsided almost completely and his temp was back to his normal, and in general, he seemed to be a happy little guy. Then, the sky opened up again and dropped more hell on us.
The fear-based trembling and wide eyes came back with a vengeance.
I stayed at the barn with him most of that day, trying to calm him down, but also making sure he didn’t hurt himself or anyone else. That storm just wouldn’t quit. By the mid-afternoon, I really needed to get back to the house to handle other storm preparations. Thankfully, he was better than he had been earlier, and the storm seemed to be letting up at least a little. I left him to go take care of business. Later than night when I returned around 10pm, he wasn’t nearly as bad as he had been and I thought, oh, ok, well this is good, he’s going to be ok. I left his lightweight blanket on because the go-to-hell look he shot me when I started to take it off was pretty vicious, but mainly because of the winds and rains.
The following morning, August 28th, I checked on everyone around 7am. The storms had been pretty bad the night before again, but he seemed to be ok, a little worse for the wear, but still fair to Midland as we say around here. He had left me quite a few more, er, surprises, and his backside was a little more raw, so I addressed them and added to his rations. I left the barn around 11:30am with him still fair to Midland.
Keep in mind, all the while leading up to Harvey, we had been told by our local officials that all would be well where we live because of the low water levels in our surrounding bayous, rivers, creeks, and tributaries for the previous 2-3 months, and in fact, our main bayou closest to our house was “going to hold just fine” because it was at the lowest level it had been at all year: 7 feet, where it is normally around 20 feet plus or minus a few. So while we had preparations in place and rations for everyone in stockpile, we had no inclination that we would need to evacuate at all.
August 28th, 12:35pm: not a knock, but BANG, BANG, BANG on the front door, “Sheriff’s Office!”
Lord have mercy! All of the dogs went batshit crazy barking and growling, we all just about jumped out of our skins, holy moly! Goodness gracious!
My husband went to the door, slid in between the barely-open door and the door jam so the dogs didn’t get out, and spoke with the Sheriff’s Deputy. Even though we had been told all the way up until that morning on our local news morning show that everything was “going to hold”, now all of the sudden: “We have issued a mandatory evacuation. You have until 6pm this evening to get out. The water is already flooding homes and properties on the West side of the neighborhood. Please, do not stay. Get your family and whatever you can carry and GET OUT.”
Well! Ain’t that a peach! I have myself, my son, my husband, 5 dogs and 3 horses to evacuate in 5 and a half hours, not to mention my disabled father- and mother-in-law WHO LIVE ON THE WEST SIDE OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD.
Ok. Time to rally. So, I rally.
I get on the phone and get a buddy on the way with a trailer as mine was already flooded in at my sister’s house (another area that was also “going to hold”). I send my husband and my son to the in-laws to get them out. I make a plan for pretty much everything to get this done as quickly and efficiently as possible. I’m thinking, heh, this is gonna be ok, not too big of a deal.
Boy, was I dead wrong!
Nothing could have prepared me for the amount of water that had flooded in from the West of our neighborhood in the one hour since I had driven by there on the way back from the barn – which went from NO water on the roads or in the yards to 3-4 feet! And it was still rising fast!
Before I could drive the 4 blocks to my barn, I was redirected by my son and our Fire Department. One of my in-laws’ neighbors (also one of my clients) had left his 6 year old thoroughbred gelding and two miniature mares in the pasture. He had left to take his mom and younger siblings to a relative’s house so that everyone could be together to ride out the storm. He was going to come back home to take care of things there, but was stuck in evacuation traffic. The water had risen so high and so fast the mini mares were holding their little muzzles up out of the water to keep breathing. The gelding (who only became a gelding a month and a half prior and therefore still thought he was Mr. Studmuffin) was trying to herd the mares and wouldn’t allow my son and the firefighters to catch anyone.
Ok. Rescue hat on. Just a sidebar. No biggie.
Got everyone situated without too many issues, a few, but not too many. I am rallying. I got dis.
The owner doesn’t have an evacuation plan at all. He also doesn’t know how long it will be before he can get there.
