Red was like a son to me, a 120-lb. surgical pony during my large animal rotation through the Michigan State veterinary school. He stuck out like a small finger along the four stalls of other ponies assigned to our surgery class.


Every Monday, as the stockiest of our five-person team, I trotted to Red’s stall, hefted and carried him 100 yards through the hard hallways into the surgery clinic. I rest him on his side upon a 10’ cold steel table, pat him good night, and we administered general anesthesia.  Out flashed the scalpels and scissors, needles and suture, and each week a new operation took place.  I vividly recall how to perform an intestinal anastomosis, eye enucleation, sinus trephine, pin a broken tibia… until I want to scream for physician assisted suicide.


But after each surgery, I carried Red back to his stall and lay him on the straw to recover.  I also sneaked him extra antibiotics and analgesics from the dispensary, picked his hoofs and groomed him over the weeks until he was one of two surviving ponies at the term’s close  The reward at the end was to be fed a quarter, go to sleep, and the vet students fell like beggars onto the stomach.  Red wasn’t revived to thank for the two-buts but rather, at last, our final assignment was to euthanize him  I pumped a lethal overdose of anesthetic into his big heart, felt the pulse instantly race and then slacken under my finger, and I stroked the throat and Red died. I dedicated myself at that moment, more or less, to the relief of pain by whatever means.

In sequel, a few years later my beloved mother, destabilized by chemotherapy, died in my arms choking on yogurt with a shocked expression and my final words, ‘It’s ok, Ma.’  It was, and she passed to the next great experiment.