After a facepalm and a few choice words, I finally told him to get his ass in gear and get his shit together because, after all, he wasn’t the only one needing to evacuate.
I left my son with the horses to ensure their safety until the owner could get there, my husband had finished with his parents so he went back to our house to continue our own evacuation, and I went on to my barn to get our horses out.
Mouse was still fair to Midland, I doctored his backside once more before we left for good measure, and we were off to high ground about 30 minutes North. (In hindsight, this was not the best place to evacuate the horses.) We loaded everyone into the trailer, Mouse last as was his custom. I followed in my truck behind them just to be sure everything went ok, and we were off for a very uneventful and short trip.
No one stumbled. No one kicked. No one fell. It was actually the calmest I had ever seen them to be in a trailer.
We arrived at my friend’s barn where 3 very nice and big stalls were waiting. I untied Mouse and opened the trailer gate and, as was his custom, turned him around to walk out of the trailer.
This was when we noticed the first problem: Mouse stumbled, staggered, and couldn’t get his bearings.
I was actually almost grateful for the weight loss he’d had because the next thing I knew, I was holding him up at his shoulders to keep him standing. Almost his full weight leaning on me, his hind quarters swaying and threatening to completely crumble any second, digging in my heels to brace him up best I could, my mind ran through every second of that trailer ride and the few days prior. There was no evidence of physical trauma to his body. There was nothing other than the weight loss and the stress, which was significant – yes – but nothing he hadn’t done and been ok with before. When he stumbled the way he did, I think I half-expected to see blood running down his legs or off of his head, or a large hematoma, or something – anything – that would be cause for his lack of coordination that I just hadn’t seen initially due to the dark cloudiness of the sky.
Nope. Nothing. Nada.
I got him steadied best I could, and my friend who had been untying Pax to get him out next came back to the back of the trailer. He was stunned at the sight of us, as was I frankly, and asked what he should do. I told him to just hold up, not wanting to spook Mouse by an unfamiliar person (especially a man) walking into his space. I felt Mouse begin to stand more on his own than leaning on me. We gave him a few more minutes, and then, like nothing had happened, he just started to walk off.
Ummmmmm…. Ok.
So, not wanting to break his rhythm, I led him to his stall. He never once stumbled, tripped, or missed a single step over the 150 yards to the stall.
I was a little dumbfounded, but I still had Rowan and Pax to get unloaded and situated along with all of their feed and supplies, so I gave him one last look to be sure and returned to the trailer. He was fine, munching on hay and checking things out.
Again, ooooooooook.
Got everyone and everything unloaded and situated. Fed, watered, and put out hay while keeping an eye on Mouse as I took care of business from outside the stall. All the while, he looked fine… from outside the stall. The rain, thunder and wind had picked up again. When I went into the stall, I realized that he was trembling under his lightweight blanket again. I quickly did another assessment. Vitals were stable but a little wonky, temp wasn’t low per se, but it wasn’t his normal either. I calmed him as best I could, and it seemed to work a little, but the storm was just getting started.
I wanted to stay longer and do what I could to help him feel better, but I still had to get the rest of my family and furbabies evacuated. I decided to leave his blanket on. I left instructions to my friend to remove it only if the weather got too warm. It seemed to be doing a good job on its own making him feel a little more secure and, another one of those go-to-hell looks when I thought I would take it off made it pretty clear he wanted it to stay on. I am also a firm believer in the effects of “hugging therapy” where Mouse was concerned as it had always been a go-to for him in these situations.
I left with a million things running through my mind but no time to think about any of them. I was worried about Mouse, but I had to trust that he would be ok or I would have lost my mind completely. I made it home, got everyone else and everything we could loaded into our trucks. We didn’t make the 6pm deadline, but because we both have trucks and mine is 4 wheel drive, and because our Fire Chief is a good friend, we were allowed to stay until the final call around 9pm.
The water had risen so high that the 5 lane highway our neighborhood is off of had to be shut down. The bottom door seal of my truck sits at 26 inches from the ground; the water was a little higher than that on my doors driving out in the center turning lane – the highest lane on the highway. The storm was still dropping rain on us, and none of the bayous, creeks, or rivers North of us had crested yet. When it was all said and done, the National Weather Service said that our specific area got 64.5 inches of rain in 6 days.
I absolutely believe it.
Initially, we were going to my aunt’s place about 45 minutes to an hour North of where Mouse was, but due to several leaks in the roof through to the ceiling, we weren’t able to stay there and ended up 2 hours North of Mouse. I wasn’t all that thrilled about being an hour away from my horses to begin with, so 2 hours was really making me nervous. However, we were so tired at 3am when we finally found a hotel room that would take us and the dogs that I pretty much just passed out from exhaustion. My plan was too get some sleep and then go back South to the barn come morning to check on Mouse.
That didn’t happen.
I have lived here all of my life and I have never seen the water completely over the highway in between him and where we were. I have seen it come close, and I have seen it get over certain low spots, but never completely over where it was impassable – especially not in my truck.
Well, I have now.
August 29th: Not only was the main highway South – a major highway, by the way – closed due to flooding, but every back road and short cut I know in East Texas was flooded, and that’s a lot. There was no way to get through. I tried to call in favors and get a taller truck, even a boat at one point, but all to no avail. It just wasn’t going to happen.
I finally gave in and called my friend. He said not to worry, everyone was fine. Mouse still had his blanket on because the temp had fallen a few more degrees and the storms were still pretty bad. He still had some diarrhea, but wasn’t trembling as bad as he had been. I breathed a huge sigh of relief at those words, but I still felt like the worst person in the world because I couldn’t get to him. Defeated, I decided to wait until the following day to see how things went with the flood waters.
August 30th: Still no passable route. Friend says everyone is still the same.
August 31st: Still no passable route, but I got a call from my friend that morning that wasn’t ok.
Mouse had gone down in his stall late the night before. Still wearing his blanket, he had gotten caught up in the straps (which were custom fitted very well and it was the same blanket he had worn for 4 years without incident). They cut the blanket off and let him rest for a bit, but Mouse couldn’t get up. They let him rest for a while longer, gave him some water, and wiped him down. After a bit, he was able to get up on his own.
Ok…. Trying like hell not to panic, then my heart fell to the floor.
That morning, Mouse went down in his stall again. He was thrashing, couldn’t get up, and had been down for hours. “It doesn’t look like he’s going to make it.” He wanted to know if I wanted him to euthanize Mouse.
Those last words sent me into orbit.
My whole world went black. I dropped my phone. I screamed. I cried. My whole body was shaking. How could this be real?! What the hell is going on?! What happened?! He said everyone was fine! Why didn’t he call me last night???!!! I picked up my phone. I told my friend, “One way or another, I will be there today! Don’t do ANYTHING other than supportive care until I get there!”
I had no idea how I was going to get through, but if I had to swim, I was going to make it to Mouse. My husband and I left immediately heading South in my truck. We made it all the way through to the last creek before the “island” where Mouse was, literally within 5 miles of him. It was not flooded, but the guys from TxDOT were concerned that the double bridges 4 lanes wide were not structurally sound enough to drive across.
Ok. Plan B.
I called a friend who was in the local fire department and requested a boat to cross. After I explained the situation, he said it would be a few minutes but would be there. I called my friend at the barn and asked if he could make it out to the bridges. Thankfully, he could and would pick me up on the other side. I was leaving my truck with my husband so that if/when the bridges opened, he could drive my truck and join me at the barn.(We were given the impression that they would open soon, but when I pressed the guy, he said “just not sure how soon and it’ll likely be a few hours if you wanna know the truth”).
After about 20 minutes and all of this coordinating, I was walking towards the side of the highway that was doubling as a boat ramp to wait on my friend with the boat, and the TxDOT guy says, “You might wanna wait on that. About 5 minutes from now, you’ll be able to drive across.”
GRRRRRRR!!!! Whew, ok, calm down, ok. Fine. I call my friends back and cancel the ferry ride across.
30 minutes later, I arrived at the barn.
All of my anger and frustration at the TxDOT guys vanished. My heart sank even further than it had before when I saw him. He was down in the stall, and had thrashed the ground with his hooves to the point that there were deep, curved lines in the dirt. He recognized my voice when I called to him from about 25 feet away, lifted his head, and had the saddest look on his face that I’d ever seen.
I had called my vet on the way South to get him en route. He had already called back once to say he had to find another route due to the flooding. I called two more vets in the meantime just in case but neither of them could get through either.
I did a quick assessment while we waited either on my vet to drive up or another phone call. Mouse’s vitals were all over the place from one minute to the next. His temp was way elevated, even for him. His nostrils were red and flaring, his gums pale with sluggish capillary refill. His pupils were sluggish, and he was showing his third eyelid at half moon. His back legs were cold to the touch and no longer thrashed, his front legs hot to the touch and thrashing every other minute or so.
How could so much go so wrong so fast?!
The phone rang. My vet had tried two separate routes after he was first turned back, neither of which was passable from where he was. He was so apologetic, I felt so bad for him. He wanted so desperately to make it to Mouse, he just couldn’t. I told him I understood. I hung up and called 8 more vets. No one could make it to us from where they were.
We were on our own.
We spent the entire day into the evening trying to get him up, trying to keep fluids in him, trying to massage his back legs. I called Paramedic friends to see if I could get some supplies to get some fluids into him via an IV. No one could get to us.
We had made it to the “island” from the North but now, everyone and everything we needed was South of us.
After exhausting every option we could think of, all to no avail, I finally performed the final test. I tested Mouse’s reflexes; first with light physical stimuli, gradually increasing pressure, then finally with painful stimuli. He didn’t respond to any of them in his hind quarters, his flank, his barrel, or his withers.
His third eyelids were a little past half moon by then. His breathing had slowed some. His front legs only thrashed every once in a while. His vitals were circling the drain.
I lost it. Completely, totally, and utterly lost it. I had to leave the stall and the barn. My husband did his best to comfort me; friends and family who were calling to check on Mouse did the same. I finally gave my phone to my husband and went to be alone with Mouse.
I told him how much I loved him, how he was such an awesome boy, and how much I appreciated him. We spent the better part of an hour together alone on the floor of the stall. He had begun to slow down, coming towards the end after about 25 minutes. I told him it was ok, that he would be with India again. When I said her name, he almost seemed to look around for her. I dunno, maybe wishful thinking on my part.
Through tears I was trying to hide, I said my final goodbye to my buddy, my Mighty Mouse, the Mustang.
The little guy who sure did think he was mighty but was no bigger than a mouse is Mighty once again.

Mouse will forever be a part of my heart and memories. I am beyond grateful for the time that  I was allowed to be his mom. I will always remember laughing almost uncontrollably sometimes at his crazy antics. I will forever treasure the lessons that he taught me.

2 Responses to “Mighty Mouse has gone to be with his India…”

  1. I am so sorry… take care…. you did the best you could for Mouse and now he is free with his horse tribe…

    • Anonymous said

      Thank you ❤ I am still trying to process all of it, and it definitely ain’t easy with so many things going on. Its like every time I think that everything might just maybe slow down – even just a little bit – NOPE. Not gonna happen. At first, I thought it was almost a blessing in a way that so much was going on and I didn’t have time to process and deal with Mouse’s passing and the ordeal as a whole. Now I am beginning to realize that no, it wasn’t a blessing at all. Its been 5 months and I still have so much guilt, so much frustration, and so many more emotions than I can list here. Every time I walk out to the barn to feed, I have this little nagging in my heart of “where is Mouse?” I know, its just gonna take time, but dang! I mean, yea, of course, I am very relieved that he is no longer in pain, that he is with India again (his “girlfriend”), and that he no longer has any of the negative memory markers that his early years with BLM left him with… I dunno. I guess I just wish he could have all of that and still be here. Anyhow. Sorry for rambling again LOL. Thanks again for the kind words. ~TL

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